Banner Photo Credit: Will Lang
CAPTAIN ROBERT HODGE
In 1849-1850, a former riverboat captain from Kentucky, Robert Hodge, came to the area looking for land upon which to settle his family. He found only a few scattered settlers living in the entire northeast part of the county. Norman Chatfield long since had moved on, but his name still identified the area as "Chatfield Springs" or "Chatfield Point." Captain Hodge purchased 1280 acres here, including the springs, and moved his family and slaves, establishing a prosperous plantation. It was typical of ante-bellum plantations of north central Texas outside the single crop cotton economy. Here, cotton was not king as the difficulty was too great in transporting bales to market without railroads or rivers navigable year round. Wheat, corn, and livestock prevailed.
Lt. Gov. Marion Martin
Francis Marion Martin (1830-1903), a native of Kentucky, came to Texas to assist his wife's uncle, Captain Robert Hodge, in establishing his plantation at Chatfield. Liking the country, he moved his family to Chatfield, as well. He later bought land and raised blooded horses southeast of Chatfield at Wadeville. Developing a passion for politics, he was first elected to public office in 1859, when he went to the State Senate as a National Democrat aligned with Gov. Sam Houston. Although supporting secession as a member of the Legislature, he lost reelection because of his association with Houston. There followed a 14 year hiatus from political activities during the Civil War and Reconstruction. During that time, he organized a cavalry company and served the Confederacy until ill health forced him home.
Martin's leadership in the post-Radical Reconstruction Constitutional Convention of 1875 led to his re-entry into public life as State Senator in 1878. While senator and later Lt. Governor, Martin championed the common man and advocated policies that would benefit him. He opposed monopolies and the power of the railroads and other corporations in public life while supporting the Grange, Farmers' Alliance, and Knights of Labor.
His disaffection with the Democratic Party in the belief that it had shifted its focus away from the farmer and the laborer, led to his adherence to the Populist Party; he ran for office on that ticket several times, but was not elected. He died in Corsicana in 1903 and is buried there at Oakwood Cemetery.
Norman Chatfield was born in 1803 in Canandiagua, Ontario County, New York, and the family later moved to Ohio. He married Sarah "Sally" Eames (Ames) on Nov. 14, 1824 in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. They moved to Missouri and were in Van Buren Co., IA in 1840. He came to Texas while it was still a Republic and established his trading post in the 1840's at a spring in what was then Robertson County under the authority of the government of the Republic. This became known as "Chatfield's Springs" or "Chatfield's Point," meaning an area of woods that ended in a shape of a "point" on the prairie. After statehood it became part of Navarro County.
In 1846, he is shown on the poll list for Navarro County. It is believed that it was soon after statehood in 1846 that he moved and settled in the Mormon community of Zodiac in Gillespie County, Texas near Fredericksburg. It was always said in the community of Chatfield that he became a Mormon and moved to Utah, but as with many stories handed down some of the facts obviously were garbled. He was enumerated in the 1850 Census at Zodiac along with wife, Sarah, and children, 16 year old Silas, 13 year old Martha, 7 year old Juliette, and 3 year old Byron. Founded by Brigham Young's rival, Lyman T. Wight, the Zodiac community disbanded in the early 1850's. Rather than go to Utah, Chatfield emigrated to Marengo, Illinois where his parents and family lived. He never returned to Texas and lived out the remainder of his life dying there on June 28, 1864. He is buried in the Merengo City Cemetery, Merengo, McHenry County, Illinois.
GEN. LUCIAN K. TRUSCOTT, JR.
One of the premier American military commanders of World War II, Lucian Truscott, Jr., was born in Chatfield on January 9, 1895. While his mother taught music at Elizabeth Institute and his father practiced medicine. As a career cavalry officer, he developed the U.S. Army Rangers for special ops in WWII, commanded the 3rd Infantry Division in North Africa and Italy, and was commanding general of two different U.S. Armies in the European Theater of Operations. This is all the more notable as he was neither a West Point graduate, nor a college or even high school graduate. However, he was an insatiable reader, one who never stopped learning.
Dr. Will Coleman
Born at Chatfield on February 24, 1882, Dr. Coleman is believed to be the first African-American to practice veterinary medicine in Texas. Beginning as a “handyman” for Truscott's father in the 1890’s, Coleman’s natural skill with infirm animals caught the attention of local rancher Robert Hodge Witherspoon. Though degrees were not required to be a veterinarian, Witherspoon sent him to McGill University in Montreal, where Coleman graduated in 1911. On March 1, 1920, after 9 years of veterinary practice, he was issued a state license, becoming the 2nd African-American issued such a license in Texas. He continued to practice until his death in 1953.
Sutton E. Griggs
In 1872, Sutton Griggs was born here to Rev. Allen and Emma Hodge Griggs, once a Hodge family slave. Griggs originated the black nationalist novel with the publication in 1899 of Imperium In Imperio, which recounts activities and leaders of a secret African-American organization struggling for political power in Texas. As an adherent of the “Niagara Movement” that became the NAACP, Griggs championed racial and social justice while advocating “Christian virtues” practices to promote a better society for African-Americans. As a minister, he pastored churches in Virginia, Tennessee, and Texas, briefly serving as President of the American Baptist Theological Seminary in Memphis. In 1933, Griggs passed away in the midst of creating a Baptist institute for religious and civic affairs.
Patriots and Pioneers
Chatfield's settlers were patriots and pioneers who knew no fear. They included men such as Henry Griggs who served as a youth in the War of 1812, and Joseph Alvey Clayton, who fought the forces of Santa Anna both at the Battle of San Jacinto during the Texas Revolution, and the Battle of Chapultepec during the Mexican War. Clayton, one of Chatfield's most illustrious citizens, was a delegate to the Texas Secession Convention, taking the state out of the Union in 1861.
Both lie in the historic Old Chatfield Cemetery, noted for its sheltering oaks and weathered tombstones.