Among those toilers whose efforts have been directed for more than a quarter of a century toward the development in the rural confines of Wise county and whose substantial achievements are seen in the improvement of two separate farms, Joshua Nobles of the Lone Star community is conspicuously prominent, and as a citizen and a man do his traits of character commend him. Himself a product of the primitive school of experience of the days when “Webster’s blue back” was the chief textbook, he is a link connecting the dark past with he brilliant present, a witness of the conditions that were in contrast with the things that are.
Mr. Nobles was born when the second Adams was president and when his native state of Tennessee was only about a third of a century old. His birth occurred in Williamson county, October 20, 1827, and he grew up in the flax-strawshirt and the homespun-trousers epoch, when “a pair of shoes a year was all a farmer boy got” when the teachers in the log cabin schools called “horseback” “hors- e-back,” “gnat” “g-nat,” and “knot” “k-not,” and ruled his pupils with the rod. His father being a mechanic, he learned to handle tools in the wagon shop before he went to the farm later on in life and put himself in possession of a trade.
He is descended from Colonial stock, North Carolina being the home of his patriotic ancestors. His paternal grandfathers were Revolutionary soldiers and his father, John Nobles, was a soldier of the war of 1812 and a volunteer for the Mexican war. John Nobles was born in 1790, in the old Tarheel state, grew to manhood there and then migrated to Williamson county, Tennessee. There he married Elizabeth Ragsdale, a lady of North Carolina antecedents, who died about 1879. The issue of their union were: Eliza married John Carey and died in Tennessee; Absolom left a family in Arkansas at his death; Nathaniel died in Pemiscott county, Missouri; Frank passed away in Tennessee; and Peggy married Richard Craddock, and died in Hickman county, Kentucky; Joshua, our subject; Prior died in Dunklin county Missouri; Mary A. married a Blackwell and died in Tennessee, and John lies buried in Wise county, Texas.
John Nobles acquired the trade of a wagonmaker in the native state and made it his livelihood during all his vigorous career. When in the army he was detailed to help build roads and to construct forts and although he was beyond the age of service, he enlisted as a volunteer for the war with Mexico, but was not called into the field. As a citizen he was most loyal and upright and entertained the highest opinions of Gen. Jackson under whom he served. He was a Democrat, of course, and entertained the right notions of piety, although he never united with the church until late in life. He preceded his wife to the grave some years, dying at the outbreak of the Civil war, in 1861. He and Nathaniel, his brother, constituted their parents’ family, the latter rearing his family and passing away in the state of Tennessee.
May 14, 1848, Joshua Nobles married and settled on a farm at once. The California gold excitement took possession of him early but he was able to resist it until 1855, when he took a boat for San Francisco, crossed the isthmus and reached the Golden Gate without incident of note. He located in Siskiyou county where, the first eight months, he worked on a farm. He freighted for a time and then let out his team and himself opened a wagon- repair shop, at “Rough and Ready Mills.” He remained in the “Golden state” two years and although his passage to and fro cost him $1,004.00, his trip was one of profit and he returned home much improved in purse. Upon his return home he engaged, for a time, in shipping produce from Hickman, Kentucky, down the river to New Orleans, and then took up farming, which he followed till the outbreak of the war. He then moved out to Dunklin county, Missouri, and while there the Confederate congress passed a law confiscating all land belonging to citizens of northern states and lying within the Confederacy and he returned to Tennessee to protect his rights.
During the war period Mr. Nobles was not molested by either side, remarkable as it now seems. If the North offended by declaring a state of war and followed its declaration up by sending troops into the South he “never got made about it” and got down his “patchen” and powder for a fight. He pursued the vocation of a civilian the whole period through and when the struggle was over he had not assailed the flag of his country nor made enemies of his vanquished friends.
Immediately following the war he engaged in the milling business in Gibson county, Tennessee, and at Yorkville, he and postmaster Flowers, of Chico, were partners in a saw and grist-mill for some four years. Soon after closing out this venture he started on his journey to Texas. He came through Missouri and stopped two years in Dunklin county and then proceeded, by train, to Dallas and established himself in Cooke county. There he resumed farming and continued it until 1879, when he came over into the new country of Wise county and purchased a quarter section of land on the Robinson survey in the West Academy neighborhood of Sandy. He settled in the “woods,” cleared year after year until one hundred acres of the postoaks had disappeared and fields of grain and stalks of cotton were waving in their stead. His farm cost him two and one-half dollars per acre and he sold in ten years for fifteen dollars an acre and invested in three hundred acres of the Cofflin survey at five dollars. Thus he has opened up two new farms in the county and aided materially in the reduction of wild nature where now cluster thrifty and comfortable homes.
The first years of Mr. Nobles’ experience in Wise county were years of disappointment and the $1,880.00 which be brought here with him had disappeared. He resorted to wood-hauling and other laborious but legitimate makeshifts to sustain himself and family while another season was coming and still another crop was growing, and recovered in time his lost prestige and his lost funds. At a former time, while in Tennessee, he met disaster from dealing in cotton and he was forced to literally take up log-rolling and other forms of amusement to win bread for his domestic wants. Although he was small of stature, no man could pull him down on a handspike and no husky and fleet- footed rurale could pass him in a race.
Mr. Noble’s first wife was Sarah J. Dickson, a daughter of David Dickson, of Yorkville, Tennessee. Mrs. Nobles was born in Gibson county, in 1831, and died in Wise county, Texas, in 1894. The issue of their marriage were: David, who died by accident in 1893 and left a family; Sarah, of Ocate, Oklahoma, wife of Robert Jackson; Mary, wife of Frank Wright, of Dunklin county, Missouri; Wesley, a successful farmer of Wise county; Bailey, of Fredrick, Oklahoma; Eliza,who married Jim Kindrick, of Davidson, Oklahoma; Nannie, who married John Denney, of Wise county; Ollie, wife of Alexander Lowrey, of Bridgeport. January 1, 1895, Mr. Nobles married Mattie, daughter of John Muse, formerly from Tennessee. Mrs. Nobles was born in Madrid county, Missouri, where her father lived. Her birth occurred October 21, 1860, and she is the mother of one surviving son, Zelma, born April 29, 1897.
In his political relations to his country Mr. Nobles is a Democrat. His sentiments were union during the war, but the ancient traditions of the family dominated him and the principles of the “unwashed”: have remained with him to the end. He has been a churchman since 1858 and worships and communes with those of the Missionary Baptist faith.
Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas, Vol. II (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), pp. 214-216.