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The Dyer Family


     The Dyers and the Watsons were not in dire financial straits even though the sawmill enterprise had not been successful. Judge Dyer continued to receive a small income from property in Hill County, Texas. Columbus Watson found a job, teaching English, that provided well for himself,. Harriett Ann, and the two children. Judge Dyer’s wife, Amanda, died on July 4, 1869, and the  Judge was no longer interested in building the home that two had planned. His sons, Wiley S. and James E. Dyer, although enjoying the wild life roaming the jungles, yearned for their old friends in Texas.


     Nancy  McMullan  also  owned  property in  Texas and was far

from   being   destitute. After  Frank’s  death,  however, she no

longer  had   any   desire  to  remain in Brazil. Then, when  her

daughter, Lou,  died   of  typhus, Nancy  became  very  anxious

to  return  to  Texas. John  O’Dell, her  son-in-law (Lou’s husb-

and), also  desired to see Hill  County  again. William and Vic-

toria  Moore, like other members of  the family, were not hap-

py. The loss   of a child on board ship had saddened their init-

ial  efforts in  Brazil, and their struggles for progress and pos-

ition  had  been   lackluster. Perhaps only Ney McMullan, now

eighteen years  old, had any  qualms about  abandoning  a pro-

ject in  which  was invested  the dreams  and most of the finan-

ces of the family.


Odell, John.    Little is known of John Odell, other than that

he  married  Lou McMullan, Frank McMullan's sister. Both

Odell and his wife went to Brazil with the McMullan Colony.

John  returned alone  in 1872  to   Hill County after Lou died

 of typhus. He died in Hill County.

 Lou  McMullan  Odell was  about eighteen  years old when

she and her husband, John Odell, left for Brazil with Frank

McMullan's colony. She died of typhus and was buried

somewhere in Brazil. She had no children.       

SOURCE:  Griggs Thesis)

(Nancy McMullan still  owned much of the  640 acres in down-

town Hillsboro that had been purchased by her husband.) 

         Nevertheless, by April, 1872,   the decision  had been made.

The McMullan’s, the Dyers, the Moores, the Watsons, and John 

O’Dell were returning  to  Texas. Columbus  Wasson  would  re-

main only long enough  to complete  a  teaching contract. Soon, 

the families were say-ing goodbyes to their friends who remained

behind. They took a small packet steamer from Iguape to Rio de

Janeiro, a distance of our hundred miles, and there a larger ship

for the United States.

(NOTE:  Columbus Wasson probably first met Frank McMullan

at McKenzie College at Clarksville, Texas, after Frank's  return

from Nicaragua. Evidently, Wasson, from time to time, visited

Hill County. There, he apparently first met Harriet Ann Dyer,

his future wife and the daughter of Judge James H. Dyer. He went

with the colonists to Brazil, possibly for the same reason as the

others but more likely to be with Harriet. The two were married

in Rio de Janeiro  on April 30, 1868. When the Dyers and Mc-

Mullans sailed for home in 1872, Wasson remained in Brazil to com-

plete a term of school that he was teaching to raise money for the

voyage. After his return, he taught school in Hill County,  Texas.     

SOURCE:  Griggs Thesis)

(NOTE:   William Turner Moore, a veteran of the Fifteenth Texas Infantry in the Civil War and afterwards a dentist in Hill County, Texas, married Victoria McMullan, Frank McMullan's sister.^^ Both decided to go to Brazil with Frank McMullan but before leaving for Galveston to board the Derby, he accidentally shot himself in the leg while  cleaning a pistol. Nevertheless, he went to Galveston. When his leg showed no improvement, he ordered it amputated, and then continued to South America. Returning to Texas in 1872, he became a lawyer in Waco. He died July 18, 1905, and was buried in Hill County, near Whitney.

Moore,  Victoria McMullan married Dr. William T. Moore, a Hill County dentist, in 1865. The two went to Brazil with her brother, Frank McMullan. In 1872, she and her husband returned to Texas. The Moores had one surviving daughter, Ora Montague Moore. Victoria died on Hill County, Texas, in 1874.

Moore, Ora Montague  "Montie" Moore was probably born after her mother and father. Dr. and Mrs. William T. Moore, went to Brazil. Family tradition says that her name, in Portuguese, meant "golden butter." She was always called "Montie," and her most intimate associates did not know her real name. "Montie" married Sep Smith, the son of Gip Smith of Smith Bend, Bosque County, Texas. Afterwards, she and her husband moved to Crosbyton, Texas, where they became well67 known and highly respected.

SOURCE:  Griggs Thesis)


     From the time they sailed until they arrived in Hill County, Texas, no information regarding the returnees has been found. The name of the ship on which they sailed, the date of departure from Brazil and arrival in the United States, the port of entry, and how and when they reached Hill County all remain an unsolved mystery. When next heard of, the Dyers and Wasson’s were located in Hill County, and Nancy and, Ney were in Attala County, Mississippi, at the home of Virginia George Clark, Nancy’s daughter and son-in-law.


      After her return from Brazil to Texas, Nancy McMullen lived for several years in Fowler were for son, Ney. When Ney's marriage was imminent, she decided to return to Towash, her old home, where she lived until about 1885. That year, she moved to Claiborne, Texas, where she could still be close to medical care and yet be near (to) her two surviving children. Ney continued to live in Hill and Bosque Counties, living alternately at Fowler, Whitney, and Iredell, and Martha Ann, her daughter, lived in Towash. Judge Dyer, her brother, made his home in nearby Morgan Community in Bosque County. The other member of her "family," Jasper Mc-Mullen, the former slave, visited her in her home in Claiborne in 1886 a few months before her death at the age of 71.


        By 1895, Ney McMullan, always an incurable romantic, yearned to see, once again, the lands that his brother had tried to colonize. They went to Brazil that year and "spent eight months traveling over the country, return-ing to Texas the latter part of October." Two years later, in 1897, Ney, his wife, Maggie, and their child-ren Dana, Lauren, and Caskey left, Texas, for Brazil. They took all of their possessions with them, intending to make Brazil their permanent home. On their arrival, they went directly to Santa Barbara, where Wiley Dyer McMullan, the fourth son, was born a few days later.


(Wiley Dyer McMullan, E. N. McMullan's son, Sao Paulo, Brazil to William C. Griggs, Lubbock, Texas, June 27, 1973,  Wiley Dyer McMullan is a dentist n Sao Paulo.)


       Probably influenced by Ney's glowing reports of Brazil, Ilieta Williams Hudgeitz, John B. And Martha Ann William's daughter, and her husband, Swan Hudgeitzs, sailed for South America with their children Lucia, Rie, and Coon C., In 1897. Another child, Swan, Jr., was born soon after their arrival. Accompanying the Hudgeitz family was Eugene "Monk" Williams, Ilieta's brother. All settled in São Paulo.


       Only two members of the Williams family remained in Texas. Coon Williams, a son of John B. and Martha Ann Williams, lived in Claiborne, Texas, where he was agent for Northern Breweries, and Walter Pierce (Waters- Pierce) Oil Company. After his mother’s death in 1894, Coon was the sole support of his pretty young sister, Nannieta. With the rest of the family in Brazil, Coon decided that he and Nannieta also should go there. Just when preparations had been completed, Coon unexpectedly died of a heart attack. The family, not wan-ting Nannieta to travel alone, sailed to the states to be with her.


(Patsy Miles to Thelma Griggs, March 8, 1973.  In all likelihood, the Hudgeitz family used Coon's death as an excuse to leave, otherwise, they would have made arrangements for someone to accompany Nannieta o Brazil.)


        Ney McMullan, who after the death of his mother in 1896 and his sister, Martha Ann, in 1894, was the last of the McMullens, remained in Brazil. To him and his family, the land south of the equator was home. Only rarely did Ney return to Texas. He always felt that his brother's claim on the Juquia could be reestablished, and about 1918 he wrote a letter to members of the family in Texas, asking each branch for $200 that he might "do something about our land."  With the money, said Ney, he could "make millionaires out of all of us." As they had never been successful financially, no one sent the money. Today, all of Ney McMullen’s sons are living in Brazil. Dana, Lauren, and Caskey live in the city of Rio Verde, Goias, Wiley Dyer McMullen and the youngest, Frank McMullan, live in São Paulo.


(Perhaps if they had known that the Bowen family had sold their land on the Juquia for a large amount, they would have been more receptive to Ney's suggestion.  Barnsley, "Information About Emig-rants.")


        For a time, the descendants of the original McMullan colonists made an effort to find mates of like race and heritage to retain their national identity. But with passage of time, they are marrying native Brazilians and becoming integrated into Brazilian life. The English language is seldom spoken. Wiley Dyer McMullen, Frank McMullan’s nephew, recently wrote that he lost contact with English-speaking peoples about fifty years ago.

Nancy McMullan with child - Probably Ney McMullan

Judge James Harrison Dyer

James H. Dyer, co-owner of  the Towash Mill, was elected first County Judge in a fiercely contested election with Thomas Bell.  The fol-lowers of both candidates became involved in a fist fight, and Dyer fled on a big, black horse. A chase ensued but the judge escaped. The episode resulted in the formation of two pol-itical forces which endured for some years.

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James Harrison Dyer

James H Dyer and 2nd wife, Eva Pierce

with son Sledge

J H Dyer and 2nd wife Eva with son Sledg

James H. Dyer and Ladies - Mary Dyer-Simpson on right

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Underwater Ghost Town

Except for the memories and the descendants of early pioneers, there is not much that now remains of the once thriving community of Towash, inundated in the early 1950’s by Lake Whitney.  All that is left are relics from the original Towash Baptist Church and a historical marker at Lake Whitney State Park, near where the town once stood.

The community was named for Chief Towash of the Hainai Indian tribe, one of the three peaceful tribes to settle on the eastern shore of the Brazos River around 1835.  It was originally supposed to be the site of Fort Graham, but an Army official decided instead to move the fort six miles upstream.

In 1854 Simpson Cash Dyer and his brother James Harrison Dyer built one of the first mills west of the Mississippi River at Towash.  Soon after, the Dyer brothers and forty-three other residents of the area petitioned the Texas Legislature for permission to build the first dam on the Brazos.  On December 13, 1855, a Senate committee responded affirmatively as follows:

"The committee on Public Lands to whom was referred the petition of Sunday Citizens of Hill County asking that Legislation permission be granted to S. C. Dyer & J. H. Dyer to construct and build a flouring mill upon the Brazos River in said County and to be permitted to erect a dam across said river for the purpose of facilitating the operating of said machinery; your Committee has considered the matter presented, and has come to the conclusion that if the construction of said machinery and dam is not a public nuisance, or would not become so by producing stagnant water, and hereby causing disease among the people of the neighborhood, nor disturb navigation on said river by the erection of said dam that there is no need to Legislation interposing and therefore report said memorial back to the Senate and ask to be discharged of the subject, believing it to be expedient to grant the prayer of the memorial."

When summer came around and the river was low, trees along the riverbank were cut down and hauled out to the dry riverbed with teams of oxen.  The trees were set side-by-side close together, with their bases buried downstream.  The branches were then partially cut and interwoven among each other.  When the spring rains came, this mass of boughs let the water through but held the sand and gravel, thus forming the dam which directed water to the Dyers’ mill.


The mill was used to grind wheat and corn into flour and meal. Advertisements for the mill as far away as Mississippi brought new settlers to the area. The mill regularly employed more than fifty people, and operated around the clock, closing only from midnight Saturday until midnight Sunday.

Towash Mill became a social center.  People came from miles around to mill their grain.  Wagons some-times had to wait two or three days.  While they waited, the farmers visited, discussed the news of the day and listened to impromptu fiddle music. 

In 1860, a carding machine was added.  During the Civil War, women traveled a hundred miles to have their wool carded at Towash for weaving into clothes and blankets for the soldiers.

The town thrived initially.  There were eight or nine stores, a blacksmith shop, a cotton gin, wagon yards, a post office and a church. The location of the mill on the Brazos River made it a popular place for young couples to visit on a Sunday afternoon.

The original Towash Baptist Church was constructed in 1856.  Nearly a century later, a replica was built a few miles east when it became known that the original site was to be flooded by Lake Whitney. Church members saved the old bell, hand-hewn rostrum, banister, Bible, and church records.

Although Lake Whitney dealt the final blow to the town, Towash, like many towns in Hill County, began to decline when the railroad bypassed it in the 1880’s. The post office and several stores moved a short distance east to the new railroad town of Whitney.  Nearly twenty years later in 1908, a flood destroyed the mill and did extensive damage to the town, devastating the once prosperous community on the banks of the Brazos.

Towash Mill social gathering, c. 1890's

Towash Baptist Church was constructed in 1856

Towash Mill

Lake Whitney Mystery, Myth,and Facts


Where is the old Towash grist and flour mill?   That’s my mystery.  Local rumor and myth is that is one of the best holes for big bass on Whitney Lake.

  Towash, pronounced Tow-ash as in OW! with a T in front and ash as in Ash tree.  I made the mistake of going into the Whitney Museum and asking if they had any information on “Toe-wash”…  the lady there says “You are a stranger aren’t you?  You are not from around here.”   But, the upside was she apparently likes strangers who are interested in the history of the area and she was most helpful.  She had lots of great information.  I learned that Towash was named for Chief Towash of the Ioni  tribe who lived on the Brazos.

One of my favorite movies is “The Outlaw Josey Wales.”  I have watched it many times and nearly have all the lines memorized.   About 10 years or so ago, I finally bought the book the movie is based upon, Gone to Texas by Forrest Carter.   The story of how Clint Eastwood came to choose the book for the basis of a movie is a good one too, but you have to do your own research to learn that story.  At any rate, if you are familiar with the movie, Josey, Lone Watie and Little Moon arrive in Texas and make a stop at a frontier town to pickup some supplies.   Josey meets the girl of his future, Laura Lee, and ends up in a gun fight with Regu-lators. He and Lone Watie kill several and then make their escape with Little Moon.  No mention is made of the town’s name in the movie.  From the book, Gone to Texas, I learn that this little town is Towash.

Here are some descriptions of Towash from the book:

‘The town was Towash, one of many racing and gambling centers of central Texas.”

“Towash is a rip-snorter.”

“in 1865 Towash made a big sign . . . Texas-style. It boasted the Boles racetrack, which attracted the sports and gamblers from as far away as Hot Springs, Arkansas.  There was a hand ferry across the Brazos and close by a grist mill powered by a huge water wheel.  Dryer & Jenkins was the trading store.  There was a barbershop that did very little business and six saloons that did a lot, dispensing red-eye . . . raw.  Typical of many towns in the Texas of 1867, there was no law except that made by each man with his own ‘craw sand.’  Occasionally the Regulators of  Austin rode in  . . . always in large groups . . . more for protection than law enforcement. ”

That’s the fiction, but it is evident that Forrest Carter did some research.

It was the sign on the side of Highway 933 going to Aquilla from Whitney that first caught my attention.  It says “Towash Cemetery.”   Then I noticed the Towash Creek sign on Highway 22 between Whitney and the dam.  But, it was the book’s mention of Towash that made me begin my research.

Strangely enough, the book is based a lot on the facts according to the old news reports, genealogy papers, and even some Texas Legislature documentation the museum has accumulated.  News paper articles came from the Whitney View, the Whitney Messenger, and the Whitney Star.


This is a picture of the old grist and flour mill originally built and operated by the Dyer brothers, Simpson Cash Dyer (known as S.C.) and James Harrison Dyer who petitioned the Texas Legislature to dam the Brazos river.  to furnish more power for their flour and grist mill.  They did receive that charter in 1857 or 1858 with the conditions that the dam not  become a public nuisance by producing stagnant water or disturb the navigation on the river.

I am guessing that the “disturb the navigation on the river” condition has gone by the by now.

Records also indicated that a large mill-wheel of solid bronze was imported from France and brought up the river to Liberty by boat,  then overland by  ox-wagon. By 1860 a carding machine was added to the mill.

The Whitney Museum operator advised that 8 or 10 years ago, Whitney was inundated with scuba divers who were intent on recovering the mill-wheel and selling it for scrap.   Apparently, though someone else had had that idea years ago, and the wheel was not to be found.

Some of the interesting stories (I assume these are facts) from the news paper articles were:

“In 1860 Whitney had 4 saloons and two dance halls.  Whisky advertising was the main source of revenue for the newspaper that had moved recently from Peoria.  Some of the ads:  ‘The Rose Bud Saloon has re-ceived a large shipment of whiskey and beer, which is good whiskey and beer, but will be sold cheaper than cheap whiskey and beer.’ The next ad:  “The committee of Prebysters will  meet in Whitney on the 27th to organize a church.’  This was followed by a news item.  ‘Someone fired his pistol at the mirror in Roper’s Saloon last Thursday night.  Everybody started shooting, about thirty shots were fired.  The Saloon was crowded, no one was hurt in getting out.  I (the editor) was there, and know for a fact what happened.'”

“S.C. Dyer, who ran the mill until his death in 1876, closed the mill from midnight Saturday to midnight Sunday.  More than 50 people were regularly employed at the mill.  The family book notes that drun-kards and lawless men who harassed the countryside respected the two-mile executive rights of the Dyer brothers and stayed outside the area.”

This is a picture of the Towash Church that S.C. Dyer built.


The church was built of cedar logs and reinforced with clay.  I believe that the church has likely disin-tegrated some years ago.  In fact, I heard that some locals were recently riding the lake bottom in the Towash area and came across the old Towash Cemetery which was supposedly moved by the Corps of Engineers before the lake filled.  According to their story, there are still headstones standing that have legible information on them.

The bottom line is, I haven’t found a map that shows where the old mill is in Whitney Lake.    Some folks say that with this recent drop in the water level at Whitney Lake, some parts of the old ruins of the mill are visible or near visible.   I want to find this mysterious place and see if the myths of huge bass can be vali-dated.

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