Place Of J.B. & Nancy Wilmeth
- MCKINNEY HOMESTEAD & FAMILY
This tract of land of the J. B. Wilmeth survey north of McKinney contained the
family home, the first plowed ground in Collin County, the site of the
organization and first meetings of McKinney's First Christian Church, and the
first free school taught in Collin County.
Clara McKinney Reddell
Elder Joseph Brice Wilmeth and his wife, Nancy Ferguson
Wilmeth, both born in 1807, he in North Carolina and she in Tennessee, were
married in Tennessee in 1826.
In the fall of 1831, the Wilmeth family migrated to Lawrence County, Arkansas.
Over a course of fourteen years, no one was more involved in the activities of
the area than J. B. Two of J. B.'s brothers, Frank Crawford Wilmeth and James
Washington Wilmeth, were Christian ministers. It was while here in Arkansas that
J. B. also became a minister of the Christian faith, along with serving in
various other occupations--county clerk, farmer, carpenter, blacksmith, and
teacher. He compiled an arithmetic book, from which he taught daily from January
8, 1842 to August, 1842. This arithmetic book, written by a quill pen, is still
treasured by one of his descendants.
In 1845, J. B., his family, and the families of his
brother, Frank Crawford Wilmeth, and of J. O. Straughan headed a movement to
Texas. They established their first headright in western Dallas County. Hardly
had their cabins been completed and their first crops harvested when the fear of
threatening Indians drove them back to this area of Collin County.
In June, 1846, J. B. purchased the 320 acre claim of
Moses Wilson just north of McKinney. Not long had J. B.'s wagons been unloaded
until his blacksmith shop and Nancy's loom were set up. His plow and teams of
oxen turned the first prairie sod of Collin County.
Not long afterward, construction was started on their
new home. Lumber was hauled overland by oxen teams from Jefferson, Texas. J.
B.'s family built this home, using brick which they had made for the chimney and
fireplace. The beams, hewed from logs, were thirty-six feet long. The rafters
were coupled to them with bois d'arc pins. The studs were hewed, as were the
sleepers, from bois d'arc.
The house was originally built two-story with a
one-story addition in back, but when the Christian Church was organized by Elder
Wilmeth, he added a second story to the back part of the house in order to allow
room for church services and for the establishment of the first school to be
organized in Collin County. Elder Wilmeth's evangelistic efforts, preaching and
founding churches, extended to Dallas, Denton, Grayson, and Fannin counties. The
first church in Collin County was organized by Joseph Brice Wilmeth and Collin
McKinney in the home of Carroll McKinney, which was near the Collin-Grayson
County line, in November 1846. Charter members included sixteen members of the
J. B. Wilmeth and Collin McKinney families and five slaves. Soon after, the
congregation moved to a community house a mile south and named it Liberty, to be
known later as "Mantua." In 1848, J. B. Wilmeth organized a group at
his home two miles north of McKinney, from which emerged the First Christian
Church of McKinney. Charter members included J. B. Wilmeth, Frank C. Wilmeth,
Henry Webb, John Larimore, and James Masters. First meetings were held in the
Wilmeth blacksmith shop, which had been seated with split log benches. Later,
meetings were held in an upper room of the Wilmeth home. With an outside
stairway, this new addition was built specifically for the purpose of worship
and teaching. J. B. Wilmeth and his children also taught a free school, most of
the time in their home, from 1848 to 1887. Two of J. B.'s sons, James R. and
Collin McKinney Wilmeth, were also Christian ministers and teachers. Both taught
in Thorp Spring at Add-Ran College (now Texas Christian University).
In 1847 Elder Wilmeth was one of five appointed to the commission to secure a
site and lay out a town for a county seat. He also served as District Clerk and
was later elected County Judge.
Having acquired large tracts of land, J. B. Wilmeth, in
the early fifties, began to buy slaves and devote his attention more to farming
and raising livestock. He had 200 acres in cultivation. With a harvester and
thresher of his own, his wheat and barley output was a large amount.
When the Civil War occurred, he contributed liberally
to the outfitting of the Confederate Army by furnishing forage, mules, horses,
and men (seven of his sons were enrolled in the ranks and two were killed in the
cause). He assisted in organizing and drilling regiments of men in Collin County
and served as Lieutenant Colonel in the State Militia.
J. B. and Nancy Wilmeth were the parents of thirteen
children: Mary Jane, Mancell W., Martha Marilea, Keturah Mirando, James Ransom,
Joseph Bryson, Jr., William Crawford, Hiram Ferguson, Nancy Ann, John Ficklin,
Andrew Jackson, Collin McKinney, and Sarah Elizabeth.
Nancy Wilmeth died January 14, 1892; J. B. died the
next day, January 15. They were laid to rest side by side in the same tomb at
McLarry Cemetery, located in the Wilmeth Community, north of McKinney.
Following their deaths in 1892, their daughter, Martha
Marilea (b. 1831) and her husband Daniel Leak McKinney (b. 1827), grandson of
pioneer Collin McKinney (for whom both the city of McKinney and the county of
Collin were named) moved from their home east of Van Alstyne to the homestead.
They were the parents of nine children: Joseph Ashley, Sara Elizabeth, James
Milam, William Thomas, Jackson Handley, Nancy L., Daniel Edward, Margret Annie,
and John Brice.
After Daniel Leak's death in 1906, Martha M. sold the
property she owned, including the homestead, to her youngest son, John Brice
McKinney. Martha M. was approaching her one hundredth birthday when she died
while living with her son, Jack McKinney, in Van Alstyne, on October 2, 1930.
She is buried beside her husband and parents in the McLarry Cemetery.
John Brice McKinney (b.1877), farmer and apiarist, and
Annie Magers (b. 1879) were married in 1900 in the little Wilmeth Chapel on
Wilmeth Road (built by Elder J. B. Wilmeth prior to his death in 1892). They
lived their entire married life at this homestead, both dying in 1968. All of
their children were born on this homestead: Drury Metz, Joe Magers, Collin,
Clara B., J. B., Armyn O., and Ridgell M.
After extensive remodeling during the passing years, an
end came to the old home in 1941, when it was razed and a more modern home built
by the John B. McKinney family. Much of the lumber, windows, doors, and fixtures
of the old home were incorporated into the present structure.
In 1982, John Brice and Annie's granddaughter, Shirley
Reddell Cooper (who was also born in the old home) and her husband, C. Don
Cooper, purchased this last tract of land in the Wilmeth survey from the
remaining heirs, giving her mother, Clara McKinney Reddell, a life estate, as
she had had from her parents, in the acreage containing the dwelling and out
The homestead is listed in the Texas Land Heritage
Registry, First Edition, published in 1974 by the Texas Department of
This homestead site also qualified for an official
Texas Historical Marker in August, 1993.
Note: While searching the web one day I found the above article, and just stored
it to my hard disk. Months later, while searching for Wilmeth's grave, I
stumbled onto the property sight while in McKinney in early 2002. It was not
until I began putting my webpage together that I stumbled across this forgotten
file on my computer. Hey, it pays to save things! You never know when it will
come in handy. Thanks to Ms. Reddell for her family history!
Of The Old Wilmeth Homeplace
While visiting the grave
of J.B. Wilmeth, be sure to visit the property that was once owned by J.B.
Wilmeth. It is sign posted by the above Texas State Historical Marker. From the
cemetery, travel back to the corner of Wilmeth Rd. and McLarry Rd. Turn left and
travel east on Wilmeth Rd. to the end. Turn right on Hwy 5. and on your left is
the Historical Marker showing the land. The home on the corner of the property
facing (551) Cty. Rd. 274, was built with parts of the old homeplace where
Wilmeth lived in the 1800's.