Submitted by Elaine Bay Nall
to the Cemeteries of TX, Rains Co. Site
Ambrose Fitzgerald was born in Meigs County, East Tennessee on Monday, March 12, 1827, to Samuel Fitzgerald and Nancy "Nicey" Dowden/Doden (last name not proven). HE was born and raised on the same farm until he was 13 years old when his parents moved to Newton County, Missouri. Ambrose had received a good, common school education in his native state. He was blessed with nothing more than what could be acquired in an old-time country school. He furthered his education by many laborious hours of study at home, and in later life he was quite an accomplished and well-read man.
When Ambrose was 19, he married Mary Ann O’Kelley on Sunday, January 4, 1846, possibly in Newton County, Missouri. Many Ann was born Wednesday, September 23, 1829 in Tennessee to Nimrod O’Kelley and Sarah "Sally" Bell. Ambrose bought a wagon and a yoke of oxen and set out for the adventurous and exciting "promise land" of Texas with his girl bride, his parents, sister, Elizabeth and brothers. They endured many hardships and trials with their small wagon drawn by a yoke of oxen, but they reached their destination. They followed the old Wagon trails to Texas, probably the Upper Trail from Missouri through Hope, Arkansas, to the northeast part of Texas. Sister Elizabeth married Andrew Jackson Freeman but died before the 1860 census.
Shortly after he settled in Nacogdoches County, Henderson County was organized in 1846 and Ambrose found his home in the newly organized county. In 1847 Ambrose raised a small crop with much difficulty and afterward taught the first little school every taught in the territory of Henderson County. Van Zandt County was created from Henderson County in 1848, seven days before Ambrose reached his 21st birthday. Four months later, he was elected the first County Clerk of Van Zandt County. The first session of The District Court in Van Zandt County, after its creation, was held at Jordan’s Saline, now known as "Grand Saline", in the 9th Judicial District of Texas. This session was held Christmas Day, Monday, December 25, 1848, under the Hon. Bennett H. Martin, District Judge; he empanelled the first Grand Jury in Van Zandt County. Ambrose Fitzgerald was one of the seventeen man Grand Jury empanelled for this term.
One interesting story to Ambrose’s initial County Clerk’s tenure occurred when he issued a marriage license to Thomas Cunningham and Mahala Brown. He recorded that they were the first couple to enter into a marriage contract in Van Zandt County. Ambrose, feeling it was a solemn affair, drew up a bond and had the bridegroom furnish good and sufficient securities that he would perform all the duties incumbent upon him as a dutiful husband. There is no record that Mr. Cunningham ever forfeited his bond.
At the organization of Wood County in 1850, Ambrose was again elected County Clerk. Wood County’s first court was held under an oak tree. The first term of District Court ever held in Wood County in 1850 was presided over by Hon. Lemur Dale Evens, under the shade of the massive forest oaks that at one time grew on the courthouse square in Quitman. The District Judge was able assisted by County Clerk Ambrose Fitzgerald and Sheriff Capt. Henry Stout.
When the Civil War spread into Texas, Ambrose resigned his Clerk’s office and accepted a commission as Captain in Colonel R.B. Hubbard’s Regiment, Hubbard’s Battalion, Texas Infantry. He enlisted on Tuesday, March 4, 1862 at Quitman, Wood County, Texas, for twelve months. He commanded Co. A of Hubbard’s Battalion Texas Infantry and Co. E 22nd Regiment Infantry Texas. This company was known at various times as "Captain Fitzgerald’s Company, Co. A of Hubbard’s Battalion Texas Infantry". The 22nd Regiment Texas Infantry (also known as Hubbard’s Regiment was formed by the addition of four companies to the 5th Battalion Texas Infantry (also known as Hubbard’s), which was originally enlisted for twelve months. The six companies of the 5th Battalion Texas Infantry, A-F, became Companies E, F, I, K, A, and C, respectively of this organization. Records show that on September 26, 1862, Fitzgerald drew $203.66 as pay and that he served as Asst. Quarter Master of Hubbard’s Battalion as per letter dated May 26, 1862. Ambrose brought a saber back from the Civil War and hung it over the fireplace in his home.
When he returned from the War to resume his duties of County Clerk of Wood County, he found that the reconstruction government had disfranchised him and that he could not vote nor run for office. However, he had a son, Billy, who was barely of age to run for office. Billy ran for office and was elected. Ambrose Fitzgerald remained in office as a Deputy County Clerk. Ambrose was re-elected County Clerk on August 25, 1865.
Rains County was created in 1870 from parts of Wood, Hunt, Hopkins, and Van Zandt Counties and the town of Springville was renamed "Emory". Ambrose became the Tax Assessor and Collector and later elected County and District Clerk of Rains County. He served as Tax Assessor and Collector until 1871 when he resigned from office. He adopted farming as an occupation and successfully followed it for several years.
In 1882 he was elected Rains County Tax Assessor-Collector and held the office for two years; and in 1884 he was again elected Rains County District and County Clerk. He held these offices until his death in 1893. History shows that A. Fitzgerald was elected as County Clerk or County and District Clerk in the elections of 1888, 1889 and 1892. He died in 1893 and his son, Alonzo Patton Fitzgerald, is listed as County Clerk for Rains County in 1894, 1896, 1898, and 1904.
In 1846 Ambrose Fitzgerald received a grant of 640 acres from Mercer’s Colony; the 1846 Land Grant of Ambrose Fitzgerald was recorded in four different counties during his lifetime; Texas General Land Office record is File #2101, Certificate #1114, No. 458, vol. 19. He was on his original 640-acre land grant in each county; as each new county was created, his 640 acres was in that new county. These counties are Nacogdoches, Henderson, Van Zandt, and Wood. He served as the firs County Clerk of three of these counties.
"In the early 1870’s when Sicily Elizabeth Wafer attended school in the old Masonic building, her teachers were John Pierson and Ambrose Fitzgerald." (The Rains County Leader, Pioneer ed., August 11, 1939)
Reverend Ambrose Fitzgerald made a profession of religion in his hometown of Quitman, Wood County, in September 1854 and attached himself to the Presbyterian Church. Soon he was made a ruling elder of the church; however, at the end of two years, after much study and prayerful reading of the New Testament scriptures, he became thoroughly convinced that the doctrines as held and taught by the Baptist were in exact accord with his own views. It was a great trial to leave his Presbyterian brethren, and nothing but a deep consciousness of duty to God, would have prompted the sacrifice. He attached himself to the Baptist Church at Quitman in 1856 and was baptized by the pastor Elder William Milburn and was soon after licensed by the church to exercise his gifts in public. Ambrose was ordained to the full work of the ministry Saturday, September 5, 1857. Later he was called to the Pastorate of the Church, which position he successfully held for many years. Ambrose was a Baptist circuit-riding minister, as was his father, Samuel Fitzgerald. HE organized, built up and ministered to many churches and baptized more than 2,500 people, quite a number of whom later became Ministers of the Gospel. His most famous convert was James Stephen Hogg, the first native-born Governor of Texas. This event probably occurred near Quitman when Hogg was in his teens, for his daughter, Miss Ima Hogg, says her father was converted in the Baptist faith in his youth. Rev. Fitzgerald was a Baptist minister for over 50 years and conducted revival meetings all over East Texas.
Reverend Fitzgerald was an Odd Fellow and a Knight of Honor. He became a Free and Accepted Mason in early life and was numbered among those high up in that order. IT was exemplified by the resolution drawn by a committee and adopted by his lodge after his death, which occurred at Emory, Texas on June 15, 1893, aged 65 years.
He was a very good friend of Dr. Robert Cooke Buckner, founder of Buckner Orphans’ Home in Dallas, Texas. Ambrose named one of his sons "Robert Cooke Fitzgerald", after his friend. At the birth of this son, Dr. Buckner presented the family with a picture of himself with an inscription on the back, "Dr. Robert Cooke Buckner founder of Buckner Orphans Home, Dallas, Tex, portrait presented to Fitzgerald family when Robert Cooke Buckner Fitzgerald was born March 24, 1873". Family lore goes that A. Fitzgerald and Robert Buckner each named a son after the other as they were very good friends.
Ambrose authored two books. The first was "Reminiscences of Sixty Years Ago" which was included in W.O. Hebison’s "Early Days in Rains County", published by the Rains County Leader in 1917. The other book was a cookbook, dated October 10, 1860, owned by Novelle O’Rear McDaniel.
Ambrose was married three times and had families by each wife. A total of 17 children were born, but only 9 lived to adults. Ambrose’s first wife was Mary Ann O’Kelley, the daughter of Nimrod O. O’Kelley and Sarah Bell. Mary Ann was born Wednesday, September 23, 1829 in Tennessee and died Thursday, July 3, 1862 in Texas. There has been no tombstone found for her. Their children were:
Ambrose’s second marriage was to Mary "Mollie" W. (Burton) Baxter on Sunday, October 5, 1862. Mary died Saturday, September 21, 1867. No tombstone has been found for her. Their children were:
Ambrose’s third marriage was to Caroline "Carrie" Smith of Upshur County, Texas on Wednesday, May 13, 1868. Carrie was born Saturday, March 22, 1845 in Alabama to Dread Smith and Sophia Corbitt. Their children were:
Ambrose died Thursday, June 15, 1893 and Carrie died Thursday, March 7, 1901 in Emory, Rains County, Texas, and are buried in a private cemetery behind the Hopewell and Emory City Cemeteries. The family burial plot is located on part of Ambrose Fitzgerald’s land in Emory, Rains County which he purchased in the 1880’s.
In his later years, Ambrose would take his Bible, sit under a huge Post Oak tree near his home to read and meditate. Beneath the same tree, he was buried on Thursday, June 15, 1893.
Today his grave is in a fenced area on the edge of the Emory City Cemetery in Rains County, Texas, with a historical marker. It is said that he selected the burial site where he, his wife, and a daughter lie because it was the largest tree to be seen from his front porch.
It has been the belief of local historian that Rev. Ambrose Fitzgerald was "also" the first County Clerk of Rains County; however, there is more evidence that he was the first Tax Collector and Assessor of the newly formed county and later elected County and District Clerk. The historical marker at his gravesite states he was the Tax Collector and Assessor, District Clerk and County Clerk for Rains County. Rains County histories state he was the first County Clerk of Rains County. Wood County histories state he was the first County Clerk while Van Zandt histories state he was the first Tax Assessor/Collector. He served Rains County in each of these offices at one time or another.
Ambrose sold his original land grant when he lived in Wood County to James W. and Isabella Doughtery in 1851. This property is located just outside the city of Emory on Rains County Road 4320. IT is a beautiful area. The Dougherty Cemetery can be seen from the road.
Used by permission of author, June 2002
Ambrose Fitzgerald and A Genealogy of the Fitzgerald Family including Buckner, Fuston, Goforth, Harris, O’Kelley & Shook by Mary Ann Fowler Fitzgerald, c2001