ABNER E. BARKSDALE. A citizen of Wise county who has been conspicuously identified with the agricultural, civil and religious affairs of the county for more than a generation is Abner E. Barksdale, of Chico, the subject of this review. He came to the county at the opening of the most lively period of its growth and assumed at once a good citizen’s interest in the vital matters pertaining to its symmetrical development and for this and other reasons he has earned the appropriate designation of “one of the figures of the county.”
Taking up the thread of his biography we find Mr. Barksdale born in Holmes county, Mississippi, September 1, 1842, the locality in which his father settled as a young man some eighteen years before. The latter was Joseph Barksdale, born in Georgia, in 1802, and was one of two brothers in a family of some seven or eight children. Their father was a native Irishman, Abner Barksdale, the facts of whose history seem not available now. His first son was Flemuel and some of his daughters married and became mothers, but their identity is now little more than a myth. Joseph Barksdale married Casanna, a daughter of Jonathan Carter, in Holmes county, Mississippi, she being one of four children, viz.: Mrs. Bettie Wilks, Mrs. Polly Denton, Jonathan and Casanna. Joseph and Casanna were presented with three negro servants when they were married, gifts from each of their parents, and they set about farming humbly, though with a determination that wins success. They prospered and became people of property and prestige in their county. They passed away rather prematurely, the mother dying in 1851 and the father in 1858. Their marriage was a fruitful one, nine children having come to bless their home, as follows: Joe Franklin, who died without heirs, in Mississippi; Nancy, married E. E. Middleton and died near the old home; Mary, who first married Levy T. McGee, killed at the battle of Chickamauga, and then became the wife of a Mr. Bell and is now Mrs. J. S. Roberts, of Mississippi; William, who was killed in the battle of Murfreesboro; Laura, wife of William Hoover, of Jackson, Mississippi; Abner E., of Chico, Texas; Asbury G., of Yazoo county, Mississippi; Frances E., wife of James Roberts, died in Grimes county, Texas; and Elizabeth A., wife of Joseph D. McCormick, of Wise county, Texas.
Abner E. Barksdale had no regular home after his father’s death and the education he possesses was obtained largely by contact with the world’s affairs. He was rather a “drifter” until the rebellion broke out when he joined Company C, Fifteenth Mississippi Infantry, Colonel Farrell. He was in the Army of the Tennessee and his first important engagement was at Mill Spring, Kentucky, then Corinth and Iuka and then the Vicksburg campaign. He was fortunately with the troops that left Vicksburg before Grant had completed his envelopment of the city and joined Johnston’s army under General Loring and lay about in the hope of being able to aid the doomed stronghold. After Vicksburg fell the battle of Jackson was fought and then his command went up into Tennessee and took part in the engagements at Chickamauga, Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge, following which they passed south to the defense of Atlanta and were in all the fighting to and from that place to Franklin and Nashville, where Hood’s army was badly demoralized. His regiment, the Fifteenth Mississippi, then joined Joe Johnston in the east and finished its service at Greensboro, North Carolina, where the final surrender took place. Mr. Barksdale passed through these years of war without receiving a wound and, as a private soldier, exposed himself to a soldier’s fate in order that the Confederacy might survive. When the war was ended he accepted its results and began life as a teacher in the country schools of his native county. He married during the session of school and with his wages he purchased a horse, and with his new wife and a limited supply of household goods engaged in farming. They had made friends with prosperity to some extent, when in 1869 they decided to emigrate and cast their lot with Texas.
Journeying to the Lone Star state, Mr. Barksdale went by rail to New Orleans and by boat to Shreveport, and there bought a yoke of cattle and a wagon and completed their trip overland to Louisville, Denton county. There he purchased a farm and was occupied with its cultivation and improvement until 1880, when he disposed of it and started a new home in Wise county. While in Denton county an incident occurred which serves to indicate very forcibly the insignificance of Fort Worth in 1870. He made a trip there that year and was asked by merchant Young, of Louisville, to bring back a barrel of sugar for his store. Not one merchant in Fort Worth owned that much sugar and it required the combined stock of all of them to fill this Louisville order. On coming to Wise county Mr. Barksdale purchased two hundred acres of raw land three miles southeast of Chico, on the Hersee survey, and hauled the lumber from Dallas to build his pioneer house. He took up farming again and continued it with success, adding one hundred and sixty acres to his farm and when he reached the point where he felt able to retire he bought property in Chico and has resided in town since 1893.
On the 28th of September, 1865, Mr. Barksdale married Mary J. Dickerson, born in Hall county, Georgia, April 26, 1840. Her father was Levey Dickerson and her mother Miss Mary Dickenson, and she was one of eight children in the family. William Barksdale is our subject’s oldest child, residing in Fort Worth. Then come Lee and John T., Wise county farmers; Edwin, bookkeeper for W. O. Brown, of Dallas; Annie, wife of Charles Wallace, of Montague county; Belle, wife of W. A. Kincannon, of Snyder, Texas; Emma, a public school teacher; and Garrett, a merchant’s clerk in Chico. Until recent years Mr. Barksdale maintained his political home with Democracy but the curse of liquor has made him a warm friend of prohibition and he votes that ticket now. In 1885 he was elected county commissioner and filled the office two terms. He is a Master Mason and an active member of the Missionary Baptist church. Twenty years ago he was elected clerk of the Jacksboro Baptist Association and filled the place till Wise county withdrew and organized one of her own, when he was chosen clerk of it and still performs those duties. He has been clerk of the Chico Baptist church for twenty-one years and he has been sent as a delegate to state associations of the church at different times.
Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. II, pp. 243-244.