My great-grandfather, Joseph R. Beaver, Sr., was born March 15, 1807, in Ohio. His ancestors came from Germany, Holland, Belgium and Alsace, some of them settling in Ohio and some in Pennsylvania. There has been a varied orthography of the name Beaver. For example, we have Beaver, Bever, Bieber, Biever and Beavers. Dad always said, “If you meet a Beaver who doesn’t have an s on the end of the name, they are your kin.” That may be true, but I have learned that it cannot be limited to that rule.
Although I have found the name Beaver many times in my research, I have not been able to accurately tie any of them directly to Joseph R. Beaver. Who was his father, and who was his mother? The state and county censuses dated before 1850 did not list the names of one’s children and that stymies research prior to that date.
There was an Abraham Beaver who sailed from Rotterdam, Holland in 1748, on the ship “Two Brothers”. He was the son of George Bieber who had emigrated to Rotterdam from Alsace. With his two brothers John and Dewait, George had sailed from there to America on the boat, “Friendship”, and reached Philadelphia November 2, 1744. A John Joseph Beaver came to America from Germany and settled near Harleysville, Pennsylvania. These, no doubt, were some of the ancestors of our great-grandfather.
Joseph R. Beaver married a woman named Jamima in Ohio in the year 1827. She was born in Virginia in 1806. They had seven children, three born in Ohio and four in Missouri. They migrated to Bates County, Missouri sometime between 1837 and 1841. Their children were:
- John Beaver, born in Ohio, 1828.
- Frances Beaver, born in Ohio, 1832.
- Edwin Beaver, born in Ohio, 1837•
- William Beaver, born in Missouri, 1841
- Nancy Beaver, born in Missouri, 1843.
- Julia Beaver, born in Missouri, 1845.
- Joseph R. Beaver, Jr., (Grandpa), born in Missouri, 1848.
The 1860 census from Bates County, Missouri showed that Joseph R. Beaver, Sr., had a wife named Rachel. We assume that Grandma Jamima died in the decade between 1850 and 1860, and that he married Rachel. She, evidently, did not live very long as he was a widower again when he married Aunt Catherine Wilson Clem on January 14, 1864.
In the fall of 1874, the Beaver family, along with a large group of people formed a wagon train and left Missouri, destination Texas. One newspaper clipping referred to them as missionaries. This was probably due to the fact that they were, for the most part, members of the Church of Christ, and there were three preachers in the group. They were Grandpap Wilson, Grandpa Joe Beaver, Sr., and Uncle Andy Wilson, son of Grandpap. All were moving west and searching for new frontiers. In the caravan were the families of John and Kitty Wilson, Joseph and Catherine Beaver, Joseph and Nancy Beaver, Mike and Ebaline Ramfield, Andy and Catherine Wilson, Charles and Elizabeth Pearson (my mother’s parents), and others. They arrived at their destination after six weeks of hard traveling. Some of them settled in Williamson County, near Round Rock, Texas, while others crossed the line into Travis County, near Austin. My dad was seven years old and my mother was four.
The Civil War had caused some change and much disturbance in the Church’throughout Ohio, Kentucky, Arkansas and Missouri. The Restoration Movement had been stymied, men within the ranks of the Church began to betray the faith by tendencies to compromise with those without. A controversy lasting from 1866 to 1870 resulted in a division of the Church into two groups now known as the Church of Christ and the Christian Church. This division came about by adding instrumental music to the worship, organizing missionary societies and other principals leading to digression and apostasy. This information was gleaned from my reading, “Search for the Ancient Order”, vol. I, II and III, by Earl I. West.
All, or most of the families moved on to Erath County in 1876 and settled in the Millerville Community near Hico. The community was named for old Brother W. M. Miller, an early settler who owned substantial acreage in the area. He subdivided and sold portions of his land to the Ramfields, Gieseckes, Wilsons, Beavers, Pointers, Pearsons, Franklins, Standlys, Hukels and others. They met for worship in the Birdsell school house. The Millerville Church of Christ was formally organized the first Sunday in June of 1877. Grandpa Joe Beaver, Jr., was one of the first deacons, and he remained a deacon until his death in 1918.
James Hukel and wife, Mary, deeded an acre of their land for a church building. The Warranty Deed was dated December 9, 1897, recorded in the office of the county clerk of Erath County in the deed records. Because the instrumental music question was still pressing on their minds, the following statement appears in the second paragraph of the deed: “It is hereby covenanted that in the services conducted in said house no music shall be used but vocal, and any party or parties who introduce any other than vocal music shall, in so doing, forfeit all of his or their interest in said house and land, and said house and land shall, in such case, remain in possession of, and belong to the disci ples who oppose said introduction.”
It is not known the exact number of people who were in the caravan that left Missouri and settled in Texas, but we do know they all had big families, who with their worldly possessions in covered wagons made the long journey. They must have suffered many hardships during the six weeks. What was the food supply like? Did they slay and eat wild animals? Were the mothers able to cook enough by campfire to satisfy the men and children? We were told that they were apprehensive of Indian horse thieves. The fall nights were cold, and in the higher elevations they had to shovel snow and make dry camps in some places. But, as the ancient poet said, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast”, and they moved onward. No doubt the prodigious effort on the part of each person, plus their faith in God, are the factors that brought them safely to their destination.
The old Millerville church building has been torn down and moved, and so has the schoolhouse. The cemetery is being kept clean of weeds by a rather newly organized cemetery association of which cousin Louis Giesecke is president, C. A. Giesecke is vice president, and Marilyn Giesecke Mills is secretary and treasurer. They will gladly accept donations toward the upkeep of it. My sister, Jane, her husband, J.T., and Buddy and I have visited the cemetery twice recently, and were impressed by the neat and clean appearance. Great-grandpa, Joseph R, Beaver, Sr., was buried on this ground before it was a cemetery. He died November 11, 1878, just one year after he helped organize the congregation of the Church there. He was an old time gospel preacher who performed wedding ceremonies, conducted funerals, and took turns preaching with Grandpap Wilson, James Hukel, Andy Wilson, and others.
June 20, 2020 update by Dennis Beaver: The Millerville Cemetery is located on FM 236, ~5 miles north of Hico, TX. Several of the Beaver kin are buried here, although grave markers are difficult to find.
A Texas Historical Marker was dedicated on September 30, 1995. The inscription reads:
Henry and Lourilla Osborn Miller, imigrants from Missouri who settled in Cooke Country, Texas during the 1860’s, bought land in this area about 1876 which they subsided into small farm tracts and sold. Settlers who purchased the farms organized a Church of Christ and in 1877, Rufus and Ann Green Ascue Birdsell donated one acre of land a short distance north of this site for school purposes. By 1881 much of the Millers’ original land holdings had been sold and a community by the name of Millerville had been established.
Although local tradition indicates earlier interments here, the first recorded burial was that of Joseph Beaver, Sr. in 1877. Two acres were set aside for cemetery purposes in 1881 by Ebalone and Michael Ramfield. Ramfield descendants in the Giesecke family have continued a family tradition of land ownership in the area into the 1990’s.
Birdsell School, a general store, and the Millerville Church of Christ constituted the town center in the early 1900’s. The cemetery served the community and contains the burials of many of the area’s earliest settlers and their descendants. Maintained by an association since 1980, the cemetery represents the last physical reminder of the village of Millerville.