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The Greer Family

The Greer Family has generational history in the Kopperl area.  The Greer family actually owned the area that the town of Kopperl now sits.  The land was purchased from the Greer family in 1881 by the Gulf Colorado and Santa Fe Railroad and developed into Kopperl.  Ron Carlisle as well as his grandson Wayne Carlisle are both descendants of the Greer family and still reside in Kopperl.  Ron has been closely involved with the Kopperl community since the 1940s and went to school/graduated in Kopperl.

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Greer Family History Written by William N. Greer

 

          Gilbert Dunlap Greer, the eldest child of Nathaniel Hunt Greer and Nancy Ann Terry Roberts, was born October 11, 1822, in Bedford County, Tennessee. Little is known of his youth save that of where his family lived as he was growing up. The Georgia period of his young life was spent first in DeKalb County, then in Troup County. About 1831 the family crossed the Chattahoochee River to live on the Cherokee land that would soon become Chambers County, Alabama. After farm chores were done, the young Gilbert would have helped with his father's prosperous trading post where both whites and Indians bartered for goods. Gilbert was 14 when the family sailed to Texas and only 17 when the new republic granted him a headright of 320 acres, on December 5, 1839.

 

          As a young man, Gilbert would fish along Buffalo Bayou, sometimes supplementing the family table, sometimes selling his catch in the nearby city of Houston. He never converted his headright into actual land; instead, he sold his headright on October 5, 1846. However, Gilbert did acquire property and in 1850 sold 110 acres in Washington County to his future father-in-law, James Addison Lane, a long-time friend of the Greers who had brought his family to Texas around 1846. Although the Greer clan had moved to Texas after its independence was won in 1836, conflict with Mexico continued frequently for several years. On June 18, 1843, Gilbert married Susan G. Corathers (no photo exists) in Austin County, Texas. She was born in 1824, the daughter of George Corathers and Susanah Durham who hailed from Jones County, Georgia. Gilbert and Susan continued to live in Austin County for a few years and their first child, Cassandra (Cassie), was born there on March 19, 1846. Gilbert and Susan had at least 2 other children, a son Henry (birth date and site unknown), and a daughter Susanna (aka Susan or Susie) born February 1, 1849, in Washington County. Some claim that Gilbert and Susan had another daughter named Elizabeth, but on this the historical record is silent.

 

          By 1850 settlements had pushed much further up the Brazos River. Gilbert, Susan and their children accompanied this advancing frontier and in about 1851 set up residence in lower Milam County at "Sullivan's Bluffs" near where the Little River joined the Brazos. Just below the falls of the Brazos, the site was at the limit of river boat travel along the greatest river in Texas. In short order, the community created by Augustus Sillaven became the boomtown of Port Sullivan ("Sullivan" being a corruption of the founder's name) with a population of nearly 200 in the year 1852. Before long, Gilbert's parents and siblings had relocated near him. On October 13, 1853, Gilbert married Marion Bonita Lane, the eldest daughter of James Addison Lane. The little evidence we have suggests that Marion was a what Mormons called a "plural wife," but we cannot be sure. On the ill-fated journey to Utah, many died of cholera. Nearly 70 years later, Gilbert's sister-in-law Catherine Ellen Camp Greer recalled that "Gilbert's first wife, Sue, and most of his children died" of cholera. The toll apparently included daughter Susanna, whose name appears on the migrating company roster, and son Henry, although his name is missing. Daughter Cassie remained in Texas and was reared by her grandmother. The roster lists Susan Greer as dying on June 20, 1855, placing the wagon train in what would later become Brown County, Kansas. But it is uncertain whether the Susan in the record is the mother or the daughter. A record of the ordeal includes the death on June 22 of Elizabeth Greer, which may well have been Gilbert's youngest child.

 

          On August 10 the wagons stopped while Gilbert's second wife Marion delivered their first-born whom they named Margaret. Although little Margaret lived long enough to reach Salt Lake City, she died there a few weeks later on October 28. The following winter was a terrible one and the Greers lost most of their herd. Next spring, over Brigham Young's objections, Gilbert and most of his kin returned to the milder climate of Texas with what remained of their livestock.

          On the return trip, the Greers met a Utah-bound wagon train which included the Lanes (Marion's family) and the Phelps (another allied family) whom the Greers persuaded to turn back for Texas. They reached Texas in October and settled in Hill County on what they thought was vacant land. A cabin was hastily erected for Marion who gave birth on December 10, 1856, to Willmirth (Willie) S. Greer. Learning that the land was not vacant, Gilbert found (and on January 16, 1857, purchased) 320 acres of Bosque County land where Plowman's Creek flowed into the Brazos River. Here he built perhaps the first stone house in Bosque County, a warm and inviting structure in which Marion would give birth to 8 more children. During the Civil War, Gilbert had three stints of military duty. First, with several kin, he served at home in Capt. Samuel Fossett's company of "Minute Men" formed as part of the Texas State Troops. During the next several months, Gilbert was called up for a total of ten days service to protect the county from Indian depredations. But before his militia duty was over, he enlisted on January 16, 1862, in the regular army at Camp Hebert as a 2nd lieutenant under Capt. Terry Caruthers in Company H, Colonel O. Young's Rgmt. (aka the 12th Regiment — and sometimes incorrectly listed as the 8th Regiment), Texas Infantry, Confederate States Army.

 

          The next day, January 17, Gil was dispatched back to Bosque County on a recruiting assignment which apparently lasted throughout February. Gilbert and Marion built one the earliest stone houses in Bosque County on a pleasant rise a few hundred feet southwest of where Plowman Creek emptied into the Brazos. They lived there from the 1860s until the early 1900s when they moved to the nearby town of Morgan to live with their son Thomas. The decaying structure became dilapidated with disuse, eventually serving as a storage barn until being demolished when Lake Whitney came into being around 1950. Now all that remains is the rubble that marks the foundation of the memorable building.

 

          March 1, 1862, while in Bosque, he was officially discharged from the militia. Soon, near Hempstead in Waller County, he reported for duty on March 9 at Camp Young — apparently an ad hoc name in honor of the company commander. Two weeks later, on March 26, Gil assumed command of Company H with a pay grade of $80 per month. On July 21, 1862, he was elevated to the rank of Captain and his pay was raised to $130 per month. Gil's unit was dispatched to Louisiana where about the first of October he contracted dysentery. By year's end the Company Muster Roll of December 31, 1862, showed that he was absented to the Command Convalescent Camp near Little Rock, Arkansas. On January 22, 1863, he tendered his resignation due to chronic dysentery, affirming his inability to perform the duties of his office for the previous 4 months. His petition was initially approved on this date by Surgeons E. L. Massie and J. C. Welch of the Medical Examining Board then forwarded to higher authority. On January 24 it was approved by the Convalescent Camp Commander, Colonel O. W. Roberts and Gilbert was soon on his way home. Within a few months after Gil's return to Bosque County and his subsequent recuperation, he was once again serving in the military. This time he found himself a lieutenant in Capt. H. Fossett's Company (known as Company "A") of the Battalion attached to the Texas Frontier Regiment, C.S.A. at Camp Colorado, headquarters of said Regiment. On April 1st, 1864 (by Special Order No. 6 of Col. J. E. McCord, Admst Sec Adjt) he was appointed "A.A.Q.M. & A.A.C.S. of said Company" and asked to give "the requisite bond and enter immediately on the duties of that office." Gil's duty in the last stage of the war was one of protecting the Texas frontier against Indian depredations. A few months later the war was over. After the war, his nickname "Gil" was often replaced with "Captain" by those who held his military service in high esteem. For many years thereafter, his estate on the Brazos, known as "Greer Park," was host to hundreds of veterans from all over the state who gathered each summer to reminisce of gallant deeds and fallen friends.

          Gilbert and Marion's daughter Willie was unsuccessfully courted by Robert J. Sims, one of many cowboys who drove the great herds along the nearby Chisholm Trail. On October 23, 1875, Willie was at home preparing for her next day's wedding to another man when she was tragically shot and killed by the rejected suitor who thereupon took his own life. In 1881 the town of Kopperl began on land which Gilbert and his brothers sold to the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railroad Company. Along tracks just a few hundred feet away from their house, Gilbert and Marion soon heard the frequent thundering of steam locomotives as their frontier was transformed into an modern society. Later, Gilbert donated a part of his farm for the Kopperl Cemetery where he, Marion, and many of his family would be laid to rest.

 

          By the turn of the century, Gilbert and Marion's rock home had fallen into disrepair and had become less comfortable for the aging couple. They sold the farm and moved into their son Tom's comfortable frame house in the railroad town of Morgan which had sprung up along Steele's Creek a few miles southwest of Kopperl. It was here that Gilbert died on March 12, 1910 and Marion on April 15, 1916. Her Kopperl Cemetery headstone bears the inscription: "The Gift of God is perpetual life Through Jesus Christ our Lord" and his reads "There is a balm for every flower. Farewell we shall meet again."

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Nathaniel Hunt Greer

Nathaniel Hunt Greer was born at the turn of the century, on October 26, 1802 in Jasper county, Georgia. He was the tenth child and the last of seven sons born to John Aquilla (or David) Greer and Sarah Hunt. John Greer served as a soldier in the Revolutionary War for a period of four years. He was a farmer and a stockman. His mother was known as "Sallie" and was said to have descended from Pocahontas. He left a will and a bible with a record of his children.

 

Nathaniel grew up on his father's farm and lived with his parents until he was married in 1821 at the age of nineteen to Nancy Ann Terry Roberts. Nancy was born in Virginia in 1805 and was the daughter of Thomas Roberts and Elizabeth Lacy.

Nathaniel and Nancy lived in DeKalb County, Georgia on his older brother, Gilbert Dunlap's land. They had three children; Gilbert Dunlap, Willmirth and Thomas Lacy. On January 30, 1825 Nathaniel was elected Justice of the Peace. In the fall of 1825, Nathaniel and two others became agents in a real estate venture - selling lots for a proposed town in norther DeKalb. The land was 30 to 40 miles above Chief McIntosh's late residence. McIntosh, the Creek Indian Chief, was much resented by his fellow tribesmen for selling tribal land to the whites. He was assassinated by vengeful Creeks on April 30, 1825, at his home called Acorn Bluff. It was a large plantation worked by 72 slaves.

 

The town failed and his enterprise came to naught. Also in 1828 Nathaniel was involved in a legal dispute. Immediately after the litigation in Decatur he moved his family to Troup County, Georgia in search of more hopeful circumstances. Here William Redick, and Steven Decatur were born to them.

 

Nathaniel seemed to be hunting for greener pastures and felt that it would be easier to make a living over in Alabama. They moved across the Chattahoochee River into that part of Alabama occupied by the Creek Indians. Here Nathaniel put up not only a homestead, but also a trading post where he dealt with Indian and pioneer alike. While in Chambers County, Alabama the family continued to grow with the birth of twin boys; Americus Vespusis and Christopher Columbus. On the twins first birthday the first election of county officers was held. The voters chose Nathaniel as their first sheriff. The first court house was in Captain Baxter Taylor's home. Nathaniel summoned a grand jury and court convened in the shade of a large oak in the yard.

 

In May of 1833 a crude courthouse was built in the county seat of Chambersville. The structure was made from split pine logs, had a dirt floor, and was only 20 feet square. It also served as a temporary site of the First Presbyterian Church. Nathaniel had been chosen as one of the church's two original elders - so he used the building frequently.

During his tenure as sheriff, there was no jail. When he arrested someone, he would have remanded the prisoner into the custody of a trustworthy citizen or for dangerous persons he would have hired a guard until a trial could be held. The first trial in the temporary court house was that of an Indian charged with murdering another Indian. Before the accused was tried, convicted, and hanged, he was guarded by men paid two dollars a day for their time.

In July of 1833 a post office was established in the court house. Presumably until that time, Nathaniel would have had to return to Troup County to receive or post mail. In 1834 Nathaniel was in a fracas with county officials which resulted in a fine of $50 and his resignation. Despite his resignation as sheriff, his continuing popularity with the voters was demonstrated a few months later when he was elected the first representative of Chambers County to the Alabama legislature. He served for one term during which time he was asked by the federal government to assist in its dilemma of land fraud.

Dixon Hamlin was born in April of 1834 and that summer the town held a big 4th of July celebration. Fiddlers entertained the crowd which enjoyed barbecued meats in a grove of trees near the town square. The Declaration of Independence was read and toasts to the Union imbibed.

In 1836, two months after their new daughter Sallie Hunt was born all the women and children had to leave their homes for protection at the brick courthouse due to a Creek Indian uprising. This was due in part to the frauds that had been perpetrated against them. Nathaniel and about 150 others were mustered into the militia for a three month stint. On September 8, 1836, cessation of hostilities was declared. The Creeks soon assembled in Lafayette to embark on the infamous Trail of Tears. Many of the evicted were known to Nathaniel and probably several had been his friends for years. By the time he was discharged, word had come of historic events in Texas including the fall of the Alamo and the cold - blooded murder of a considerable party of Alabama volunteers following their surrender a the Battle of Goliad.

The new republic now offered free land to those who would help settle its territory. Interest in Texas grew throughout the South. In Alabama times were hard due to a national depression. In Chambers County, an area heavily dependant on a slave economy, conditions became grave as a raging yellow fever epidemic killed one third of the slave population. Nathaniel's family made plans to emigrate at the beginning of 1837.

They traveled many weary miles settling in Brenham, Washington County, Texas. It was here that five more sons were born to Nathaniel and Nancy their names were; Nathaniel Hunt, John Irvine, Parley Wiley, Ira Abner, and Mathew Simon. Altogether the couple had 12 sons and 2 daughters.

From a diary written by Nathaniel's son A.V. Greer we learn of the family's activities while in Texas. He writes: "I was in my fifth year when Father and his family left Alabama for Texas in the early part of 1837. We embarked in a steam-boat from Alabama to New Orleans. At which place we stopped for several days. Sailed in the ship Fannin across the Gulf of Mexico, via Galveston and landed at Velasco, Texas on March 4th my birthday---- settled in Washington County. Our family consisted of , besides Father and Mother and 8 children, Wm Hunt, John Smith, Mr. Loveless, Leroy Greer and Tom Irvine ( the last two being my cousins). Also five coloreds namely; Ned, Jim, Judah, Lucy and Louisa, twenty people in all.

Velasco was at the mouth of the Brazos River. They went upriver and found rich land that could be bought or rented. Nathaniel was awarded a Second Class Conditional Certificate for 1280 acres of land. He became Justice of the Peace for Washington County. He occasionally performed marriages and presided over a ceremony of special significance as he wed his eldest daughter, Wilmirth to Edwin W. East who had enlisted as a Texas Ranger.

In 1839, Nathanial decided to run for the House of Representatives. He performed his elected duty in the newly constructed capitol building in Austin, which in its infancy offered virtually no accommodations. As late as 1845, the frontiersman Buck Barry observed that many of the congressman slept "under the stars" on bedrolls near the capital building.

Father was away much of the time, he was a Senator under General Sam Houston, the first President of the Republic of Texas. In 1851 we bargained for a place from Jonathon York. We put up log cabins, 3 miles from Yorktown, on the Corpus Christi and San Antonia Road. Our brother Parley Wiley (1851) died and was buried at this place. About 1852, Father and family moved to Milan County near Port Sullivan, also sons in law Ed. W. East and S.M. Johnson (Sally Hunt md. in 1852). This is where my oldest brother Gil lived. (Gilbert had been farming near the booming Brazos River town of Port Sullivan. "Colonel" Greer as Nathaniel was by then often called, built a sawmill on the Little River and prosperity ensued.) A good house was built (no longer the crude cabins they had known) and the Company did considerable business. About this time Gil married his second wife, Marian B. Lane. My twin brother (Christopher Columbus) died here on February 8, 1854, from pneumonia, contracted while deer hunting. Only 22 years old, he was buried not far above saw-mill near the edge of the river bottom, a high place. Here we first heard Mormonism by Elders John Osler and Washington L. Jolley in the summer of 1852."

Henry G. Moyle was also another missionary to the family. They embraced the unpopular faith and the parents with seven of their children were baptized in 1854. Nathaniel's poignant affection for this new religion was aptly demonstrated in two poems which survive.

In Washington County, Texas, Greer owned a store and became quite well off. After their baptism into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints they felt that they should join the Saints in Utah. In June of 1855 all the family and Nathaniel's sister Nancy Reddick Greer Johnson were on their way to Utah bringing all their store goods and cattle with them to set up a store upon their arrival.

In St. Louis Missouri Nathaniel paid $500 for a rare Italian violin and offered it to the first family member who learned to play it. Sallie's husband won it and played it for years after.

On June 2 the company of almost 50, under the leadership of Nathaniel's business partner Seth M. Blair, arrived at Mormon Grove on the west bank of the Missouri River. On June 15th they set out and within 4 days an epidemic of Asiatic cholera had erupted. At the Missouri River Nathaniel paid 99 head of cattle for tithing. Unfortunately he never reached his longed for Utah. He died on the plains at Grasshopper Creek near Atcheson Kansas on June 25, 1855. A coffin was made from a wagon bed and his mortal remains were laid to rest on a hill about a half mile east of Grasshopper Creek. His son, John Irvine also died a couple days before Nathaniel near Mt. Riser, Kansas. Both father and son had cholera. In church history, Captain Seth M. Blair reporting on his company for June 24th and 25th said the following: "Colonel N.H. Greer, a prominent man in the company, died of cholera. In the first 36 hours so many died of cholera that we buried one person every three hours. The cries of the dying and shrieks of the living presented horrors unimaginable. Grave diggers were busy night and day."

Cholera acts quickly like poison and is very painful. Three of Wilmith Greer East's children died within a few days of their grandfather and uncle's death. Losing grandchildren was as hard as losing their own.

Heart-sick those left of the family arrived in Utah in September of 1855. They set up their store as they had planned on the north corner of Main and 1st South. They went into business with Blair and Basset and Company.
Winter was soon approaching which turned out to be quite severe. The Greer's stock had been accustomed to the warmer climate of the south. They froze and starved to death because grazing could not be found nor feed purchased for them.By the time spring came the family was so utterly discouraged they decided to leave Utah and return to Texas.

Thomas Lacy, second oldest son, met Ellen Camp who was also from the south. He fell in love with her at first sight and they were married about two months later. The newly weds spent a happy winter attending parties, dances and shows always popular with the Latter-Day Saints. Ten year old Mathew Simon Greer, the youngest in the family, went to school that winter and Parley P. Pratt was the teacher who he liked so well that he named his first son Parley Pratt Greer. Thomas Lacy Greer and his bride were called to a mission to help settle Texas. They left that first spring. Because Thomas Lacy was going the other members of the family may have been more inclined to return. Over Brigham Young's objections Gilbert and most of his kin returned to the milder climate of Texas with what remained of their livestock. After the family had left Utah it was published in a newspaper of the city at that time, that "the apostate Greers left to return to their home". Ellen Greer Rees had old letters written from the Greers which told that they believed and loved the Gospel, but they did not like the cold climate and conditions for their mother, cattle and livelihood. Whatever their reasons were they did leave Utah to return to their homes in Texas.

Out of the Greer's 14 children four of their sons had died before the family was able to hear the gospel and be baptized. One son, John Lavine, died while traveling to Utah along with their father Nathaniel Hunt Greer. Their only daughters, Willmirth and Sally Hunt both had married before the family joined the church. However both of the girls with their husbands and families stayed in Utah.

Willmirth Greer East and her husband remained in Salt Lake City for 22 years during which time she labored diligently and faithfully in many positions of trust in the Relief Society. She accompanied her husband on a mission to Texas. They moved to Apache County, Arizona in June of 1877, then to Gila where she was sustained as President of the Relief Society of the St. Joseph Stake. Sally Hunt Greer Johnson, wife of Snellen Marion Johnson settled in Uintah Basin County in Utah along with Nathaniel Hunt's sister Nancy Redic Johnson and her family.

Thomas Lacy and his family of ten children lived in Texas for 20 years, then moved to Kansas and finally to Arizona. During their years in Texas, Dixon Hamlin Greer served a mission to Texas and while there baptized three of Thomas Lacy's boys. Their names were Richard D., John Harris, and Oasis. After this visit from Dixon, Thomas Lacy and his family started the trip back to Utah and then decided to gather with the Saints in Arizona. Dixon Hamlin Greer was the only son of Nathaniel and Nancy Ann Terry to make a permanent home in Utah. He settled in Wallsburg, Wasatch County Utah with his wife and large family and remained active throughout his life. Americus Vespusis Greer appears to have returned to Texas with the family, married there, and then journeyed back to Utah where right after Thomas Lacy. He visited his sister Willmirth and his brother Dixon. He was buried in the Provo Utah Cemetery.

Their oldest son Gilbert along with Steven, William, Matthew and their mother Nancy Ann returned to Texas permanently and made their homes in Bosque County. Their children's families did drift away from the gospel. Most of them became Baptists. They were good honest people living clean lives.

Nancy Ann Terry made one trip to Arizona to see if she wanted to live there, but she preferred Texas and so remained in Texas with those of her family there for the rest of her life. She was 50 years of age when her husband passed away and was a widow for 33 years. She had one more year of married life than she did of widowhood. She passed away at the age of 83 years in Kopperl, Bosque County, Texas.

O Come, Come Away
[Composed by Nathaniel Hunt Greer at Port Sullivan, Texas in 1854.]

O Come, come away
From northern blast returning
Those wintry times to milder climes
O come, come away
Where gentile foot has never been
The clear blue sky is always seen
And spring is ever green
O come, come away

O come, come away
Where hope is still inspiring
Where flowers bloom in rich perfume
O come, come away
There 'mid the mountains towering dome
The Colorado's waters foam
And freedom finds a home
O come, come away

O come from the realms
Where tyrants still are reigning
From poverty and cholera and war
come away
Imperial Zion rise in might
Increase thy towers, extend thy light
And reign, it is thy right
At home and far away.

O come, come away
The mountains still exploring
Turn every brook, search every nook
O come, come away
The secret treasures of the hills
The rivers, lakes and murmuring rills
Are ours, boys, by Heaven's will
O come, come away.

O come, come away
Where Joseph's sons are roaming
In solitude and manner rude
O come, come away.

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