Chenault Family National Association

 

FAMILY TALES

Perpetuating the memory of our ancestors involves more than compiling accurate family records for them but also collecting and documenting their stories.  These stories are the flesh on the bones of the genealogical information we amass.  They literally breathe life into our ancestors and allow us to see them as individuals.  Through these stories, we can better understand the hardships that our ancestors faced, their losses, their accomplishments, their never giving in or giving up, their humor, their values, and so on.  Maybe, we even learn something about ourselves in the process.  Thus, the stories are our way of really connecting with our ancestors, developing respect for them, and even coming to love them for the sacrifices that have brought us to today.

The following stories are but a few of those that are known about our ancestors.  If you have stories you would like to share, please email them to Carolyn Sue Chenault, Historian, schenault@tx.rr.com.  Please remember to give credit to sources where appropriate.

Hannah Moore Yourie Shinault

Hannah was born 14 Feb 1795 in Kentucky and married William Shinault when she was about 16 years old.  Her gravestone reads, "A pioneer, the first white woman to cross the Hatchie River."  After serving in the War of 1812, William returned to his family and in 1820 migrated from North Carolina to Tennessee, starting a settlement approximately one mile southwest of the present site of Hickory Valley, before Hardeman County was organized.  Upon crossing the Hatchie River, the Shinaults "entered a wilderness infested with displaced Indians, who were angry because of being pushed westward."  During a raid on the Shinault home, the Indians seized one of their children.  Hannah "pursued the Indians and bargained with them for her child.  She agreed to give them a gallon of firewater in return for her baby."  The Indians agreed.  "The Shinault neighborhood was located on an old Indian trail that connected Van Buren to the east with the Bolivar-LaGrange road to the west." (Some text quoted from "The Hardeman County History")

Janetta Chenault Davis

Janetta was born in Nov 1839, in La Porte, La Porte County, Indiana, the daughter of Wesley M. Chenault.  In 1846, she came to Texas with her parents, who settled on land her father owned on White Rock Creek in Dallas County.  On 26 Jun 1855. at the age of 16 years, she married John Wesley "Uncle Johnnie" Davis, who also came to Dallas from LaPorte County, Indiana and settled on White Rock Creek near the Chenault family.  After they were married, the couple moved to Seagoville, in the southern part of Dallas County.  One day, their home was attacked by a band of about 40 Indians.  Although they barricaded themselves in the house for protection, the Indians began climbing down the chimney.  Janetta grabbed two feather pillows, which were prized possessions she had received from Indiana, and threw them into the fireplace.  The smoke from the burning feathers drove the Indians out of the chimney, and they abandoned the attack.  Although the Indians remained in the area for some time, they never again bothered the Davis family.  (Story recounted by Mary Jackson Sutherland in Dallas County Pioneer Association book entitled Proud Heritage, Pioneer Families of Dallas County, volume I.)

Mary Catherine Chenault Pruett and daughter Gabriella Harrison Pruett Seal

It is impossible to tell the story of one of these individuals without including the other since both were seemingly affected by the circumstances that befell them.  On 11 Jan 1836, in Caroline County, Virginia, Mary Catherine, about 20 years old,  married  widower William Harrison Pruett, age 31 years and the father of at least two children.  Life was happy for the couple apparently for by October 1861, they were the parents of ten children, including eight daughters and 2 sons.  However, tragedy struck this family and by the end of October, six of their children, including both sons, were dead due to diphtheria.  Gabriella, almost 18, two older sisters, one married, and a younger sister were the only ones to survive.  Their grief is unimaginable and surely Mary Catherine was heartbroken.  However, the saying about "what does not kill you makes you stronger" must be true, for about two years later, Mary Catherine gave birth to another daughter and then another in 1866.  And, 3 July 1866, Gabriella married Lawrence Battle Seale.  Gabriella's daughter, Virginia Norton Seal, recorded her mother's recollections of the day in her 1951 book, "My Book of Memories Past."  She said, "The wedding took place on the lawn at the bride's home.  Service was at 6:00 p.m.  The Rev. Edgar Rowe officiated.  There were 12 bridesmaids and groomsmen.  The bride wore a white gown with a long veil.  There was a wedding supper afterwards.  There was a large attendance of friends and neighbors."  But happiness for Mary Catherine was short-lived, for in 1868, her youngest daughter born in 1866 died of pneumonia.  The heartbreak must have been too much for her to bear, for she, too, died in February 1869.  Gabriella and her husband continued to live at "Pruetts Estate" after the death of her father in 1874.  She provided a home for her sisters, one of whom was still with her in 1880 at the age of 33.  According to notes written by her daughter, Virginia, who was present at her motherís death along with her sister Laura and Mrs. Leela Kate Campbell, they saw a halo about her head at the moment of her death.

Captain John W. Yeary, husband of Mary Elizabeth "Polly" Shinault

Mary Elizabeth married Captain John W. Yeary in Tennessee in 1818.  They left Tennessee, 1827-28, headed for Texas. However, they were forced to stop in Ft. Smith, Arkansas to seek medical aid for Mary Elizabeth who became ill with typhoid fever. Circumstances kept the family there for 10 years before resuming the trip to Texas. Their route was the same as that taken by Davy Crockett, crossing the Red River at Warrenís Bend. In Texas, John had a general store in Sugar Hill (now known as Farmersville) in Collin County. On Christmas Eve 1854, several rowdies came in wanting to buy liquor. When he refused and asked them to go in peace because of the Sabbath, one of them pulled a gun and shot John, instantly killing him. Hearing the gunfire, his sons rushed to the store where they saw their father dead on the ground. A battle ensued in which two of the assailants were killed, and several were wounded. As a result of the incident, three of Johnís sons immediately left Collin County and settled elsewhere.