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  • Writer's pictureDonna Hechler Porter

The Family of Napoleon Bonaparte Charlton and Martha Isabella Boyd

Recently I was contacted by Terry McDonald Turner, who had purchased my recent genealogy work "Metes & Bounds III: John McQueen & Nancy Crews, Children & Grandchildren." I asked Terry to write a more lengthy biography on Napoleon Bonaparte Barclay than what is currently in my book. The pictures are also courtesy of Terry (with the exception of the sons of Napoleon & Mattie and the last which are both courtesy of Sandra Hargrove). Next week I will return to my postings on the grandchildren of Jeremiah Crews and Elizabeth Harland.

Napoleon Bonaparte Barclay, my second greatgrandfather, was born December 6, 1854 in Woodville, Texas to James Walter Barclay (1816-1873) and Virginia Foster Barclay (1827-1867). He was named for his uncle, Napoleon Bonaparte Charlton, the husband of his mother’s sister, Sarah Louise Foster. Napoleon Bonaparte Charlton (1815-1896) was a well-known political figure in Tyler County, Texas, and served in the Texas State Legislature for many years.

Napoleon Bonaparte Charlton

Napoleon "Pole" married Martha Isabella "Mattie" Boyd on March 18, 1880 in Tyler County, Texas. Martha was born December 27, 1848 in Many, Louisiana. She was the daughter of James H. Boyd (1810-1859) and Sarah Ann Scott (1816-1885), and the widow of George Delaware Hignett (1849-1873). Mattie and George D. Hignett had two children, John Francis M. Hignett (1870-1918) and Sarah Eliza Hignett Boyce (1872-1964). John Francis "Frank" Hignett was a minister and officiated at the marriage of his half-sister, Viola Ida Barclay to Fredderic Ancel Williamson in April 1917.

Martha Isabella Boyd Hignett Barclay

Pole and Mattie Barclay had five children, two girls and three boys. The girls were Viola Ida Barclay Williamson (1881-1978) and Eva Virginia Barclay Kelley (1883-1960). The boys were Bronson Cooper Barclay (1885-1948), William Thomas Barclay (1887-1968), and Richard Boyd Barclay (1890-1969).

Eva Virginia Barclay Kelley

Richard, Will, and Bronson Barclay

(photo courtesy of Sandra Hargrove)

Viola “Ola” Williamson was my greatgrandmother. She lived about a quarter mile from me when I was growing up, and since she lived to be 96 years old, I knew her quite well. Many are the stories I have heard from her and my grandmother, Eva Esther Williamson McDonald (1918-2008), about the Barclays of Tyler County, Texas.

Viola Ida Barclay Williamson

The Barclays were Baptists in their religious beliefs, being either Primitive Baptists or Missionary Baptists. They also voted a Democratic ticket, although as my grandmother Esther told me in a 2001 videotaped interview “the Democrats then weren’t as they are now.” They had a great sense of humor and loved practical jokes. Aunt Eva “Evvie” Kelley was the family historian, and she passed her love of this rich history to her niece Esther.

Esther Williamson

Esther Williamson McDonald

Among the stories I have heard about Napoleon is that he could speak the language of the Alabama-Coushatta Indians of Tyler County, and that he always traveled with a sheepskin that he would roll out on the floor as his bed when he came for an overnight visit. My great-grandmother Ola told me that when she was growing up in Tyler County the Indians would leave her little corncob dolls that they made for her on the porch of their cabin which stood next to the James Walter Barclay cabin in the Harmony Community. Napoleon was very generous to his children and grandchildren, and would offer to purchase a home for his children when they married. (My Williamson great-grandparents declined this ample offer.) Another story was about the time Napoleon was hosting an important reception for Kirby Lumber Company executives and gave Ola and Eva quite a sum of money to make taffeta tablecloths. Both daughters thought taffeta was too expensive, and when they suggested another more sensible fabric, he vehemently said no.

Napoleon was well-loved by his children and grandchildren. He died on November 6, 1936 in Silsbee, Texas at the home of his son Bronson. Mattie died August 22, 1925 in Woodville, Texas after a long battle with cancer. They are both buried at Hart-Mill Cemetery near Woodville.

The picture below is of some of the children (and wives and husbands) of James Barclay & Virginia Ann Foster (and brothers, sisters, and in-laws of Napoleon Bonaparte Barclay) taken at a Barclay Family Reunion dated 1910-1916 and is courtesy of Sandra Hargrove who has graciously shared it with relatives who have asked.

Back row, left to right, Charles Bullock Barclay, Martha Isabell Boyd Barclay (Napoleon's wife), Napoleon Bonaparte Barclay, Donna Dunmon Barclay (Charles' wife), James O. Lindsey (Sarah's husband), Thomas Boston Beaty (Mary's husband)

Front row, left to right, Phoebe Arizona Barclay Bevil, Sarah Anderson Barclay Lindsey, Mary Louise Barclay Beaty, Avarilla Barclay Risinger, Jane Elizabeth Barclay Bullock

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