EARLE’S CHAPEL: The Community – Part 1

(an excerpt from the narrative “Earle’s Chapel: A Little History (1840-1990)” written by Bettye Earle Raines showing research supporting her request to have Earle’s Chapel and the Earle’s Chapel Cemetery designated as Texas Historical Sites)

Earle’s Chapel, somewhat naturally defined by Prairie Branch on the east, Six Mile Creek on the west and Owl Creek on the north, was settled between about 1840 and 1855 by westward-migrating families, primarily from Alabama and Tennessee, reflecting the typical route of migration at that time.  According to early records, a number of families that, at some time in history, came to be associated with the community, had arrived prior to 1850, the time of the first Federal Census in the new state of Texas.  These included the Atkinson, Benge, Coker, Earle, George, Hammonds, Henderson, Jacobs, Lane, Ragsdale, Reynolds, Tatum, and Templeton families.  The Grimes, Skelton, and Slider families had settled prior to the Civil War with the Lattimore and Morris families arriving shortly after that war.  The Mims and Pledger families were in the community by the turn of the new century.  It is highly probable that some of the family groups had known each other before coming to Texas.

The community was named for Elijah Earle (1804-1880), patriarch of the Earle family in Cherokee County.  Elijah and his first wife, Maxcey Blanchet (c.1811-1852), with six of their children, probably arrived in East Texas by riverboat and oxcart, from Jackson County, Alabama shortly before Cherokee County was created in April, 1846.  According to an old newspaper obituary for Elijah’s oldest son, James Cartney Earle (1829-1908), they settled “…a few miles west of what is now the town of Jacksonville…at a time (when) Larissa was the only town in Cherokee County…the county being in a wild and unsettled condition.”  Some records suggest that Elijah’s younger brother, Drury, and perhaps Elijah himself, had been in Texas prior to the time that the Earle families established their homes in the area that was to bear their name.  The Ragsdale family had come to Texas in 1835 and moved to the Cherokee County area in 1838.  W. J. Ragsdale (1811-1884), who is buried at Earle’s Chapel, was a veteran of the Texas War for Independence and the Cherokee Wars.  Isaac Reynolds, as a veteran of the Texas Army, patented a large survey of land, half-way between the Neches River and the present site of Jacksonville.

It has been suggested that early settlers tended to seek land similar to that from which they had come and Cherokee County appeared to meet this need for some of its first families.  According to accounts passed down, Elijah and Maxcey Earle were disappointed at not meeting Cherokee Indian friends they had known in Alabama, but “…he liked what he saw and immediately bought 320 acres…”, the new land being remarkably similar to the farm he had left in northeastern Alabama.  Isaac Reynolds “…could have marked out…any vacant land within the confines of the Republic but…the territory east of the Neches River reminded a Tennessean of the hills back home and that familiarity represented security and bolstered his confidence to survive this new land…”.

Continue reading :: Earle’s Chapel :: The Community Part 2