Selete was born in Platte County, Missouri, in 1839. Her parents, Mary Ann and Archibald Franklin Leonard, brought their family to Texas in 1845.
In September 1852, Selete joined Lonesome Dove Baptist Church. Other young people joining the church on the same day included her aunt, Dizanna Foster and her future husband, Hiram Crowley. Hiram moved his membership to the Bear Creek Missionary Baptist Church in December 1853. His parents had donated land for the church that was chartered on May 15, 1853.
In 1856, Selete's parents helped found the United Baptist Church at Center Spring, an arm of the Lonesome Dove church. That same year, Hiram became a partner in the construction and operation of Leonard's Mill. He purchased a tract of land from E. M. Daggett on August 31, 1857. It is possible that Selete and Hiram were married prior to that. On May 1, 1858, Hiram was formally granted a letter of dismission from Bear Creek. He later served as Clerk of the Cedar Spring church.
Hiram and Selete's first child, Dizanna, was about three years old when she died. No record exists of her date of birth or the circumstances of her death. Selete gave birth to their first son, Archibald Franklin, on June 19, 1861. The following year, Hiram enlisted in the Confederate army in Grapevine, Texas. He served in Alexander's 12th regiment, 34th Texas Cavalry. Several of Selete's close relatives were also in this unit.
At the time of Hiram's enlistment, he and Selete were living on their 160-acre farm. Tax records indicate that they owned eighteen horses. Another son, Hiram Edwin, was born on November 1863. Six months later, Hiram lost his life in the Battle of Yellow Bayou.
After Hiram's death, Selete "accepted the contest and entered into the battle with the stern realities of life, with faith in God and a determination to accomplish every purpose as originally outlined." She was determined to survive the hardships that faced her. She made a decision to continue living on the farm with as little assistance from her family as possible. Even though they wanted to help her, she knew it would not be easy for them.
In addition to her plight, other family members were tragically affected by the Civil War. Her sister Margaretís husband, William Boyd lost his life in battle. John A. Mugg, husband of Seleteís sister Mary, suffered casualties during the war and died of complications several years later. An uncle, Owen Foster, was presumed killed in the same battle that took Hiramís life.
Selete's uncle Abram Leonard brought his family to Texas and assisted in the operation of Leonardís Mill. One of his sons, William, joined a Confederate unit. In 1862, William wrote a poignant letter to his wife and family. He told his wife that he was in "a dangerous place" and that he was prepared to die. Before the war ended, he lost his life in battle. Mary Hurst Leonard, a widow with a small child to support, must have taken comfort from the words of William's letter, "I expect to try to be ready when that hour comes, that I may not dread death, if I get that. Molly, I want you to be prepared to meet me in another world to come, that is better than this. . . ."
Hiram's parents received a letter from their oldest son and his wife over a year after the end of the war. Elijah and Louisa, who lived in Missouri at the time, describe the death of their son Benjamin F. "Dock" Crowley on March 28, 1865. It is not certain how or when they learned of Hiram's death; however, the letter says, "We greatly mourn the loss of our dear brother Hiram but we hope he is where all the angels of heaven is rejoicing. Tell his companion to weep not for him for he died in a good cause but trust in God and persevere in holiness."
Selete drew strength from her mother and grandmother. The skills she learned from them served her well. Her mother, Mary Ann Foster Leonard, was well known in the community for her service to others. During the war, she organized a group of women to weave material that was made into blankets and uniforms for Confederate soldiers. Selete's grandmother, Susanah Medlin Foster, also contributed to this effort. She knitted socks and gloves for many Tarrant County soldiers.
Religion was an important part of Selete's life. Her faith gave her comfort, especially during the long, lonely nights. The safety of her sons was her most important priority. After they were asleep, she "would stand for hours at the door of her little ranch home, listening with all her might, and peering into the darkness for a first possible sound, or glimpse of danger. . . .then again with an abiding faith in the efficacy of prayer already offered, she would turn away from her vigil with confidence and composure and lie down to pleasant dreams."
Family gatherings, church meetings, and community events played an important part in the lives of Tarrant County citizens. The Crowley and Leonard families continued to play an active role in their respective churches.
Many years later, Ed Crowley reminisced, ". . . even now I can see the widow with other good women of that time, call the cowboys and the children of the community together at some one of the ranches, or journey to the village on Sunday morning, where in their own inimitable way they sang songs of praise, and taught the Sunday School Lesson as only good Christian women can teach the simple story of Jesus and His love."
Selete's daily routine was similar to that of other young pioneer women. She was occupied with the routine of raising her children and supervising the management of her ranch. Hiram's estate included 40 horses, several head of cattle, and 250 acres of land. With the assistance of hired help, she was able to maintain the property and make it prosper.
On one occasion, during a cattle roundup on the ranch, there was a tragic accident. A young cowboy riding a cutting horse collided with a cow as he attempted to cut a steer from the herd. "He was hurried to the ranch house, and for days laid hovering between life and death with only an occasional return of consciousness. During these intervals however, he never failed to recognize the motherly interest shown and the tender care given him by this Angel of Mercy - the much beloved widow."
Before he died, he asked one of his friends to write to his mother and tell her that even though "'I am dying far away from her, I have not lacked one moment for proper care and attention. That this good woman has kept continually before me those principles of right living instilled in me at home, and has taught me as did she, to look forward to a blessed immortality where the pure in heart shall find rest.'"
He then turned to Selete and smiled. He told her, "'Your life will serve as a sweet benediction to all with whom you may come in contact, and may the Blessings of Heaven rest upon you always.'"
Several years after Hiram's death, Selete remarried. Her second husband, John B. McMurry, was a Birdville physician.
~Related Transcripts & Documents~
Deed to Hiram & Selete's Land
Inventory of Selete's Property
Inventory of Selete's Property
~Texas Historical Markers~
A. F. Leonard
Lonesome Dove Baptist Church
Lonesome Dove Baptist Church
Crowley, George T., Jr. Bear Creek Baptist Church - Church Minutes 1853-1875. Unpublished manuscript, 1996.
Crowley, H. E. "The Wife of the Pioneer - the Hardships Incident to Frontier Life." The Cattleman, Vol. 1, No. 10 (March, 1915):59.
O'Donnell, Pearl Foster. Lonesome Dove Baptist Church. Fort Worth, Texas, 1968.
__________. Trek to Texas. Fort Worth, Texas: Branch-Smith, Inc., 1966.
Sterling, Cynthia Liddon. "Family History." Unpublished manuscript written by Mrs. Sterling ca. 1900-1915. Copied by her niece, Julianan Cowden in 1961.
© Pat Crowley 1996 to present