Keller is in the western fringe of the Eastern Cross Timbers in northeast Tarrant County, Texas, part of the frontier of the Peters Colony settlers of the 1840s. To the west, there was open prairie as far as the eye could see. In the mid-1840s, the area was first settled by a group of families from Missouri that homesteaded near the head-waters of Big Bear Creek. Led by a widow named Permelia (Loving) Allen aged 73, they homesteaded near the headwaters of Big Bear Creek. Other families that settled the area included Daniel Bancroft, Ireneous Nease, Richard Allen, J.J. Roberts, and Aurelius Delphus Bourland. The area became known as ‘Double Springs’ due to the two large springs in the rolling wooded countryside. The springs site is approximately ½ mile north of the first church started in Tarrant County in 1850, known as the Lonesome Dove Baptist Church. The church building was burned down by Indians and the church was rebuilt by Daniel Barcroft and Permelia Allen at the site and renamed Mt. Gilead Baptist Church. There were eight charter members listed: John A. Freeman, Daniel Barcroft, Ireneus Neace and wife, Lucinda Allen Neace, Permelia Allen, Abby Dunham, and two slaves, Ambrose and Caroline Collard.
Permelia’s son wrote in a letter the following description “The area had a soil as rich as the craving that any man could wish for, and timber, water, and grass in an abundance, and sufficient evidence of the sunshine and the showers, besides the woodlands were lined with wild deer and turkey, and fine herds of antelope on the prairies the year-round, the buffalo was there during the winter season. The only serious question was where our bread would come from until virgin soil could be prepared and made to supply our wants. Here was the most wonderful and beautiful sight our eyes had ever beheld. Here we could view the beauties and grandeur of nature before they were being spoiled by the woodman’s ax or the surface of the earth was furrowed by the plow or by the surging of waters.”
The Texas settlers maintained their homes, grew gardens, and raised fruits such as peaches and pears. Hog raising was especially good in the area because of the plentiful supply of acorns from the oak trees. Grapevines grew profusely and provided another source of fruit. Most homes, many of the two-pen variety, were built of lumber brought in by wagon from Grapevine or other locations. Lumber in the Cross Timbers area was not suitable for building, although the woods were thick with a variety of trees, including mesquite, cedar, and dense underbrush. Some settlers maintained farms and ranches out on the prairie but kept their homes in the timber. The area had a cotton gin, a grist mill, a blacksmith shop, a post office, and several stores.
Permelia is my 4x Great Grandmother. She was an amazing woman. In a time when women had little or no rights, she led 25 families on a 600-mile trek from Moniteau County, Missouri to Tarrant County, Texas. She died in February 1866 at the age of 92 and she was buried in an unmarked grave in the Mount Gilead cemetery that she had donated the land for. Cemetery records reveal that many settlers in the area were of Scots-Irish-English descent.
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