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Sometimes they’re true

I remember being told at one time or another as I was growing up and then as I was getting into genealogy that my great grandfather Martin Gilbert Cottrell had been a farmer, a cattle rancher, a sheriff, a school board member, a traveling salesman, a thoroughly abusive husband whose wife finally left him taking the younger children with her… and a Baptist preacher. And I remember, as I set my sights on M.G., as he was called, looking forward to finding out which one, if any, of those family stories might be true.

I’d already learned, before tackling this particular ancestor, not to believe all the family stories.

• The black hair and high cheekbones of some supposed great grandmother somewhere did not mean we were descended from a Cherokee princess.

• There really weren’t three brothers who came to America where one stayed north, one went south and one went west never to be heard from again.

• No matter how hard the family tried, our Baker line simply can not be shoehorned into the Mayflower.

• Our Buchanan ancestors aren’t even kissin’ cousins to the President by that name.

And complicating any research in this particular family — my mother’s family — there’s this minor little problem of what I am personally convinced is a genetic predisposition to never letting the truth interfere with a good story.

So I wasn’t just taking the family stories with a grain of salt; I went out to research M.G. with the whole blasted salt lick tucked into my research bag.

So okay. Color me shocked to my toenails.

Those family stories about M.G.?

They’re all true. Or at least close enough.

Every last one of ’em.

And probably a few more that we haven’t stumbled across just yet.

Martin Gilbert Cottrell was born 163 years ago tomorrow1 in Parker County, Texas.

Martin Gilbert Cottrell

Martin Gilbert Cottrell

Exactly where he was born isn’t clear, but it was most likely in the Baker Community at Long Creek, Parker County, Texas. True, his funeral memorial book gave his birthplace as Weatherford,2 the Parker County seat,3 but all of his parents’ records place them in the Long Creek area.

For example, both his parents, G.W. Cottrell and Martha Louisa (Baker) Cottrell, stated in pension applications that they were married on 6 December 1854 at Long Creek.4 And G.W. paid both poll and land taxes in that area of Parker County in 1856, the first year the county was officially organized.5 Even the local histories put the Cottrells in the Long Creek area.6

M.G. married Martha H. “Mattie” Johnson in Parker County on 27 August 18747 and they can be found thereafter in Clay County, Texas, in 18808 and in Wichita County in 1900.9

So… was he all those things the family stories said he was?

Let’s see here.

A farmer. Check. That’s his occupation as listed in the 1880 census.10

A cattle rancher. Check. Registered his cattle brand in Wichita County, Texas, on 10 March 189011 and bought and sold cattle in the 1890s.

A sheriff. Check, but as a deputy, not as the sheriff.12 He worked for a time for his wife’s cousin, John Silas Fore, who was sheriff of Wichita County, Texas, in the first few years of the 20th century.13

A school board member. Check. Even have a photo of him sitting third from the right in the front row of an 1893 school photo.14

A traveling salesman. Check. He did that, selling iron stoves, in the late 1890s, with a territory that included Colorado and Utah. He was listed as a representative of the Wrought Iron Range Company in the Denver city directory in 1897.15

A thoroughly abusive husband whose wife finally left him taking the younger children with her. Well, that’s pretty much a check. True, there’s not exactly any record that gives the reasons, but every one of their children reported the same story. And coupled with the facts that Mattie and M.G. sold their home in Iowa Park in 1909,16 that Mattie took the younger children and relocated to Frederick, Oklahoma,17 while M.G. showed up as a resident of Shelby County, Tennessee, in that 1909 deed and was nowhere to be found in 1910, and I’d have to give this a check too.

And a Baptist preacher. And check as well. It’s not clear exactly when he began, but by the mid-1920s he was commuting between two churches, one in Bellview, N.M., and the other in Hereford, Texas. In May 1929, he was still preaching in Bellview,18 but by 1930 he was living with his cousin James R. Baker in Lea County, New Mexico, and preaching in the community there.19

He had originally been the preacher at the Antioch Baptist Church in Lea County, but in 1933, he was called to the pastorate of the Prairieview Church near the Baker homestead.20 And in 1937, he was one of the ministers who conducted the funeral of his cousin Jim Baker there in Lea County.21

M.G. was still in Lea County in 1940, enumerated as an 84-year-old Baptist minister born in Texas.22

He went to Levelland in Hockley County, Texas, to visit his sister Mary (Cottrell) Green at Christmas 1945, took ill, and died there in Levelland in March of 1946.23 He was buried, as he wished to be, in Lovington, Lea County, New Mexico.

Yep, sometimes all those family stories are true.

Well, okay, except maybe for the Cherokee princess.


Note: This is a rerun of a blog post from 2012… but some stories are so good that, every so often, you just have to tell ’em again….

  1. “Frontier Baptist Minister Dies,” Lovington (New Mexico) Leader, 29 March 1946; digital image, clipping, received from Lea County N.M. Historian David Minton, privately held by J.G. Russell.
  2. Memorial Book, M.G. Cottrell, privately held by a great granddaughter, Odessa, Texas.
  3. Wikipedia (,_Texas&oldid=857189049″>Weatherford, Texas,” rev. 18 Aug 2018.
  4. Survivor’s Brief, George Washington Cotrell, 17 Feb 1890, pension application no. 7890 (Rejected), for service of George W. Cotrell of Texas; Mexican War Pension Files; Records of the Bureau of Pensions and its Predecessors 1805-1935; Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C. Also, Declaration of Claimant, Louisa Cottrell, 21 Jan 1897, widow’s pension application no. 13773 (Rejected), for service of George W. Cottrell of Texas; Mexican War Pension Files; RG-15; NA-Washington, D.C.
  5. Parker County, Texas, Tax Rolls, 1856, alphabetically arranged, entry for G.W. Cotrell; Texas Comptroller, Austin; FHL microfilm 2282376.
  6. See, e.g., Thomas Taylor Ewell, A History of Hood County, Texas: From Its Earliest Settlement to the Present (Granbury, Texas : Granbury News, 1895), 32-33 (“But about this date (1853-54) quite a number of people began to come into the Long creek valley. Martin Baker and his son Joseph, …, George Cottrell…”).
  7. Parker County, Texas, marriage license and return, M G Cottrell and Mattie Johnson, 27 Aug 1874; County Clerk’s Office, Weatherford.
  8. 1880 U.S. census, Clay County, Texas, population schedule, Precinct 4, enumeration district (ED) 164, p. 492(B), dwelling 17, family 17, M.G. Cottrell household; digital image, ( : accessed 29 Sep 2018); citing National Archive microfilm publication T9, roll 1296.
  9. 1900 U.S. census, Wichita County, Texas, population schedule, Iowa Park, enumeration district (ED) 127, p. 238(A) (stamped), sheet 5(A), dwelling 86, family 86, Martin G Catrell household; digital image, ( : accessed 29 Sep 2018); citing National Archive microfilm publication T623, roll 1679.
  10. 1880 U.S. census, Clay Co., Tex., pop. sched., Precinct 4, ED 164, p. 492(B), dwell./fam. 17, M.G. Cottrell.
  11. Wichita County, Texas, Brands Book, entry for M.G. Cottrell, 10 Mar 1890; County Clerk’s Office, Wichita Falls.
  12. “Early days recalled by Iowa Park pioneer,” likely from Wichita Falls (Texas) Daily Times, undated clipping, circa 1970; digital image of original in possession of a great granddaughter, Odessa, Texas. The date was calculated by reference to the age of the subject, Addie Cottrell Harris, then said to be 89, who was born in 1881.
  13. See “Wichita County, TX – Biography – John Silas Fore,” USGenWeb Archives ( : accessed 29 Sep 2018).
  14. Iowa Park (Texas) Leader, Vol. 20, No. 6, special section on 100th anniversary of Iowa Park, pp. 52-53.
  15. Ballenger & Richards, Denver City Directory … for 1897 (Denver, Colorado : Ballenger & Richards, 1897), 300, entry for Cottrell, Martin G.
  16. Wichita County, Texas, Deed Book 25: 234-235, Cottrell to Benham, 24 Sep 1909; County Clerk’s Office, Wichita Falls.
  17. 1910 U.S. census, Tillman County, Oklahoma, Frederick Ward 1, enumeration district (ED) 248, p. 41(A) (stamped), sheet 4(A), dwelling 71, family 74, Mattie Cottrell household; digital image, ( : accessed 29 Sep 2018); citing National Archive microfilm publication T624, roll 1275.
  18. “Personals,” Lovington (New Mexico) Leader, 31 May 1929, clipping; digital image provided by Lea County NM Historian David Minton.
  19. 1930 U.S. census, Lea County, New Mexico, Prairieview, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 13-6, p. 234(B) (stamped), sheet 1-B, dwelling 11, family 11, Gilbert Cottrell in James R. Baker household; digital image, ( : accessed 29 Sep 2018); citing National Archive microfilm publication T626, roll 1395.
  20. W.C. Garrett, “Baptist Column,” Lovington (N.M.) Leader, 7 Apr 1933, clipping; digital image provided by Lea County Historian David Minton.
  21. “James R. Baker, Pioneer Citizen Of Lea County Is Claimed By Death Thursday,” Lovington (N.M.) Leader, 12 Feb 1937, clipping; digital image provided by Lea County Historian David Minton.
  22. 1940 U.S. census, Lea County, New Mexico, Lovington, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 13-8, page 37(B) (stamped), sheet 11(B), household 234, Martin G. Cottrell; digital image, ( : accessed 29 Sep 2018); citing National Archive microfilm publication T627, roll 2446.
  23. Texas State Department of Health, death certificate no. 13603, Martin Gilbert Cottrell, 26 Mar 1946; Bureau of Vital Statistics, Austin.
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