“Texas Ranger, Pioneer, Lawyer, Soldier, Farmer and Rancher, Chief Justice of Lavaca County, Indian fighter….” (Brainstaple.com).
John Himes Livergood, this noble Texas patriot, was born September 10, 1815, in Pennsylvania. He and an older brother were born to John Livergood and Hannah Himes in Pennsylvania. John’s father was Jacob Livergood, a carpenter in Columbia, Lancaster County, and an early settler of Penn’s Colony. The Livergood family (other spellings: Livingood and Liebenguth) had come to the U.S. between the years of 1710 and 1750. Jacob, along with several other Livergood men – including Jacob’s brother, Peter – fought in the American Revolution. For that cause, in 1781, Jacob was appointed to command a company of riflemen.
John and Hannah Livergood migrated to Missouri in Louis County. When John died in 1833, he left behind his two older sons and an infant son. In August of 1836, John Himes was commissioned a lieutenant in the Missouri Militia. Shortly thereafter, he decided to leave for Texas, against his mother’s wishes, and “tackle the problems of pioneer life in the new-born Republic of Texas.” (References include The Republic-Index – Citizens of “The Free State of Lavaca”)
In the early 1830’s, a certain Captain “Black” Adam Zumwalt, and other Livergood acquaintances from Missouri, established what became known as the Zumwalt Settlement on the Lavaca, and John Himes Livergood joined them there in 1837. He received 640 acres of land on Peach Creek near Gonzales, and, from that time onward, Livergood played an integral role in the defense of frontier settlements and participated in numerous events during the early days of Texas, including during its Republic period. In 1840, he joined Capt. Adam Zumwalt to pursue an Indian party that had attacked his neighbors, a chase that ended with victory at the Battle of Plum Creek. Livergood later served in several scouting expeditions, including the Spy Company of the Texas Rangers under John (Jack) Coffee Hays and took part in the Battle of Salado Creek and the Somervell Expedition of 1842.
Of no small importance is John Himes Livergood’s involvement in the doomed Mier Expedition to invade Mexico. After being captured, Livergood was among those who survived the march to Mexico City; he was, thus, a survivor of the famed Black Bean Episode. While imprisoned, Livergood sent word to his longtime friend, Adam Zumwalt, asking that he, in turn, send word to his mother in Missouri. The mother then wrote her brother, George W. Himes of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, who wrote to General Andrew Jackson to intercede on behalf of his nephew. Subsequently, in September of 1844, Livergood was among the 106 men released from Perote prison.
In 1846, General Zachary Taylor dispatched a regiment of Texans commanded by Colonel Jack Hays to serve as scouts in Captain James Walker’s Spy Company. Not daunted by his harrowing experiences against the Mexicans, Livergood joined this party with the hopes of locating the Mexican forces under General Arista, who had been defeated at Palo Alto. Arista’s army was ultimately discovered on the Resaca de la Palma; and, due to grueling overnight scouting of Livergood and a companion, Bate Berry, the enemy army was discovered and soundly defeated. Soon after, Hay’s Regiment was discharged. At this point, Livergood left the life of a soldier – for a time. However, as a result of “services and losses sustained on the Mier Expedition”, Livergood was granted $650 – June 28, 1850. (From the holdings of the Texas State Archives)
In 1847, John H. Livergood traveled to Missouri to visit his family, and while there, he met and married Sarah Ann Elizabeth Perkins (1828-1909). Sarah Ann, daughter of D.A. Perkins, was a native of Virginia. Livergood brought his bride back to Texas and established their home on the Lavaca River to become one of the first settlers in Lavaca County near Hallettsville, Texas, about one mile south of the Old Mossy Grove. Sarah Ann selected the site for her new home near two giant live oaks. A “house raising” then ensued by the neighbors, and a log cabin was erected. It was to stand for nearly seventy years. Nearby, in 1855, the Mossy Grove Methodist Church was established. The Livergoods became charter members, and it is there that the family worshiped for many years. “If you ever go there, you will see why it is named Mossy Grove – you’ll see the huge live oak trees with long moss hanging down,” as stated by a grandchild. It is in the Mossy Grove Cemetery that John Himes and his wife, Sarah Ann, are buried.
In September of 1850, Livergood was elected Chief Justice of the county. His administration was a good one, although it was marred by a bitter dispute over the location of the county seat between Petersburg and Hallettsville. Subsequently, it was Livergood’s affidavit reciting the tabulation of the election box returns that established the basis for the settling of Hallettsville as the county seat. Then, in 1854, Livergood was elected as justice for the Petersburg precinct, where he served for several terms – until the outbreak of the Civil War. He was then elected Captain of Beat No. 3 Company, Lavaca County, State Troops. This county unit was called The Lone Star Guards, and in 1863, Livergood enlisted as a private. (The Republic-Index – Citizens of “The Free State of Lavaca”)
Upon the end of the Civil War, Livergood returned to farming and ranching, and beginning in 1870, at the age of 55, under the “Act of granting Pensions to the surviving veterans of the revolution which separated Texas from Mexico”, John Himes Livergood was granted an annual pension of $250 to be paid to him “on the thirty-first of December of each and every year… for the period of his natural life.” (From the holdings of the Texas State Archives)
John Himes was an adventurous pioneer, and many exciting stories of his exploits have been handed down through his family. To be sure, he spent his entire life serving the people of Texas and Lavaca County, and today, a historical marker stands near Hallettsville in Lavaca County in his honor.
Thirteen children were born to John Himes and Sarah Livergood, and while many scattered to parts all over the United States – the home tract is still owned by a Livergood – many chose to remain in South Texas. Among those was Phynetta Beauregard Livergood (1862- 1946). On May 31, 1876, Phynetta (Nettie) married James Floyd Matthews, born Dec 14, 1849, in Georgia. (He had left Georgia during the Civil War.) The Matthews had 15 children. One of those children was Mildred Matthews (1882-1980).
On February 19, 1907, Mildred Matthews married Jasper Hoosier Van Treese (1885-1940). (Jasper’s father, Benjamin Franklin Van Treese, had come to the El Campo area from Tennessee; Jasper’s mother, Molly Cooper, was born in Texas.) Jasper and Mildred had five children: twin girls – one who died shortly after birth – and three sons. The youngest son, Morris, was killed in a plane crash in Belgium on Mother’s Day, May 13, 1945, at the age of 25 (See Devine News, June 4, 2014); the middle son, Lloyd, was killed in a private plane crash in Pleasanton in 1967 at the age of 51; the oldest child, Vida, the surviving twin girl, passed away in 2006 at the age of 98; the oldest son, Hubert Matthew Van Treese, passed away at the age of 72 in 1982. He was survived by his wife, Estelle E. Canion Van Treese (d. 2012, age 93), their two children (great-grandchildren of John Himes Livergood) – Travis Van Treese and Kathleene Van Treese Runnels (Daughter of the American Revolution – DAR); and three grandchildren – Todd Van Treese, Vance Runnels, and Vanessa Runnels Parkey (DAR).
And that, my friends, although not the story of a long-time Medina County resident, is one of a Texan who is proud of her heritage!