When Llano County was created by the State of Texas on February 1, 1856, it was mandated that the men of the county should first meet and select a site within five miles from the center of the county to build a county seat to be named, “Llano.” When that was accomplished June 14, 1856, a second meeting was scheduled in August to elect the county’s first officers. The following men were elected: David Cowan, Chief Justice (Judge); Edwin T. Edwards, County Clerk; Samuel W. Tate, District Clerk; Samuel L. Lockhart, Sheriff; and K. B. Murchison, Tax Assessor-Collector. In addition, four men were selected as commissioners. Each man represented a certain geographic region of the county, although the area of representation was not broken into a specific locale or precinct. Serving in these positions were John F. Morgan (of the Salt Works at Saline, later Tow Valley); James C. Riley (of Honey Creek/Riley Mountain); Isaac S. Haile (Long Mountain); and Franklin Holden (Wright’s Creek-Oatman Creek).
Not represented was the German contingent on the western Llano River around Castell. It is not known whether or not the German men attended the meeting when the election was held. Although this area was the first settlement in Llano County, language and cultural issues were problematic, even though around sixteen men of German heritage signed the petition asking the State to create a new county. There is no mention of their attendance when the present site for the town of Llano was chosen, so they may have only been partially represented, if at all, at the meeting in August as well. They were overall not interested in mixing with Anglos. Following the Civil War, Reconstruction leaders in Austin appointed county officials they felt were more pro-Union, either by loyalty or northern place of birth. Several German men were appointed local political positions, even though they did not really want to serve, including H.A.R. Bauman, who was briefly named Llano county sheriff. Until more recent times, even the commissioner for Precinct 4, representing the western part of Llano County, was usually from the greater Valley Spring area.
John Ferguson Morgan brought his family to the northwestern corner of Llano County from Hopkins County, Texas, where the family had settled during the Republic of Texas. By the time he arrived, most of his sons were old enough to work in some capacity at the Salt Works. It is not clear exactly when the Morgans first arrived in Llano County, but it was about the same time the Tow family arrived. The Morgans claim they arrived first, and indeed either Mr. Morgan or his oldest sons may have come earlier to check out the benefits of moving to the Salt Works area. Regardless, it is clear that the two families, who were already connected by marriage, arrived about the same time. Mr. Morgan had taken as a second wife, Mrs. Martha Kelsay Shuman, a young widow with three daughters, who was a sister to the wife of William Tow (Mary J. Kelsay). The Tows had come from Moniteau/Morgan County Missouri in the early 1850’s to Fannin County, which included a much larger land area than exists in that county today. The Morgans were shown to be in nearby Hopkins County on the 1850 Census. Exactly how or when Mr. Morgan and the Widow Shuman met has not been determined.
John F. Morgan, born 1808 in Virginia, and his first wife, Minerva Clymen, lived in Vermillion County Illinois when their first two children were born: Hiram Douglas (1836) and Evan Bennet (1839). When George Washington Morgan was born in 1841, followed by Margaret Ellen in 1843, the Morgans lived in Missouri. By the time Joseph Amos Morgan was born in 1845, the family had relocated in the Republic of Texas. When Texas obtained statehood, the Morgans were residents of Hopkins County. Circumstances surrounding the birth of another child in May, 1846, resulted in the death of both Minerva and the baby. John did not respond well to the tragedy. Thankfully, the oldest children were mature enough to care for their younger siblings because Mr. Morgan left his family for an unknown period of time in order to deal with his grief.
John F. Morgan’s main source of income was as a hatter. He was very skilled, specializing in those made of beaver, but he also made some hats from various other animals. Upon arriving at the Salt Works, he and his older boys worked in the salt operation until he began running traps for beaver to continue his work as a hatter. A favorite site to trap beaver was up the forks of a large spring-fed creek on the east side of the Colorado River in Burnet County. On one expedition, Mr. Morgan became disoriented and lost his bearings for three days before searchers led him out. Afterwards, the forks of the creek became known as North Morgan and South Morgan Creek. When the men living on the north side of the Llano River determined to sign a petition in November, 1855, asking the State of Texas to create a new county, John F. Morgan was eager to sign, along with two of his older sons, Hiram Douglas and Evan Bennett. When the first officers for newly created Llano County took place in August, 1856, John F. Morgan was named as one of the four county commissioners.
Mr. Morgan and his second wife were the parents of at least four more children, but only two lived to adulthood. Charles Washington Morgan, was born in 1853, and Sarah Jaretta, in 1855. All of the Morgan children married spouses from Llano County. Hiram married his Shuman step sister, and the next three boys married Tow sisters or cousins. Margaret Ellen became the wife of Luther Holmes Cowan, Charles married Sally Miller, and Sarah Jaretta married William M. Allen. It is not known why no one from the Morgan or Tow family was represented on the Llano County Composite Portrait when it was assembled sometime after 1885, because there were living descendants with those names in the county who had been here when the county was created. John F. Morgan, who died in 1895, is buried in the Tow Cemetery next to his second wife, Martha. Although a marker exists in that cemetery for Mr. Morgan’s first wife, Minerva Clymen, it is in her memory only, as she did not live in Llano County when she died. The Morgans have many descendants still living in Llano County today.
The composite portrait of LLANO COUNTY PIONEERS put together some time after 1885 shows the Riley family permanently settled here in 1850. Although German settlers settled along the Llano River on the county’s extreme western boundary by 1847, this date is believed to be an error since no Anglo settlers were living in Llano County until around 1852. James Calvin Riley, age 19, is shown to be living in the home of his parents, James W. and Sarah Riley, on the 1850 Travis County Census. The Riley family moved to the Honey Creek area of what would become Llano County, settling on the mountains north-northwest of the creek that today is known as the Riley Mountains. When petitions were sent to the State in 1855 asking for the creation of a new county, for some reason, the names of the men living around Honey Creek were not included. Either they were not in favor of creating a new county, or else a third petition with their names has been lost to time. It is suspected the latter is true, because there is no logic for them to oppose the wishes of other Anglo and Germans who had signed other petitions. Had the Rileys NOT favored creating a new county, it is highly unlikely one of their own would have been elected to serve as one of the first county commissioners.
James Calvin Riley was born in 1831 in Greene County Indiana, but his early years included residence in both Illinois and Missouri before coming to Texas during the Republic. The Rileys first settled in Lamar County in May, 1841, but by 1849, they were living in Travis County. J.C. married Mississippi Elles Moore on August 12, 1852, in Williamson County, Texas. The couple raised a large family between the Riley Mountain Range and present Oxford community. Children included: Mary Ann (b. 1853, m. Sherrod Porch); Thomas Oliver (1857, m. Samantha Ricketson); Sarah (Sally) Eleanor (1859, never married); David Watson (1862, Lola Brewer); Elizabeth (Betty) Jane (1865, R.J. Smathers); Julia Ann (1868, John Warren Garrett); and Phebe Clementine (Joel Albert Garrett).
Possibly because of his Indiana birth and earlier residence in Illinois, James C. Riley was appointed by General Hamilton in 1865 to serve as Llano County Judge, replacing A.W. Morrow. Later in 1869, he was once again chosen to serve as a commissioner for Llano County. Family records state James helped lay out the boundary for the city of Llano. He also served as the Riley Mountain Postmaster for many years. His photo appears on the Composite Portrait for Llano County Pioneers, compiled in the late 1880’s. Many of his descendants resided in the greater Oxford Community. James Calvin Riley died in 1908.
The two other men named as Llano County’s first commissioners, Isaac Sampson Haile and Richard Franklin Holden, will be discussed in more detail in a later article. Space does not permit them to be adequately recognized for their contributions to the history of Llano County at this writing.
SOURCES: GEM OF THE HILL COUNTRY (Oatman, p. 33); LLANO CO. FAMILY ALBUM (p. 8, 210); CANYON OF THE EAGLES (C.L. Yarbrough, pp. 13, 16); Llano County Petition; Morgan and Riley family history from Ancestry.com; Hopkins and Travis Co. Census, 1850; Llano Co. Census 1860.