My husband, Gene, is a 6th generation Texan all because of Captain Jesse Burnham. Jesse, born in Kentucky in 1792, fought in the war of 1812. At age 22, he moved his family from Kentucky in 1824 due to health, and settled his family near LaGrange, TX. The Burnham family was the 13th family in Stephen F. Austin’s original “Colony of 300” and given a land grant. Austin commissioned Jesse as a captain of militia in May of that year. Captain Jesse later became a Representative in the Republic of Texas’ provisional government and its first Congress. He served as a Texas Ranger and engaged in four to five Indian battles. On March 17, 1836, General Sam Houston arrived at Captain Jesse Burnham’s Ferry and his army crossed over the Colorado River in two days. Then, Houston ordered Captain Jesse’s homestead and ferry be set afire to prevent Santa Anna’s army from crossing the Colorado River. Captain Jesse never forgot what Houston did to him.
In 1855, Captain Jesse moved his family to Burnet County when he was given a second land grant – southeast of present-day Marble Falls on Double Horn Creek, near Spicewood. He established one of the first sheep-raising operation in the area and a large wheat farm.
Captain Jesse’s grandson, W. L. Burnham, wrote this: From my earliest recollections, all that part of Burnet County was almost a wilderness. Our nearest neighbor was five miles away. One could then stand in his doorway and shoot deer almost any time he chose venison. That part of the county now known as Spicewood, Shovel Mountain, Double Horn and surrounding territory was all open country. One could see for miles as it then contained fine mesquite groves, but little or no cedar. Cattle required no feed at any time and were sleek and fat year around. W. L. also said when the community needed supplies, they had to go to Austin. Captain Jesse hitched up his large army wagon with 6-10 yoke of oxen for the journey. He loaded the wagon with potatoes, bacon and other similar products and exchanged them for flour, sugar, coffee and other necessities that were always in barrels.
Captain Jesse was a frontiersman, Ranger, Indian fighter, legislator, veteran, rancher and Texas hero. The community he built was tight knit, where neighbor helped neighbor and families were close. No electricity, phones, computers, cars, planes, or government assistance. They were farmers and ranchers, working hard to make a living for their families.
Now, 166 years later, our area is a thriving, growing and changing area. Ranches are turning into subdivisions, golf courses, businesses, and roads. All shopping is only a short drive away. Houses are going up in record time. Traffic is sometimes bumper-to-bumper. The population is exploding in our once sleepy community. And, we don’t always know our neighbors and our families may be far away. It is a totally different world than 167 years ago.
What will our Spicewood area look like in another 166 years in 2187? It’s a blessing we don’t know. But, for today, we can strive to be a community that cares for one another – where neighbor helps neighbor.