McMakin Road leads back to Texas pioneers

Several years ago, at a Bartonville town council meeting, we were asked why McMakin Road had that name as someone wanted to change it. No one in attendance had any idea.

We later found out that the Denton County Commissioner’s Court once decided that our county roads should have unified names. Rather than allow each town to name the part of a road within its boundaries, roads should have the same name no matter what town it passes through. They decided to name our roads after our early settlers. A committee was formed to select suitable names and one of those names was McMakin. Details of why the committee decided on that name was then a mystery, but no one saw any reason to change it.

A fairly simple search of the property records in the Denton County Clerk’s office, led to the discovery that the first person named McMakin known to live here was Alexander A. McMakin who bought 180- acres of land from a Daniel McLeod on July 29, 1884. That parcel of real estate was to the east of, and adjacent to, what is now McMakin Road. But, we have to wonder– why was the road not named for Mr. McLeod or some other earlier owner of that property? Why should the honor be given to the second or maybe the third owner, rather than the first? After a modest amount of additional research and consulting with some of the McMakin descendants, that question can now be answered.

There is no record of how and when Daniel McLeod acquired his property and no record of any other previous owner. It’s because in December 1875 the Denton County Courthouse burned and all of the county records were lost in that fire.

However, from census and other records we know that Daniel McLeod was born in 1837 in North Carolina. We also know that on Sept.15, 1862, McLeod was living in Harnett County, where he enlisted in Company I of the 31st North Carolina, CSA Infantry. In 1880, McLeod was living in what is now Bartonville with his wife, Virginia, two daughters, one son and a nephew.

An article was found on page 3 of the May 15, 1884 issue of the Austin Weekly Statesman newspaper stating that Daniel McLeod was one of eleven men who received land grants from the State of Texas for Civil War Veterans. It would seem that McLeod was being rewarded for what must have been a major contribution to the cause of the Confederacy. Although he may have been a war hero, he never remained in Denton County long enough to establish any deep bonds of friendship or loyalty here. Daniel McLeod sold his land here and moved to Brown County where he continued to farm. The McLeod’s raised their family there and he died on Aug. 6, 1922 at the age of 85.

The family that the McLeod’s sold their farm to in Denton County was led by Alexander Allston McMakin. He descended from William McMechen who was born in 1678 in the part of Scotland known as Ayrshire. His clan was devoutly Presbyterian, but the Anglican Church was repressing all views except its own.  Seeking religious freedom, McMechen first migrated to Northern Ireland and then on to America in about 1720. Members of the family fought in the Colonial Army in Virginia during the Revolutionary War. Generations later, the McMechen’s changed their name to spell it the same Americanized-way that they pronounced it.

Alexander McMakin was born on August 12, 1825 in Spartanburg, South Carolina. His father, John McMakin (1786-1867), decided to participate in a lottery for the land that had been made available by the forced-expulsion of the Creek and Cherokee Indians from the state of Georgia. He won acreage near Alpharetta, Georgia and relocated his family there.

The McMakin clan seemed to prosper in Georgia. John’s family registered nine children. In 1847, when he was 22, Alexander married Nancy Ford, who died about a year later. He then married Margaret Dinkins on January 13, 1852, and they settled down on a farm and started their own family.

In 1860 or 61, Alexander and at least two of his brothers moved their families to better farm land in Russell, Alabama. But, the Civil War became a major interruption for the McMakin’s as it was for most families. In 1862, Alexander left Margaret and their five kids and enlisted as a private in Company E of the 39th Alabama Infantry. His regiment saw heavy fighting throughout the war, but he managed to survive. However, while Alexander was away at war, his wife died. Upon his return, he had to care for his farm and five young children.

Margaret’s twin brother, Simeon Dinkins, also died in 1864. He left a widow whose maiden name was Lavonia Catherine Thornton. His widow had two children and in 1865, the widower, Alexander McMakin married his widowed sister-in-law, Lavonia Dinkins. The two returned to life on the rural Alabama farm along with their seven children. Over the next 15 years, Lavonia would give birth to at least seven more babies.

It should be noted that the McMakin families had been somewhat influential, both in Georgia and in Alabama. Alexander had been an Inferior Court Justice in Milton County, but he always regarded himself as a farmer. It is well known that the period after the Civil War could be difficult for southern families, especially those who had been prominent prior to the war. For whatever reason, some of the McMakin’s decided to leave Alabama around 1879. Alexander moved to Texas, Andrew Jackson McMakin moved to Kansas, William McMakin went to Oklahoma; while one brother, Isham McMakin, remained in Russell.

Alexander was about 52-years old and Lavonia was about 38-years old. They first located in Tarrant County and could have traveled by the recently-built railroad or they might have just loaded all they could on their farm wagons and joined one of the many wagon trains that were coming to Texas in the 1870’s and 80’s. What we know for sure is that eleven children, ranging in age from 23- down to 1-year old, made the trip. This was the nucleus of the family that took root in the Bartonville community in 1884.

Alexander and Lavonia soon became well-respected members of rural Denton County. The family would have grown all of their food, plus a cotton crop as they had done in Alabama.  Alexander is also listed in the records of Denton County for serving as an attorney representing some of his neighbors in property transactions. He would have been known by county leaders at the Denton Courthouse, as well as to the merchants who served successful farmers such as the McMakin’s.

Alexander continued to live on his farm until he died on Dec.14, 1902, at the age of 77. Lavonia continued to live there with two of her children until her death on Sept. 2, 1914, at the age of 76. Many members of their large family remained and continued the long legacy of their parents in the Bartonville Community:

Joseph William McMakin (1856-1886) married Sallie Lou Williams. He drove a freight wagon in Ft. Worth, and then moved to Denton. He and his wife both died young; their two children were raised by Alexander and Lavonia.

Benjamin Thomas McMakin (1859-1899) came to Texas with his family and worked on a farm in Tarrant County. Whether he married or where he died is not known.

Thomas Jefferson Dinkins (1861-1908) married Laura Lee Mooney, farmed and raised two children in the Bartonville area.

Simeon Thornton Dinkins (1864-1897) married Susie N. Moore and farmed in the Bartonville area.

Sally Ann McMakin (1866-1944) married a man from Kentucky named Maclung C. Taylor. The two had a farm in Shackelford County, Texas and raised four children.

Louis McMakin (1869-1940) married Nellie Schoppaul, but there’s no record that they had any children who survived infancy. He farmed in Bartonville then moved to Oklahoma.

George Allen McMakin (1869-1950) married Cora Litsey, raised cattle in Justin and had 10 children. He was influential in the Argyle-Justin area.

Charles Henderson McMakin (1873-1955) and Carlie C.
McMakin (1873-1957) were twins. Neither of them ever married. The two of continued to farm the homestead and cared for their parents in their old age.

Alexander Isham McMakin (1876-1918) Married Ida Melissa Wilkerson and farmed in the Bartonville area. He died in 1918 of tuberculosis.

Andrew Jackson McMakin (1878-1964) married Carrie McNiece and moved to Thomaston, Georgia.

Today if you drive south, past Lantana, on FM 407, turn right at the Bartonville sign and horse statues, you will travel down a two-lane road that will lead you to the old community of Shiloh. There you will find the old Shiloh Church. In the church cemetery you can see the graves of Alexander and Lavonia, as well as seven of their children and numerous other family members. There are no more honored or respected pioneer members of our area than this family; and that is why the road is called McMakin Road.

Jim Morriss can be reached at [email protected]


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