William Smith Cummins biography

WILLIAM SMITH CUMMINS. Adjoining the city of Bowie on the west lies a country estate of one hundred and sixty acres whose natural physical characteristics attract the eye of the home seeker and whose fertility and artificial advantages commend it unreservedly as an ideal habitation for mankind. Upon the crest of a modest incline studded with native oak and conspicuous from many points of the city, stand two modern and commodious cottages, in agreeable companionship with each other, and by their generous proportions announcing to the passing observer the hospitality, the good cheer and the sincere “good will to men” of its proprietor. This spot of earth marks the home of William Smith Cummins of this personal review.

For fifty-four years Mr. Cummins has made his home in Texas, having come within the state’s jurisdiction with his widowed mother and brothers and sisters as a youth of sixteen years in the year 1851. He was born in White county, Tennessee, September 9, 1835, whither his father, David Cummins, migrated from North Carolina in his early life. The latter was a millwright, and while he owned a farm where he maintained his family he was constantly occupied with mill-construction all over his county until his eath in 1847 at fifty-two years of age. He chose for his life companion Margaret Woods who, like himself, was a disciple of the Master, and at their home in that early day of the Cumberland Presbyterian, among other denominations, were wont to hold their neighborhood meetings. In this primitive but comfortable home the seeds of Christian character were sown among children whose lives have shown the fruits of their early training and who hallow the names and memories of their worthy parents. The issue of David and Margaret Cummins were: Jane, widow of William Basson, of Denison, Texas; James M., of Seymour, Texas; Elizabeth, who married Rev. J. W. Chalk and resides at Pilot Point; Melvina, who died at the age of fourteen years; John G., of Cornish, Indian Territory; William Smith, of Bowie, Texas; Nancy, wife of John Took, of Colorado county, Texas; Emily, Mrs. Thomas Allen, of Tarrant county, both now deceased; David W., of Arizona, and Allison B., of Vernon, Texas.

The education of William Smith Cummins was limited by adverse conditions in youth, and was until after his advent to Texas did he enroll as a pupil in any school. The first year of the family residence in the state was passed in Dallas county, but in 1852 they moved to Tarrant county, where the mother passed away in 1854. After his mother’s death Mr. Cummins resumed his vocation as a teamster, hauling flour and other provisions with ox teams to the frontier at Fort Belknap for Campbell, Cooper and Company. In 1857 he left this employ and went to southern Texas and was living on Arassas Bay when the Civil war broke out. He returned to Tarrant county and enlisted in Company A, Ninth Texas Cavalry, Colonel Dudley Jones, adjutant and later colonel, until the war closed, and Captain Berry commanding the regiment and company, respectively. This regiment was in Ross’ Brigade and the regiment’s first encounter with the Federals after subject joined it was at Keatsville, Missouri. Seigle’s command of Yankees was encountered at Bentonville and at Sugar Creek, as preliminaries to the battle of Elk Horn. After this famous engagement the Ninth Texas crossed to the east side of the Mississippi river and dismounted and became an infantry regiment. It fought at Farmington, Iuka and Corinth, where Mr. Cummins was wounded. He participated in engagements at Yazoo City and at Big Black and at Thompson’s Station, where his brigade met, fought and took the opposing brigade on the Vicksburg campaign and after the surrender of Pemberton the force with which he was operating was transferred to the east and took part in the events of Jonesboro, Franklin and Nashville, where they were one hundred and three days, and out of the one hundred and three days his regiment fought eighty-three days. At the inception of his service in these movements Mr. Cummins was detailed form the Ninth Texas to join General Ross’ Scouts, operating along the railroads and in the rear of Sherman’s army. Following the annihilation of Hood’s army his command was ordered west again and when the news of Lee’s surrender came he was at Canton, Mississippi, from which place he set out for his western home. They were also in the Hood’s Tennessee campaign, his division taking the advance in going in and covering the retreat coming out.

The war had kept Mr. Cummins from home nearly four years and at its close he was without other resources than a willing hand and an honest heart. He began substantial recuperation by applying himself to the carpenter’s trade and this he followed a few years. Then an opportunity presented itself to embark in the gin and threshing machine business and form this he got into the carding business in a small way in Dallas. Out of all these he seems to have strengthened his finances very materially and when he sold his carding factory in 1882, his cash resources enabled him to handle with credit any business he felt competent to undertake. He directed his attention to merchandising and established himself in Plano. For a few years he conducted a general store, but later hardware and implements constituted his stock. After twelve years of close confinement he found his health threatened and he turned his property into money and located at Bowie, where he improved and has maintained his home. Only the restful labors of modest farming have occupied his here.

In September, 1867, in Dallas county, Texas, Mr. Cummins married Miss Sophia, a daughter of J. W. Smith, a farmer who brought his family to Texas from White county, Tennessee. He married Miss Susan Marsh, and passed away in Dallas county, in 1903, leaving: J. H., of Dallas county; W. H., of Fort Worth; Clyde P., of Dallas county, and on the old farm where they settled twenty years ago; Mrs. Mary Wynne, of Dallas county; Mrs. Smith Cummins; Mrs. Alta Sears, of Dallas county; and Mrs. Sallie Wyatt, of Collin county, Texas. Mrs. Smith died October 30, 1905. The issue of the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Cummins are: Minnie H., widow of W. H. Beacham, who died in July, 1904, and who was succeeded as treasurer of Montague county by his wife, to fill the unexpected term. Their children are Myrtle and Jack Smith Beacham; Misses Margaret E., French A. and Emma A. Cummins complete the family, and all four daughters, except Mrs. Smith make their parents’ home their own. Mr. Cummins and his family are Methodists, and in politics he is a Democrat.

Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. II, pp. 169-170.