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Robert Caviness, 1822-1902 - A Texas Ranger and Pioneer
Wednesday, April 6, 2011 • Posted April 6, 2011

Robert Caviness and his wife, Mary HAMBY Caviness were long time residents of Mason County in the communities of Koocksville and the Honey Creek area. The Caviness spelling varies through the different families. Many descendants stem from Robert and Mary and their offspring.

Robert was born on October 9, 1822, in Chatham County, North Carolina, to George and Fersiby (Phoebe) JERDAN Caviness. Robert was a descendant of Henri and Marie Cabinis, who were French Huguenots. The Huguenots fled from Southern France in the 1600’s to many countries because they were caught up in the Protestant persecution. The Caviness’ fled to England. Henri and Marie, with their infant son, Henry, sailed from Gravesend, England on the Mary and Ann, George Hawes, Capt., on April 19, 1700; and their ship cast anchor in the James River below Richmond, VA., on July 31, 1700. They were settled at the deserted Indian settlement of Manakintown.

Some of the Caviness clan migrated to Chatham County, North Carolina, in 1790. This included George Caviness. As George’s children grew older, Edmund, the oldest son, moved with several of his siblings to Tennessee, leaving behind their parents and youngest brother, James. In 1832 there were 13 families that left Tennessee including five Caviness families. The five families included Matthew (Old Matt), Edmund and his wife, Rebecca; Henry; Jeremiah; and Matthew Jr. and his wife Rebecca; and Robert as a young boy of ten. The five Caviness families settled in Arkansas Territory, in Benton County, on Pea Ridge.

In 1839 Robert married Mary HAMBY, a full-blood Cherokee Indian, in Washington County, Arkansas. In September, 1850, Robert is in Austin, Texas, remaining there for three years. Robert hauled sand to help build the State Capitol. Leaving Austin, the family settled in Burnet, Texas, where he sold deer skins and harvested honey, as well as raising race horses and cattle. Robert then moved to Mason County, Texas, in 1855/56 to raise stock and be near his brother, Jeremiah, at Bluff Creek. In 1858 the Butterfield Stage Line opened and Robert took his family to work for the Johnson’s Overland Company Station. This stage line on the North Concho and another one, the Staked Plains in Levelland, Hockley County, Texas, were very dangerous due to the constant attacks by the Comanches. Robert moved his family back to Fort Mason in 1860. Robert and two of his sons, William Henry and Stephen, joined the Texas Ranger Company at Camp San Saba in 1861. This company served to protect the frontier against the marauding Comanche Indians. When not fighting Indians, Robert would race his horses against other Rangers. It has been told through the years that Mary, Robert’s wife, trained the horses while Robert raced them. While stationed at Camp San Saba, Robert’s son William Henry died of typhoid pneumonia, in 1864, leaving behind a wife, the former Mary Jane MILLIGAN and an infant son, William Henry. After the Civil War Robert signed as a teamster for Gooch and Ranck Company to haul cotton to Mexico. Robert and his family stayed one year at Onion Creek near Austin, Texas. Returning to Mason County in 1867, the family lived by the Koocksville store and made bricks to sell. About 1868 they settled at Honey Creek and raised cattle and race horses. In 1870 Robert and Mary lost another son, Stephen, who was killed by the Federal Troops around the incident involving "Humpy" Jackson.

Robert and Mary Caviness had ten children: Stephen born in 1841; William Henry born in 1842, married Mary Jane MILLIGAN; Nancy Ann Gentry born in 1844 and married William Singleton Hinds; Jasper Nuation born in 1848 and married Martha Lucinda DOYAL; James Newton also born in 1848 and married Manerva MARSHALL; Mary G. born in 1850 and married Thomas Wiley "Tom" Gamel, Fannie Ann born in 1856 and married LeeRoy Gentry, Helen Louise Denzia born in 1859 and first married Jim Douglas and secondly married Paul Beauregard Bolt, Alice Victoria born, in 1860 and married Jerry Washington Doyal and last Edward Matthew born in 1863 and married Nancy MARSHALL.

Tom Gamel, Jasper Nuation and James "Jim" Newton Caviness were part of the forces that put down mob rule during the Mason "Hoo Doo War."

Robert and his brothers, William, Edmund, Matthew, Henry, Jeremiah and James were known as tough and hard riding frontier men. Some of the children of these men became well-known Indian fighters.

Robert will be having a dedication and ceremony of the Texas Ranger cross being placed at his graveside. It will be performed by the Former Texas Ranger Association and The Sons of the Confederate Veterans. This dedication and ceremony will take place on Saturday, April 16, 2011 at 2:00 p.m. at the Cavness Cemetery on Honey Creek. After Robert’s ceremony, both organizations will move to Crosby Cemetery in Mason and have a dedication and ceremony for Robert’s son, William Henry Caviness.

A special thank you to Peggy Homer, of California, for providing the picture of Robert and Mary HAMBY Caviness. Along with a thank you to Jay Taylor, of Harper, for his commitment to The Former Texas Rangers Association, The Sons of the Confederate Veterans and The Daughters of the Confederate Veterans for making this dedication possible. We want to give recognition to Frederica Wyatt, local historian and Chairman of the Kimble County Historical Commission. Frederica has done extensive research on the Caviness families and provided the documentation of Robert’s military records. Also, a thank you to Herbert Cavaness, Kathy Brady Fleming, Laura Jean Patterson and Connie Pace for their hard work and research.

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