by Donna Porter
Foreword: This is a short biography of Milton McQueen and primarily focuses on his life in Tyler County, Texas. There is much more to be said about him in my upcoming book Metes & Bounds III: Children and Descendants of John McQueen & Nancy Crews. My line of descent is as follows - Donna Hechler > JoAnn McQueen > Woodrow McQueen > Scott McQueen > James K. Polk McQueen > Milton McQueen. Because all of this information and more will be published in my upcoming book, and because I need to get back to working on it, I have not chosen to include sources in this biography. However, if anyone wants to know about such they may contact me for more information.
Milton McQueen was born to John and Nancy (Crews) McQueen in 1808 in Tennessee, either White County or Franklin County. He was named after his grandfather, David Milton Crews. Milton was the youngest of John & Nancy's children. Milton had an older brother David Crews McQueen, born in 1801 and three known sisters - Elizabeth McQueen, born in 1790, Spicey Matilda, born in 1793, and Jane, born in 1801 (she and David were possibly twins). Elizabeth married Walter Barkley on 29 Jan 1804 in Madison County, Kentucky. When John McQueen moved his family to Tennessee in 1807 Elizabeth and Walter came along as well. Spicey married Owen Taylor about 1809 in Tennessee. Jane married Leroy D. Bean in 1816. Milton's older brother, David, married Cynthia Camden in Tennessee about 1818. All of John and Nancy (Crews) McQueen's children eventually moved to east Texas, most settling in Tyler and Jasper Counties.
Milton McQueen married Susan Simmons, daughter of William Simmons and Susanna Mayberry about 1829 probably in Franklin County, Tennessee. Susan had been born in Franklin County about 1811. Except for a brief visit the two made to Texas right after their marriage in the fall and winter of 1830-31 to visit Milton's parents, Milton and Susan made their home in Franklin County. In Feb of 1829, John McQueen left Tennessee to join his elder son, David C. McQueen, and at that time deeded 479 acres, which was most of his Tennessee property, to his son Milton for $10. Milton was able to continue to grow cotton and run the plantation as his father had before he left.
While on their visit to Texas, in Feb of 1831, Susan gave birth to their first daughter, Elizabeth McQueen. Most of Milton and Susan's other children, however, were born in Tennessee: 2 sons - John Robert and James K. Polk McQueen, and 5 daughters - Tranquilla, Nancy, Susan Jane, Catherine, Amanda Melvine, and Tennessee Ann. The last child born in Tennessee was Tennessee Ann McQueen, and she was aptly named for that summer, after her birth, Milton moved his family from Tennessee to Texas. After they moved to Texas, Susan gave birth to another daughter, Sarah McQueen, in 1851. These children arrived on an average of every two to three years and since there are no spaces between births it is logical to conclude that all lived to adulthood. This was a remarkable feat for families in those days. (The Barclay children of Walter and Elizabeth also appear to be surprisingly healthy, as there are not many spaces between their offspring for other children either.)
Milton McQueen, even before he moved to Texas, was a wealthy man and moving his household from one state to another was certainly no easy task. Not only was there the large number of his children to tend to but he brought between ten and thirteen slaves as well. These included John, or Jo, about 34 years old; Mary, about 30 years old; Green, 3; Arch, 3; and Harriet, 1. All of these slaves had been born in Tennessee and would remain with the family until they were emancipated during the Civil War. I believe it's possible that these people were born into the John McQueen household from slaves he acquired in Kentucky in early 1800s. The McQueens never seemed to have sold their slaves as other planters often did and they didn't appear to be in the business of major purchases of them either.
When Milton arrived in Texas, he joined the rest of his sisters and his brother's family (David Crews McQueen himself died in 1831 but his children were living in Texas) who were living in Tyler, Jasper, and Orange Counties.
According to family tradition, Milton first stopped in Jasper County but in 1850 moved westward across the Neches River and into Tyler County to join his family. It was into the community around Wolf Creek that Milton settled in by the end of the year 1850. On 19 Dec 1850, Milton McQueen bought 827 acres on the northern boundary line of the Nate Allen League from Wyatt Hanks and his wife Hannah. He paid $1000 cash. Anderson Barclay (son of Elizabeth McQueen & Walter Barclay), Sarah (McKinsey) Barclay (widow of Robert Barclay, brother of Anderson and also son of Elizabeth and Walter) and Squire Cruse all had large land holdings that bordered or were previously a part of the Nate Allen Survey. (Squire Cruse was son of Elijah Cruse and Susannah Dozier, Elijah being a brother to Milton's mother, Nancy (Crews) McQueen. Squire and Milton were first cousins, both being grandsons of David Milton Crews).
Milton made his first religious and educational contributions to Tyler County while living on Wolf Creek. While here he helped organize the Bethel Baptist Church, which is considered to be the first church in Tyler County. Thomas Rock and Mary Parsons helped him. The church located itself on Wolf Creek but no building was ever formally erected. When the Bethlehem Baptist Association was created comprising of Baptist churches in the area, Milton served as a delegate to it as well. Milton also allowed the schoolteacher, who was also Thomas Rock, to live in his home. Rock was one of only three schoolteachers in Tyler County in 1850 and was employed in the Wolf Creek area. He likely taught not only several of Milton's children, but also the children of Anderson and Sarah (Prather) Barclay, Squire and Piety (Pruitt) Cruse, and Sarah (McKinsey) Barclay. In 1852, Milton served alongside his nephew John T. Bean as county commissioner.
In 1853, Milton bought for $1000 cash a tract of land totaling 340 acres from A. Theuvins on the northwestern corner of the Jose Falcon League on Theuvins Creek. The property also lay near the Woodville Road, bordered the west bank of Theuvins Creek, and also had "improvements," which undoubtedly meant a house, tilled farm acreage, and various outbuildings. The Milton McQueen family moved here. It was while living on Theuvins Creek in the late spring of 1854 that Susan (Simmons) McQueen became ill with what later turned into pneumonia. On 5 June 1854, at the age of 42 years, she died and Milton, at 46, was left with a large family of very young children - mostly daughters. Although several daughters had married and left home, there was still several at home - Susan was 15, Amanda was 12, Kati was 10, James Polk was 8, Tennessee Ann was 6 and Sarah was only 3 years old.
As was typical of men in those days, Milton remarried and he chose Sarah (McKinsey) Barclay, widow of his nephew Robert Barclay, as his second wife. Robert Barclay died almost ten years earlier in 1845 after bringing his family to Texas from Arkansas. After his death, Sarah continued to work the land and manage their small plantation on her own so that by the time she married Milton she had accumulated a sizeable fortune herself. The 1850 Tyler County census shows her owning 1,310 acres on Wolf Creek which had been valued at $1,992. She owned 11 slaves which were valued at $3,700, 8 horses at $300, and 15 cattle at $60. The total value of her estate was estimated to be $6000. Sarah still had several children at home so the McQueen household didn't just grow in wealth, but also in numbers of people for Sarah's son Henry Barclay was 16 and her daughter Sarah Barclay was fourteen. They most likely moved into the McQueen household with their mother and Milton became their step-father.
Not until 1857 did Milton McQueen move his family from Theuvins Creek to Peach Tree Village. On 5 Jan 1857 he paid $900 cash to Hiram and Mary Willson for three tracts of land, two which were near Peach Tree Village and included the Willson homeplace. It was the second tract which contained the homeplace and which Milton likely moved his family to. Acquiring the Peach Tree Village property was a sound economic move for Milton. The land was likely already cleared for crop production, and there was easy access to Fort Teran and the Neches River which made overland transportation of cotton easier as well.
Most likely Milton and Sarah set up residence in the former Willson homeplace that he purchased along with the original three tracts. According to the deed the homeplace stood on the southwest corner of the tract, which would have been just beyond where the Kirby Chapel stands today. Despite the fact that Susan Jane McQueen had married Frederick Dominy sometime about 1856, there was still a houseful of children Â– Amanda (15), Kati (13), Tade (7), little Sarah McQueen (6), and James Polk (10). Sarah's son Henry Barclay was likely on his own now, and her daughter Sarah Barclay married John Robert McQueen, Milton's son, about 1856.
Milton quickly set about making his plantation as self-sufficient as possible, as was the custom in those days. He cured and stored his own meat in his own smokehouse. Cotton was likely his mainstay crop, and in 1857 he ginned 190 bales of cotton, the second highest recorded for the year in Tyler County. Besides cotton he also raised sugar cane and wheat. He had four spinning wheels and a loom for the production of cloth and thus, clothing. In the early days, everybody on the plantation wore homespun and buckskin. About 1850, however, when Milton arrived, planters and their families wore fine clothes made of fine material and exceptional quality. The slaves continued to wear homespun. Following customary practice, Milton probably had a cobbler and a blacksmith as well. A slave who was specially trained usually performed these tasks.
Milton, never satisfied with his holdings, continued to buy property over the next several years, including more property around Peach Tree Village, so that by the end of 1857, in addition to his other holdings, he owned 1,458 acres around Peach Tree Village.
When the Civil War came to Tyler County, Milton and son James Polk McQueen enlisted in the Mt. Hope Home Guard. This unit mostly did garrison duty during it's year of enlistment in Galveston and Harris Counties as well as a small stint at Sabine Pass. It never saw fighting of any kind. Milton continued his cotton production throughout the war and somehow managed to sell a large portion of it before his death in 1864. He reportedly told his wife, Sarah, that if the South lost the war they were financially all right because he had sold the cotton for gold. After his death, although no cotton was found to inventory in his estate, there was also no money or gold either.
On the evening of 18 Dec 1864 Milton McQueen died, likely from a heart attack. It is believed he was buried close to Peach Tree Village, but others say he was buried next to his first wife, Susan Simmons, and that she was buried in a cemetery near Theuvins Creek. Neither his grave, nor a marker, has ever been found.