Hiram T. Kennedy and Sarah Jane DeWeese Kennedy

Submitted by Phyllis Carpenter

Hiram T. Kennedy was born in 1811 in Kentucky. His parents are unknown. The earliest record of him is an Indenture document filed in the county court of Adair County, KY in 1821 in which Hiram was indentured to a John Allen as an apprentice to learn the mastery of farming and to learn to read, write and common arithmetic. He was to be an apprentice until he attained the age of 21. It is believed that Hiram had a brother, Ruben, who was indentured to a Robert Anderson.

He married Sarah Jane DeWeese, of Cumberland County, KY about 1833. Sarah was born December 2, 1813 in Cumberland County to Jesse DeWeese and Mary "Polly" Sowder DeWeese. Hiram and Sarah had nine children: Lucinda Elizabeth, Jim Newton, Person Miller, William, Benjamin, Sarah, Mary Ellen, Cassandra and George. Lucinda and Jim Newton were born in Cumberland County, KY, Hiram paid taxes on 50 acres o land there in 1837. Before the 1840 census, they had made the move to Butler County, KY where they stayed a few years near Sarah’ brothers. There they were listed with three children in the 1840 census.

About 1850, Hiram and Sarah traveled by ox wagon to Harrison County, Texas. There the younger children were born. Hiram was appointed Justice of the Peace in Harrison County. He had to post a $500 bond for the job of Justice of the Peace. In his application he swore that he had never fought a duel with firearms. The bond was dated August 24, 1848. He applied and received a homestead in Harrison County soon after they arrived from KY. He was legible to claim the land in 1854. The claim stated that he received 320 acres as a new settler in Texas.

There they must have been a busy family: Hiram working as a Justice of the Peace, clearing land, farming and building a place to live. At night, the early children told of being about the fire the Bible, Christian virtues and morals taught as well as the "Three R’s". Hiram became a Christian preacher. He never had a church but was a circuit-rider, preaching and teaching along the way.

Among the prized possessions of Sarah DeWeese Kennedy was a DeWeese Family New Testament, written in German that was over 200 years old and passed down from Sarah to her daughter, Mary Ellen.

It was there in Harrison County, that Lucinda married Madison (Matt) Sheppard at the home of her parents on November 30, 1853. The wedding was performed by her father, Rev. Hiram Kennedy.

About 1855, Hiram and Sarah moved to Lamar County and settled northeast of the present town of Cunningham on new unsettled land for the purpose of homesteading pre-empted land, then filing as a bona fide residents on this land improving it as they could. This was not as big a task as before as they had adult children to help them. Hiram also continued to preach.

From "Backward Glances", A.W. Neville, editor of the Paris News, wrote on February 28, 1935:

"Hiram Kennedy, Preacher and Soldier"

(Here are excerpts from article)

One of the early day settlers in Lamar County was Hiram Kennedy, who had a headright in the southeast part of the county. Only one of his children is yet living, but some of their descendants are still in Lamar County and from them, Sam Cunningham, who has a faculty for getting information of the old times, has learned something of Mr. Kennedy and here it is. He says:

"I want to tell the people about a man that I appreciate though I never knew him. His name was Hiram Kennedy. He took up 160 acres of land in the southeast corner of Lamar County, which is registered as the Hiram Kennedy Headright Survey. He did not care for a big tract as it seems to us now, though he could have taken much more at the price of land in those days. If he had cared he might have taken up enough to have made his children rich, but evidently, did not think that necessary.

I am told that he took his hatchet and cut a path to a high place near a deep hole of water, where he built his modest log home. Of course the family had to have water within reach and perhaps he did not know that a well could be dug, but his animals had to have water and could go to the pool for it without having to have it drawn for them.

Mr. Kennedy was a preacher in the Christian Church. He was past the age for war services when the conflict came, but he enlisted and preached to his comrades on Sunday and made a good soldier on week days. I have been living in this community 34 years and have never heard a word said against any of his children or their descendants. None of them were rich in black land or stock, but they were wealthy in principle. I am telling this story of this family to show the younger generation the influence that can be exerted by one man living an upright life. If he had been a man of different character, consider the difference there might have been in the lives of his sons and daughters."

From Backward Glances: June 11, 1935

"Horse Carried Father and Son in War"

A.W. Neville

When voters go to the polls in Cunningham, down in the southeast corner of Lamar County, the larger number of them are said to be descendants of the Reverend Hiram Kennedy, a pioneer, who with his family came to Texas about eighty years ago from Kentucky.

Leaving their home in the state that grows fast horses, pretty women and blue grass, Mr. Kennedy and his wife and children traveled in ox wagons to the new country. ...Mr. Kennedy settled on a tract near Brushy Creek and Sulphur River. Here he built a shack and began clearing land and farming, increasing his farm acreage each year as the frost was felled. Deer, turkeys and other small game were abundant so there was plenty of food and the family fared well as did others in those early days.

Then the war between the sections began. After a while, the father of the family decided it was his duty to go with his neighbors into the army that fought for a principle and mounting his horse, a little brown pony called Choc, he rode away, trusting his family to carry on the work of making a home while he was gone.*

"I have no record of Mr. Kennedy’s service" says P.B. Bailey, who tells me this story, "But, I am sure that a man with the character and determination of Mr. Kennedy met every call made on him for service, no matter how difficult." In 1864, young Ben Kennedy, who had reached his eighteenth year, decided he too would take part in the war and joined his father on the battle front. The father’s enlistment having expired. he returned to his family and turning his horse over to his son, he came back to Texas and resumed his work.

Ben Kennedy rode the horse to the end of the war and when the roar of the cannon and the rattle of muskets ceased he turned his face to home still riding the faithful little horse. He reached Brushy Creek at night. There had been heavy rains and the water was wide and deep. Fearing the horse could not make it, Ben tied him to a sapling elm and slipping into the water swam the creek and was reunited with his parents and brothers and sisters. The next day, when the water had subsided he brought his horse across.

That was seventy years ago. Hiram has long since gone to his reward. Ben married but no family came to bless his life. Hiram Kennedy’s children are all dead except for Mary Ellen Lofton, who lives in Coleman County. The old log house Hiram built still stands, though altered some and gives shelter to its occupants and the elm sapling to which Ben tied his horse has grown into a veritable monarch of the forest.

And that sort of people made Texas a state carved from the wilderness.

Hiram Kennedy died September 8, 1878. Sarah Jane DeWeese Kennedy died June 26, 1881. Both are buried in Halesboro Cemetery in Red River County, Texas.

* Roxie Thomass, a Kennedy descendent wrote, " When the Civil War started in 1861, Hiram and Sarah lost one son, William, who was serving in the "Lamar Rifles" under the command of Captain Sam Bell Maxey. Later, as the War continued and rather than risk another son, Hiram enlisted into Col. DeMorse’s 29th Calvary in Pattonville, Texas, July 18, 1862, at the age of 51.

Credits: Most of the material in this biographical sketch was researched and written by Cassie Watson Cook, granddaughter of Cassandra Kennedy Bell and great granddaughter of Hiram and Sarah DeWeese Kennedy.