a curious sort I decided to do some research and see what I could
learn about this man. The first information I found came from a
newspaper in Ingram
called the West Kerr Current. A story had been written, by
Irene Van Winkle, about Byas’ wife who had moved from Lavaca County
to Kerr County after William had passed away. The reason the newspaper
found Mary Ann Byas to be news worthy was because her father, Andrew
Kent, was one of the heroes of the Alamo.
Kent was part of the “Immortal 32” from the Gonzales
and Lavaca area who went to reinforce the Alamo.
These heroes were the only men who tried in vain to help that beleaguered
But let me get back to telling you about William Byas – after all,
this story was meant to be about him.
In his book, A History of Lavaca County, Paul Boethel provides
more information about Byas and how he met his wife and the many
difficulties that they faced in life. Boethel writes that William
came to Texas around 1837 after he had left his home in Alabama
and hired out to drive a freight wagon with a group headed for Texas.
After crossing the Colorado, Brazos, Lavaca, and Navidad Rivers,
as well as Peach Creek, Byas and his fellow freight drivers reached
their destination in Gonzales.
With the wagon driving job completed Byas was out of work and decided
to hire out to build cabins, haul freight, and clear land until
he earned enough money to buy his own wagon and a team of mules.
After accumulating enough funds he eventually started his own freight-hauling
Byas hauled cargo from Indianola
traveling north along the west bank of the Lavaca River – this trek
took him across the Andrew Kent League and near the Kent home were
the freighters often camped. It is likely that this is where Byas
and Mary Ann Kent first met.
William and Mary Ann tied the knot in 1845 with Justice of the Peace
J.H. Livergood officiating. One can only wonder if it was love at
The couple built their home on the 1,107 acres that Mary Ann had
inherited in the Andrew Kent League. Their first child, Joseph,
was born in 1847. Shortly afterwards, William served with the Texas
Rangers. He also served six months during the Mexican War. Between
1852 and 1864, Mary Ann gave birth to seven more children.
In 1862 William enlisted in Company A, 34th Texas Cavalry, CSA.
The 34th saw action in Missouri and Louisiana. During his military
training in Louisiana Byas was called home for a family emergency
and his 15-year-old son, Joseph, replaced him in the army for a
The training was too harsh for Joseph and he was sent home but William
returned to serve. However, William suffered terribly from chronic
rheumatism and he was released by the army. He tried to serve in
a reserve unit but could not because of poor health.
Byas died before his unit was activated in 1865 at the age of 40,
according to his tombstone. However, some of my research shows his
birth a year earlier than what is on the stone, so he may have been
for the rest of the story: Mary Ann Byas fell on hard times after
William died. The family barely survived the years immediately following
the Civil War and Mary Ann had to sell off hundreds of acres of
In 1869 Malaria plagued the Lavaca River valley region and Mary
Ann was encouraged to move out of the area to a drier climate. She
took her children to Kerr County to live near her sister’s family
at Mountain Home. But sadly, it seems the sickness followed the
group and four of Mary Ann’s children, ranging in age from 18 to
9 years, died on the same day.
Mary Ann married twice more and outlived all her husbands. She died
at the age of 92 and is buried in Kerr County.
Star Diary February
16 , 2014 column
| Columns | Texas
Town List | Texas