Left, Virginia Singletary, Alto Library Director, Pegi Sanders, descendant of the Berryman family and Dr. Deborah Burkett, Cherokee County Historical Commission.
I’m continually amazed at the power of the Internet. When you combine that with the desire of descendants wanting to know more about their family history, action is soon taken. Often family members drive great distances, seeking answers. I received an email from Pegi Sanders requesting a copy of my latest book. She told me that after Googling her third great-grandmother’s name, Helena Dill Berryman, in the hopes of finding more information, my name came up. Helena Dill Berryman is the very first woman featured in my East Texas Piney Woods Spunky Women 1800s to 1950s. She’s believed to be the first child born of Anglo parents in Spanish Texas. Helena was born in the family home on North Street, near the Old Stone Fort, in Nacogdoches, Sept 8, 1804. At the time, Nacogdoches was ruled by Spain. The Dill family also had a home in Natchitoches, Louisiana, where in 1824; Miss Helena Dill met Capt. Henry Berryman, a Virginian, at an Officers’ Ball. The couple fell in love and married.
Pegi Sanders had certainly done her homework. She had a huge notebook of genealogical records, old photos and documents. One document contained the following: Georgiana Murdock Berryman Dishman (b. 1835- d.1922) widow of James Ewing Dishman and daughter of Helena Dill and Capt. Henry Berryman. Georgiana had lived just down the road from Forest Hill Planation--built by her father in 1847.
Henry Berryman cleared the land for a cattle ranch and home--a large two-story log house. He named it Forest Hill because of the dense forest in the area and the log home was ‘built over stumps of the great pines felled for the house’...”
The document also noted that Georgiana was the sister of Newton Monroe Berryman and Henry Waters Berryman. And that Georgiana’s home was on the right (when facing their parents’ home at Forest Hill) and Newton had his own home on the left side of Forest Hill and lived with his family. The third child, Henry, made his home at Forest Hill (with his family) and also with his widowed mother, Helena…he eventually inherited the property (Forest Hill). Georgiana’s husband died of illness in Monroe, Louisiana, during the Civil War and she was left with small children to care for. In 1879, she moved to Kaufman County. Her brother Newton also moved to that area. Their mother, Helena, had deeded them acreage (over 800 acres each) in Kaufman County–these deeds are dated 1881. Georgiana lived on the land in Kaufman County till she died in 1922. She’s buried in the Old Kaufman Cemetery. .
Yes, thanks to Virginia Singletary, Pegi did get to visit Helena’s grave and home place and so did I.