GENERATION 10-4 – Fourth child of Isaac Van Leer

Wayne Van Leer was born 6/24/1810 at Springton Forge, West Nantmeal, Chester County, Pennsylvania. He was about 10 years old when his parents moved to Tennessee.

Tennessee Years

Only a few specific facts about Wayne Van Leer’s life in Tennessee have been located. Some assumptions, however, can be made from circumstantial evidence:

1820’s. Wayne probably spent most of his childhood in and around Cumberland Furnace. A few small private schools were set up by the parents in the early 1800’s.  Tracy Academy, a classical school with a good reputation, held its first classes in Charlotte in 1820, and it is likely that he attended.  The board of Trustees included a couple of familiar names:  Richard C. Napier–Sister Hannah’s father-in-law; William Stone–Sister Margaret’s father-in-law.

1830’s.  Anthony Van Leer was listed as a Nashville resident in the 1830 census.  His household included a male, between 20-30, which is probably Wayne; none of Anthony’s sons lived past early childhood.

The 1830’s were a long boom period for the iron industry.  It was during this period that Anthony built a showplace mansion in Nashville.  Painters and architects were brought over from Italy and France. 

Andrew Jackson was President between 1829-1837.  Nashville was a center of power and influence.  And Uncle Anthony was a leading Nashville citizen.

There a numerous documents showing a connection with Pennsylvania still. Wayne’s cousin, William Templin, son of Ann and John Templin, visited Uncle Anthony in Nashville.  William, a West Point cadet, contracted typhoid fever during the return trip.  He is buried at West Point.

Wayne probably spent some years living in Nashville, but his roots were in Dickson County.  The “Vanleer Papers” indicate that Wayne worked as a “joiner” (carpenter) at Cumberland Furnace.

Dickson County deed records show a land transfer on May 27, 1839, or 508 acres to W. Vanleer.

1840’s.  Wayne didn’t marry until 1842 at the age of 36 (born 1/16/1822 in Dickson County, TN).  His bride was Mary Elizabeth Mills, age 24.  Two children were born while the couple was still in Tennessee:

Fannin County, TX

According to the “Vanleer Papers,” Wayne Van Leer moved his wife, 2 sons to Fannin County, TX in 1852–which was considered a golden land-of-opportunity in 1852. He purchased about 500 acres along Sloan’s Creek (at right). They were not too far from the Wildcat Thicket area. The strip of land in Fannin and Hunt was a solid mass of undergrowth trees, briar brushes, thorn vines, and grass. Wildcat Thicket had served as a bandit refuge during the War.  It’s inhabitants included army deserts and draft evaders of both North and South.

The pecan trees in this area are native to the region.  According to the “Vanleer Papers,” this particularly large variety of pecans grown in the Bonham area in the 1870’s was known as the “Vanleer Pecan.” The Fannin County Agent, however, stated in 1991 that this variety was not domesticated and the family name is no longer associated with the pecans.(A “Vanleer” pecan tree is pictured above.) 

In November 1856, the Van Leers purchased 260 acres of land for $650.  

Six more children were born in Texas:

Civil War in North Texas

The new frontier in Texas did not serve Wayne and his family well. Pecans and farming were difficult. The Civil War created a horrible economy for it’s neighbors in the west (Texas) and ultimately lead to a depression. Wayne did not enlist on either side. However, his uncle Anthony’s home was used as a union HQ, cousin John P Van Leer was a LT Colonel in the union and his son Anthony Wayne was rumored to be the family rebel. When he was 16, he secretly joined the Missouri guerrillas (Quantrill’s Raiders) with his friends. This was based predominately on oral history passed on by his brother, Isaac Guilford Van Leer to his children and grandchildren. There are no official records of legitimate Confederate service.

Texas by all accounts handled the Civil War the same way they did every event, with a unique “Texan” way. Voting on Secession events in Texas were delayed, largely due to the resistance of Southern Unionist governor, Sam Houston.  Despite the prevailing view of the vast majority of the state’s politicians and the delegates to the Secession Convention, there were a significant number of Texans who opposed secession. The referendum on the issue indicated that some 25% of the (predominantly white) males eligible to vote favored remaining in the Union at the time the question was originally considered. The largest concentration of anti-secession sentiment was among the German Texan population in the Texas Hill Country, and counties of North Texas. In the latter region, most of the residents were originally from states of the Upper South. Some of the leaders initially opposed to secession accepted the Confederate cause once the matter was decided, some withdrew from public life, others left the state, and a few even joined the Union army.Ref Wiki Confederate conscription laws forced most men of military age into the Confederate army, regardless of their sentiment. However, at least 2,000 Texans joined the Union ranks. Texas’s relatively large German population around Austin County led by Paul Machemehl tried to remain neutral in the war but eventually left Confederate Texas for Mexico. East Texas gave the most support to secession, and the only east Texas counties in which significant numbers of people opposed secession were Angelina CountyFannin County where Van Leers lived, and Lamar County.

After the war

After the war and like many states, Texas went through big of an economic depression and like many southern states, violence against Blacks increased and violence from lawless bandits in general increased. Texas was still being settled and this allowed for unchecked criminal activities in some counties. There were still ongoing wars with the Comanche as well. There were pro unionist secretly fighting confederates, larger bandit groups known as the Quantrill’s Raiders still fighting unionist after the war and later even fighting themselves.

When news of the Emancipation Proclamation arrived in Galveston on June 19, 1865, freed slaves rejoiced, creating the celebration of Juneteenth. The State had suffered little during the war, but trade and finance had been disrupted. Angry returning veterans seized state property, and Texas went through a period of extensive violence and disorder. Most outrages took place in northern Texas; outlaws based in the Indian Territory plundered and murdered without distinction of party.[136]

President Andrew Johnson appointed Union General A. J. Hamilton as provisional governor on June 17, 1865. Hamilton had been a prominent politician before the war. He granted amnesty to ex-Confederates if they promised to support the Union in the future, appointing some to office. On March 30, 1870, although Texas did not meet all the requirements, Congress restored Texas to the Union.

Many free blacks were able to become businessmen and leaders. Through the young Republican Party, blacks rapidly gained political power. Indeed, blacks comprised 90% of the Texas Republican Party during the 1880s.[137] Norris Wright Cuney, an African American from Galveston, rose to the chairmanship of the Texas Republican Party and even the national committeeman

“If I owned both Texas and hell, I’d rent out Texas and live in hell.”
                 – General Philip Sheridan, Union Commander in Texas, 1867

The Van Leers survived by selling parts of their land and mortgaging property:

1860Van Leers owned 447 acres of land.
1869104 acres were sold.
187380 acres were mortgaged at 25% interest
1874314 acres were mortgaged.  Oldest son required to co-sign.
187597.5 acres sold.
1877All land sold for $3456.

The Van Leer farm was sold to the Fannin County Commission March 28, 1877.  The property was used as the County Pauper’s Farm for over 60 years. 

West Texas:

The most significant difference from Texas and other states is: Texas was only partially settled.  On the positive side, there was still public land to be settled.  By 1877, this unsettled land had been cleared of bandits, assorted desperados, and Comanches.

It was the availability of this unsettled land that saved the Van Leers from falling into the tenant class during this period of history.

After selling the property in 1877, Wayne and Mary Van Leer moved to Stephens County with their 5 younger children.  The oldest son, Anthony Wayne, had died a few months before the move of consumption.  Isaac Guilford had married the year before to Flora Austin; he, his wife, and new-born infant remained in Fannin County until the following spring, farming 87 acres given to them by Isaac’s father-in-law David Brice Austin. 

Wayne Van Leer died in 1881 at age 71.  He was buried at Macedonia Cemetery near his farm in Stephens County. It is believed that his wife, Mary Mills Van Leer, died in 1890 and is buried near Mangum, Oklahoma (then Texas).