Museum Musings (July 3, 2019)


There have been Longbothams in Madison County for almost 200 years. It is surprising, therefore, that yielded only four tombstones here for that last name. Remember though, Findagrave only contains what humans have entered there, and some folks have not been recorded. I checked in Leon County, practically right next door, and found seven Longbothams. The most recent Madison County Longbothams that I’ve found are Joyce Phifer Longbotham (1924-2012) and her husband, Rufus Tyler Longbotham, Sr. (1921-1989), and they are buried across the county line in Leon County.

I often use the two Madison County history books as sources. Volume 1, printed in 1984, contains no Longbothams in the family-submitted entries, except where it mentions who married into various families. Volume 2, printed in 1994, contains 16 submissions from the family. Most of the following information came from Volume 2.

It appears that the first Longbotham in Madison County was Robert Brough Longbotham, born in England in 1797. At an early age, he worked as a cabin boy to pay for his trip to America. In the years before the War of 1812, he went to sea with the United States Merchant Marines. Being British by birth, he was considered a lifetime British citizen, and was impressed (forced) into the English Navy in the War of 1812. During that time, he suffered a flash powder burn to one of his eyes, and that partially disabled his sight the rest of his life.

After the War of 1812, Robert returned to America. He had learned building skills which served him well. He married Lucy Haggard in Alabama, and they had nine children. In 1832 the family emigrated to Texas with a group led by David G. Burnet. They first settled near Nacogdoches, and by 1835 the family moved to Madison County, then part of Montgomery County because Madison had not been created yet. Robert received a labor (177 acres) of land near what was then Rogers Prairie (near Normangee). He farmed the land. During the Texas Revolution, he helped relocate east Texas families relocate to safer places.

There are family stories of Indian problems at Rogers Prairie. Robert later mentioned Robert Rogers, Steven Rogers, Thomas Lam, and Sam Brimberry as being part of a group of settlers who built a blockhouse at Rogers Prairie.

About 1837, Robert and his sons went to what is now Freestone County and built two log cabins on the Spanish land grant he had received in 1835 from the Mexican government. He moved his family there in 1839, and the settlement became known as “Longbottom”. He died in Freestone County in 1883.

Robert’s son, John Longbotham (1825-1869) was born in Alabama and died in Madison County. John was first married to Sarah Delia Bays and second to Bess Batson. He and Sarah are listed on the Madison County census with 4 children in 1860. They resided in the Mecca and Ten Mile communities.

John was known as Black John because of his coloring and to differentiate him from his brother, Jonathan. Black John was said to have been a sheriff, though his name does not appear on the list of Madison County sheriffs since the county’s creation in 1853. It’s speculated that he served in that capacity before the county was organized. His son, John Thomas (1865-1923), is on that list as a sheriff.

The elder John Longbotham was murdered by outlaws on March 6, 1869, as a result of a dispute over ownership of some hogs. He arranged for he and his son, Johnny, to meet with three men that were to make restitution for the hogs. They met where the current Prosperity Bank parking lot now stands. John shook hands with two men but when he turned to shake the third man’s hand, one of the others shot him in the back and killed him. The murderer was indicted and imprisoned but was soon was broken out by a big group. No one was tried or punished for the murder. It was a time of lawlessness here.

It was intended for the elder John’s body to be buried in Ten Mile cemetery, but the weather was so bad that he was buried at a small cemetery on the Poteet property. The cemetery is no longer identifiable. Family stories say there are several graves there. If anyone knows who owns that property now, I’d sure like to know.

As far as I know, no Longbotham by name resides here now, but the blood is still here, just carrying different names. It appears that Longbothams married Batsons, Browns, Childresses, Fannins, Hannahs, Harpers, Knights, Mays, and more. Zerah Longbotham married Wiley Cook, and Mary Cook Barrett is their daughter, so she is part Longbotham, as are Mary’s offspring, Tammy Reid and Cary Wiseman. Alene (Mrs. Alvin) Childress was born a Longbotham, but she and Alvin lost their only son in a tragic accident. I’ll bet there are more that I haven’t uncovered.

If Volume 2 of Madison County history had not been published, I would not have easy access to information for this Musings. Since it was compiled, 25 years have passed. Folks who did not get their families into Volume 1 were eager to help with Volume 2. Don’t ANY of you have that left-out feeling and want to see more?

Who would like to see Volume 3 of Madison County History? I would be delighted to see a committee working on it! Madison County Historical Commission meets at 10 a.m. on the third Wednesday every month except November and December, and that would be the place to start such. If some of you are interested in Volume 3 but work interferes with you attending morning meetings, I’ll bet we can work something out! Email me,

Madison County Museum is located at 201 N. Madison St., Madisonville, TX 77864 and is open to the public Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Curator Jane Day Reynolds would love for you to visit!