SOURCE: History of Texas, Together with a Biographical History of Milam, Williamson, Bastrop, Travis, Lee and Burleson Counties. (Chicago, IL: Lewis, 1893), p. 367-370.
John W. Hamblen — On August 12, 1848, the subject of this sketch took up his residence in Milam county. He was therefore among the county’s earliest settlers and is at this writing (1893) one of the few left of that brave band of pioneers who rekindled the fading fires of the retreating savages and planted in their hunting grounds the seeds of civilization.
Mr. Hamblen is a native of Tennessee, born in Hawkins county, that State, May 27,1820. His parents, Pascal B. and Mary (Williams) Hamblen, were natives of the same State and county, born, the father in 1785 and the mother in 1795. Their families came originally from Virginia, being of English extraction. Daniel H. Hamblen, the father of Pascal B., was born and reared in Tennessee and in early life engaged in school-teaching in his native State. He married Mary Williams, a daughter of John Williams of that State and moved to Maury county, whence he emigrated in 1834 to Texas. The journey from the old State to the “new West” was accomplished in a manner common in those days, being made from Nashville to New Orleans on a flat-boat and thence to the mouth of the Brazos river, in a schooner, called the Exert, April 1, 1834, this vessel was wrecked at the month of the Brazos, but fortunately no lives were lost.
Pascal B. Hamblen made his first settlement at the month of Chocolate bayou, in Brazoria county, but the same year moved to Oyster creek, fifty miles further toward the interior. He remained t the latter place until March 3, 1836, when on the approach of the Mexicans under Santa Anna he took his family for greater safety to Opelousas, Louisiana, where they remained until October, when they returned to the settlement in Brazoria county. In 1837 he moved to Harris county, where he died in 1844, of yellow fever, in the fifty-ninth year of his age. The mother, moving to Milam county in 1851, made this county her home until her death, in December, 1878, being then in her eighty-third year. Of their then children only four arrived at maturity: William K., now a resident of Bell county; John W., the subject of this sketch; Claiborne A., who died in 1870, at Austin; and Sarah, who was the first wife of Shiloh Glasscock, and secondly of William Barge, being now deceased.
John W. Hamblen was just turning into his fourteenth year when his parents came to Texas. One of the earliest and most vivid recollections of Texas was the scarce and flight of the settlers that preceded the march of Santa Anna in the spring of 1836,--the pell-mell retreat known as the “Run-away-Scrape.” That forced flight brought its hardships and sorrows to the Hamblen household. Only two days before the retreat began the mother gave birth to a child, and in this critical condition she with the infant was loaded into a wagon and the journey undertaken amid the general fright and confusion. Then, on the return in the fall, one son and two daughters were buried, and another son the following year.
After the death of his father in 1844, John W. Hamblen and his elder brother, William K. Hamblen, assumed control of affairs at home, and four years later, in 1848, came to Milam county, purchasing land on the San Gabriel river, where they settled. At that date the western part of Milam county was very sparsely populated. East of where Mr. Hamblen located about a mile lived Jesse Mercer, who brother had been killed there by Indians five years previously; east of him a mile farther lived William Laughlin, and east of him about the same distance lived Jude Aaron Dodd. These constituted the settlers toward Cameron. North toward Bell county there was a small settlement in the vicinity of where Davilla now stands, a man name Seaver and on or two of the Ross family living there. West, in the edge of Williamson county, was Tom Allen, and between him and Georgetown was a man named Barton. South the nearest settler was James Stephens, who lived about two miles below the present town of Rockdale. What little trading was done by the settlers in the western part of the county was done at Cameron, to which place they also went to court and to get their blacksmithing done, the three principal things that called them away from home. Stock-raising was the chief industry, and Mr. Hamblen soon had a large bunch of cattle ranging in the bottoms of the San Gabriel and on the adjacent prairies. He and his brother opened a small store near where they settle in 1854, and for six years — until the opening of the war — were engaged in the mercantile business at that place. On locating in the county Mr. Hamblen bought a tract of 620 acres of land, paying therefor 62˝ cents and acre. While land was yet cheap he invested his means as they accumulated in this way; and as a result of these prudent investments at this writing he owns 3,000 acres lying along the San Gabriel river, a considerable part of which is under cultivation. He has resided on his old homestead since settling there in 1848, and has at all times been interested in farming and stock-raising. He is also still interested in mercantile business, owning a hardware and saddlery house at Rockdale, which does a business of from $25,000 to $30,000 a year.
On May 1, 1844, Mr. Hamblen married Sarah Thompson, then of Harris county, Texas, but a native of Alabama, having been brought to this State by her brother-in-law, L. S. Campbell, when she was twelve years old. Mr. and Mrs. Hamblen have only one child, a son, Henry F. Hamblen, who is in charge of his father’s farming interest.
A lack of desire for popular applause, or perhaps a consciousness that such applause is a very unsubstantial thing on which to lean in the struggles of this life, has kept Mr. Hamblen out of public office, and aided no doubt on the other hand in making of him equally as useful and highly respected a citizen as any official career to which he might have aspired would have made. He has interested himself, however, in matters relating to the welfare of this State and county, is well informed on such matters and holds concerning them decided opinions which when occasion demands he can set forth with clearness and maintain with intelligence and sound reasoning. He has always been a Democrat, but has dared at times to differ with the leaders of his party. He opposed both annexation and secession, but when both were accomplished by a majority vote of the people he went with the State and gave it his active sympathy and support. He was always a warm supporter of General Houston, and voted for him in 1841 for President of the Republic before reaching his majority. His first vote for President of the United States was cast in 1848 for Lewis Cass, the regular Democratic nominee.
Mr. Hamblen and his wife are members of the Christian Church, and have been for many years, this being the church of his mother, who spent a long and exceptionally pious and useful life in its service. His elder brother, William K. Hamblen, is a minister of this church, and under its influence and teaching all the children of his brothers and sisters and his own have been reared.
John W. Hamblen’s name must stand always in the history of Milam county as one of her worthiest citizens. While he has not been a public character he has been a maker of history. He has seen the rugged forests and wild prairies reduced to cultivated and arable fields. Identified with the county while it was Mexican territory, he has lived to see many changes, and to be an active participant in both the peaceful and violent revolutions that went on around him, living under five governments: Mexican, Texan, United States, Confederate and again United States. He witnessed the gradual expulsion of the red man and the steady advancement of the white race. He occupied Texas soil when the people cast of Mexican government. He saw the country change from a dependency to and independent republic, and was not an uninterested spectator when the new but vigorous republic asked for admission to the American Union. He witnessed the movement that made Texas free and the peaceable settlement by which she became one of the sisterhood of States; and he has lived long enough to know that this State is destined to become the greatest in the American galaxy.
He was eminently equipped by nature for the life he has lived: of rugged constitution, adequate courage, persevering energy, generous in nature, hospitable, kind and faithful; with clear and well defined convictions, sound judgment and honorable impulses. Although he began life with comparatively little, he is now one of the wealthiest men in the county, and still it can not be said of him that he ever sued or oppressed a debtor. Concerning those things that have engaged his mind, he has been an accurate thinker, and his judgment is deferred to by those who know him long and well. He has lived soberly, honestly, uprightly, and there is no stain on his honor, no blot on his character.
We must say a special thank you to Vanessa Deshazer of Menifee, CA, for typing the above biographical sketch for use on the Milam County TXGenWeb site.
Created on 25 Nov 2003 and last revised on ____________