The Long Road to Dark Valley — Part 2

Of Railroads and Men

[This series of essays begins here]

George W. Ervin, his wife Sarah Jane and their seven children arrived in Texas in 1866, settling either immediately or rapidly in Hill County, where their eighth child, Robert T. would be born on 30 January 1867. In the four years that would elapse before Hester Jane’s birth, in July 1870, G.W. Ervin would lose his father, Robert Ervin (05 June 1800 – 19 September 1869) and one son, John P. Ervin (29 Dec 1856 – 11 Oct 1868). Since Robert Ervin died in Hill County, there are strong chances that G.W. and his father were living under the same roof. Jane Ervin, his mother, would remain with her son until her death, on 10 August 1887. George W. Ervin’s eldest daughter Marilda (born 13 Nov or Dec 1850) married John P. Mitchell on 6 December 1868, in Hill County, too.

At the time of the 1870 census, G.W. Ervin’s household was as follows:

G. W. Ervin, (born 09 Nov 1830, Rowan County, NC, declared himself as a farmer); Sarah Jane Ervin, (supposedly born 09 May 1832, TN, but unverified); Jane Ervin (nee Tennison, G.W.’s mother, born 15 May 1806, Rowan Co, NC).

And the children:

Christina C. Ervin (born 24 Dec 1852, Tishomingo Co, MS), Christopher C. Ervin (born 26 Apr 1855, Tishomingo Co, MS), William Vinson Ervin (born 12 Jan 1860, Tishomingo Co, MS), Georgia Alice Ervin (born 17 May 1862, Tishomingo Co, MS), David D. Ervin (born 09 Feb 1865, Tishomingo Co, MS), Robert T. Ervin (born 30 Jan 1867, Hill Co, TX).

To which should be added Hester Jane Ervin (born 11 Jul 1870, but not mentioned on the census because it only covered those born on or before June 1st), probably named after her grandmothers (Martha) Esther (Mason) and Jane (Tennyson).

It is unclear when exactly the Ervins left Hill County. A 1872 document mentions them in Shady Grove, Arkansas, but it is difficult to say whether they were arriving, leaving, or just visiting. Howard has his grandfather operating a store in Fayetteville in the late 70s, so maybe G.W. Ervin did manage a store for a while there, (but earlier than what Howard thought). At any rate, the family wouldn’t stay out of Texas for very long.

In late 1873 at the very latest, but probably quite earlier than that, G.W. Ervin relocated to Dallas. No longer a farmer, no longer operating a store (if he ever did), George W. had become a businessman. Everything that would happen to him during the next twelve years of his life would be connected, not to whippoorwills, but to the Dallas & Wichita Railroad.

The Dallas & Wichita Railroad had been formed in 1871 with the object of building a commuter line from Dallas to Lewisville, Denton County, but the Panic of 1873 shut it down before any real construction was done. It was given new life in the months that followed when J.W. Calder of Nevada bought its debts, and a new board of eight directors was elected on January 5, 1874. Several prominent men were among them: Calder himself, of course, but also John Calvin McCoy, and former Dallas Mayor Henry S. Ervay. George W. Ervin was one of those eight men.

George W. Ervin would remain on the board for the next several years, but it was only indirectly that his position would prove beneficial to him, as was probably his intention from the beginning. He had been engaged for some time in real estate (he appears as “real estate agent” in a 1875 Dallas directory, and several maps of an area of Dallas connected with the future railroad are captioned as “Ervin’s addition to the City of Dallas,” with sometimes a “GW” added in front of the name to identify the man). More than a railroad man, G.W. Ervin was a real estate dealer. A few weeks later, in May 1874 at the latest, another important connection was made when fellow director Henry S. Ervay helped a man named Marcellus Pointer sell some real estate belonging to G.W. Ervin. Marcellus Pointer would also soon become involved with the Dallas & Wichita Railroad, until 1878 that is, when Calder was murdered. Marcellus Pointer was one of three men accused of the murder, but he was acquitted, (this affair evidently caused the D&W RR, already not in so brilliant shape, to go definitely under.) But it was not for that reason that Marcellus Pointer would play an important role in G.W. Ervin’s future life. It was because of his niece.

As G.W. Ervin’s affairs were gaining momentum, his wife Sarah Jane died on June 2nd 1874, “after a lingering illness” (Dallas Daily Herald obit, 03 Jun 1874). She had given birth to a tenth child on April 6 or 16, a girl named Lizzie who would survive her mother by only one day. Hester Jane Ervin, not even 4, had just lost her mother.