Robert McCuistion

The story below is from the web pages of Jim McQuiston, Historian of the Clan Uisdean, USA who got it from a speech by Carleen McCuistion Daggett, daughter of Noah McCuistion. The speech was given in 1974 to the Daughters of The Republic of Texas. Mrs. Daggett went on to write the book, Noah McCuistion, noted in the bibliography.

A man may become a hero in the heat of battle or he may become a hero in a very quiet way. This is the story of Texas' first Financier, Robert McCuistion. None other can lay claim to having furnished so much so early to the struggling young Republic.

My material for these accounts was gleaned from the dusty records in some of the oldest courthouses in the state; from the Colonial Records North and South Carolina; from a book written at the close of the American Revolution by Carruthers entitled THE BURNING OF DILLON'S MILL: from the scholarly work of the late Leona Bean McCuistion of Los Angeles( 1870-1954) whose mastery of the Scottish language at the University of Edinburgh earned for her a special dispensation to do research among the ancient documents in the British Museum; from the Tennessee Historical Quarterly and from the Texas State Archives in Austin.

The first mention of the keg of gold coins that Robert McCuistion brought with him to Texas appears in the Will of Alexander McCuistion of Paisley, Scotland who lived 1647-1740; he was a sea-faring man and never married. When he died in 1740 he left his considerable estate in kegs of gold coins, to the three granddaughters of his brother Benjamin McCuistion, 'who reside in the Carolinas, in America', it said. His place of abode was described as The Three Mariners' Inn, at Wapping Old Stairs, at the Sign of the Cross in Red Mead Lane. John Hutchinson was one of the two executors named and it was his duty to deliver the kegs of gold to the little maids in the Carolinas, and I digress here to say that John Hutchinson seems to have been a canny Scot because some years later he arranged a marriage between his son and one of the legatees.

Their child was Elizabeth Hutchinson, who married Andrew Jackson I, and they became the parents of Andrew, the seventh President who was, in fact the great grandson of John Hutchinson. Andrew's kinship, friendship and loyalty touched early Texas several times.

One of the legatees was Ann Moody, daughter of Thomas Moody and his wife Jean McCuistion of Guilford, North Carolina. Ann was born May 17, 1732, and was eight years old when the keg of gold was delivered to her and presented with befitting memorial service to her benefactor, and it made a lasting impression. She was taught that it was her responsibility to protect it and that secrecy was the keynote of her protection. That it was never to be mentioned outside of the family. Ann was worthy of that trust.

On September 15, 1756, in Guilford, Ann married a fifth cousin, Thomas McCuistion, who was also a Scottish Highlander---and it was a bonnie match and the bagpipes were skirled after the ceremony in the kirk. Thomas and Ann became the parents of our subject, Robert McCuistion, who was born May 2, 1770.

Ann's sister had married the Hutchinson son and in time had become the grandmother of Andrew Jackson and that is how Ann became the Dear Old Great Aunt Ann of Andrew.

In 1779 or 1780 Andrew with his family of his mother and brothers fled the Waxhaw Settlement with the other settlers before the approaching British Army of Lieutenant General Banastre Tarleton. They arrived at the home of a relative in a bitter cold rain in the middle of a smallpox epidemic in Charles Town, as it was called then, South Carolina.

The first morning after their arrival they saw the dead wagon pass by; someone would stand out in the road to stop it and families were required to load on their own dead. The men volunteering their wagons and teams and services would not go into the houses nor handle the corpses. Andrew had to stand out in the road to stop the dead-wagon three times. The first two times he helped his mother load on the bodies of Hugh, then Robert.

The third time he remembered saying to the driver, "Sir, I cannot lift my mother's body, but she died last night," and that the driver drove on without replying, but he must have told someone because shortly two men came and the dead-wagon came back and they loaded on Elizabeth's body like cord- wood; Andrew stood and watched it out of sight. He didn't turn back to the house, instead he walked back the road the way they had come, toward the Waxhaws. Andrew's hatred of the British was manifest in his every act the rest of his life.

The Scottish Highlanders took care of their own. It is not known how Ann found out that her niece had fled or that she was dead, but we do know that she sent her young son, too young to be fighting alongside his father and older brother in the Continental Army, to find Andrew and to bring him home to her.

Horses were dear to the war effort and the only horse left at home old enough and strong enough to make the hard ride from Guilford to Charles Town and back as fast as he could go was a three year old stallion named Barb, not gentle enough for a lad, but Ann told Alexander(namesake of her benefactor), "It will be a hard ride and a long ride but Andrew is our kin and you are bound to go and find him." She tied a bit of lye soap into a small bundle of clean clothes to put on Andrew and tied it securely to the saddle. Also tied there was a leather pouch with a drawstring top filled with little oatcakes to last him the journey. Ann cautioned Alexander 'Stay at a great distance from everyone, first, lest you get smallpox, and second, lest someone take Barb from you.' When you get on, Barb won't pitch, he's a runner; but when I open the gate he'll run like the wind, and you have never ridden that fast. Don't try to pull him up, because you can't. Hold a tight rein and let him run; you can feel when he has run his fill and wants to pull up a bit, then pull him up and he'll think you are the master. When he wants to run again, let him out and if anyone ties to get too close, remember that your father said that nothing can overtake him. KEEP BARB TIRED. Don't get off unless he is tired and then don't stay off long because if you do you can't get back on.

Approaching people, raise your voice and say, "I call out for my kin, Andrew Jackson. Then repeat." And just before she opened the gate she told Alexander how to get Andrew up behind him when the horse was not gentle, and had never been ridden double and they could not go near anyone for help. When you find Andrew, and find him you must, tell him to stand still with his left arm raised forward and to keep talking so Barb can get used to him. Keeping Barb's left shoulder toward Andrew, pivot, circle him three times, closing the circle a bit each round. Tell him that the horse is not gentle and that when you grab his hand jerking him upward for him to be ready to jump and to grasp the back of your coat with his right hand and to hold on, that you fear the horse will bolt.

Nearing Charles Town, when Alexander saw a lad of the right age and description, spare of build, reddish hair, and called out, "I call out for my kin, Andrew Jackson, here." Alexander told him, then he repeated Ann's instructions, closing the circle a bit each round. Quickly Andrew was up behind and holding around Alexander's waist. They had succeeded and the horse did bolt and never has horse run as fast as Andrew's memory of that ride. As if borne on a magic carpet he was transported form the depths of grief, misery and despair into the welcoming arms of his Dear Old Great Aunt Ann, as he always referred to her. She made him a member of the family with all of its rights and privileges and that is how he came to know about Ann's keg of gold. Shortly after Andrew's arrival at Guilford, he was at home with Ann when the alarm was spread of the approach of General Cornwallis' Army. Ann refused to run. Andrew helped her roll the keg of gold a way out behind the smokehouse to Duck Creek and let it sink deep out of sight among the fallen trees, there to remain until after the war was over. Cornwallis took the McCuistion home and compound for his headquarters and billeted his soldiers across the road on Dr. CaIdwell's School.

About this time Colonial Governor Lyon of Maryland killed a British courier and took his confidential pouch; the dispatches were from England intended for Cornwallis. One told of a quantity of gold owned by Thomas McCuistion of Guilford. Governor Lyon kept the pouch, protecting a Colonists' gold and as a souvenir of the war. After the Governor's death his family gave the dispatch to one of Ann's grandsons, Henry Lanier of Guilford. Even though that courier didn't get through, another one must have because Cornwallis had Ann bought before him and asked her if her husband owned gold; she is said to have replied, "Gold? How ridiculous," and to have left the house, returning to her smokehouse where she and her children had taken refuge. He did not have her stopped and she was not harmed but Cornwallis was not convinced. When he prepared to move on he had his officers rip open all of the feather-beds with their sabers and badly damage the house in a thorough search. Ann had protected her legacy well. Her husband died in the war on December 9, 1783.

Twenty years later, giving the plantation to the son who wanted to stay in Guilford, Ann went with sons James and Robert and Andrew Jackson west across the Cumberland Mountains to the Middle District, later called Tennessee, and settled at Shelbyville. The young men built the first grist mill in that area on a creek they named Duck Creek after the creek behind the house at Guilford.

There was a boy of about twelve who liked to hang around the grist mill a lot. He was bright and likeable and never seemed to be in the way. His name was Sam Houston. It was the beginning of a friendship that lasted the rest of their lives. When the War of 1812 with the British began, Andrew hastened to the conflict; his heart was in the fight.

The Creek Indians were fighting on the side of the British and General Jackson was pursuing them in the swamps of Louisiana. Sam was 19 and he idolized Andrew, so he followed him and joined up and fought under his command. When General Jackson's army was victorious at the Battle of New Orleans and Jackson was the man of the hour, it was Sam's own hero they were cheering.

The caravans that formed at Nashville passed through Shelbyville on the Old Natchez Trace near the grist mill on their way to the crossing at Natchez on the Mississippi bound for Texas. The family noticed that Robert had a far-away look in his eyes as he stood and watched them out of sight.

In 1819, Ann satisfied each of her children with a division of her property and she gave the keg of gold to Robert because she said that Robert had Texas in his blood and needed an inheritance that he could take to Texas with him. That summer Robert wrote to his brother in Guilford and in the letter said, "Mama is as spry as a cricket and still delights us singing the old songs of the glen", but the morning of September 30, 1819, Ann didn't wake up. At 87 she had taken care of her legacy for 79 years when she gave it to Robert.

Robert's wife was ELIZABETH McWHORTER, also a Scottish Highlander. His first wife had been Charity Dunn, who had died leaving him with three small children. When Robert married Elizabeth she took the three little ones to her heart, and when she and Robert had their fist child, it was girl and Elizabeth named it Charity Dunn for the mother of her step-children thereby endearing it to them and sealing forever the gap between Robert's two sets of children.

For a number of years Robert had been acquiring and putting aside equipment and harness and tools and guns of the very best, 'just the thing to take to Texas' he would say. It was a well-planned, deliberate move. By January 1834 Robert was ready and anxious to go. He chose to sign-on with a Wagon-master who was accepting only those with sturdy and trail-worthy wagons. One broken wheel, one broken axle, would hold up the entire caravan. As there was nothing to be bought where they were going, they chose prudently what they took with them.

Robert added three wagons to the cavalcade; a heavy Conestoga freight wagon that carried a plow, a bale of rope, kegs of gunpowder and lead that had already been made up into shot; a barrel each of flour, cornmeal and sugar, crocks of salt, repairs for the wheels, two extra axles and the camp outfit that had to be used every night. During the bittersweet excitement of departure from the comforts of home to an unknown frontier, Elizabeth made a request of Robert; whatever else had to be jettisoned along the way, she asked that two things remain inviolate, their Bible and her set of Complete Works of Shakespeare.

The Republic had been declared and Sam Houston was faced with the responsibility of establishing a government and of paying accruing bills. TEXAS HAD NO MONEY. Texas had no credit.

Added to the difficulty was the lack of communications and hard money was a real necessity. Texas' only resource was called 'free land' by some, but by others it was called 'worthless Texas land'.

By 1836, it was President Andrew Jackson, then. He had elicited the help of his ablest men in trying to persuade Congress to vote an appropriation to help Texas and the Congress had refused any help of any nature, either military or monetary. Nursing the wound in his leg, sustained at San Jacinto, Houston went to see a doctor in New Orleans from where he took passage to Washington to seek advice from Andrew. Sam's metal had been tempered in the blast-furnace of criticism several times in his life and it gave an added luster to his old and loyal fiends. He as warmly received and they talked late into the night. During their talk Sam learned that Robert had finally made the move to Texas and had settled about 100 miles west-southwest of Nacogdoches. Andrew told Sam at once of the bitter blow that the Congress had dealt Texas and told him that any immediate help for Texas was going to have to come from within.

In desperation, Sam told Andrew that the settlers pouring into Texas brought only meager possessions, some not enough to sustain themselves until they could make a crop and become self-sufficient... and then Sam happened to mention that the British had sent an emissary to look the situation over, and the mention of the British drove a spur into Andrew's side. The hated British. Andrew's mind went back to the keg of gold he had helped Dear Old Great Aunt Ann hide from Cornwallis and now that keg of gold must help save Texas from the British. He told the story of it to Sam, and then figured aloud that since Ann died in 1819, and had given it to Robert, that Robert had had it 17 years.

When Andrew was 21 he had inherited all of his mother's, 1/3 of Grandmother Hutchinson's keg of gold but in a few years of life in Washington it was gone. Sam asked, "How much would you say the gold in the keg weighs?" and Andrew replied, "Upward of 80 pounds," then he asked Sam, "How many men do you know of in Texas who are said to own some gold?" Slowly Sam counted 17, including Robert. "Robert's your man, Sam. Nobody ever loved Texas more than Robert." "You think Robert still has it after 17 years?" Sam worried. "His mother kept it 79 years and never took one coin from the keg. Yes. Robert still has it." Early the following morning Sam left for Texas. Immediately upon his return he dispatched couriers to summon those 17 men to a dinner at his place and set the date 2 weeks hence. Sam had his back to the wall.

When the rider arrived at the McCuistion Headwaters he said, "General Houston is bidding 17 men to dinner at his place two weeks hence. He says that it is of great importance to the Republic and you are one of the 17, sir." To Robert it was grave summons, not a dinner invitation. He was 66 years old. He could remember the American Revolution and the War of 1812 seemed rather recent. He knew how dear money could become. He had done well in Tennessee and he had been in Texas two years and a man of his experience KNEW HOW THINGS STOOD. He knew that Houston was said to have gone to Washington to see the President, trying to get Congress to pass an appropriation to help Texas.

It was a painful thought to realize the purpose of Sam's invitation, and he knew that he must make his decision well ahead of time. He saddled up and rode out among his cattle, over the land he loved. Texas was like he thought it would be; it was where he wanted to stay. He could see a great future here. He thought of 'Mama's little keg,' and then he thought of Mama. It was a painful decision indeed, but he had made up his mind. The day came for him to leave. His children remembered their mother saying, "Robert I have your brown suit ready," and that their father replied, "Thank you, Betsy; there'll be some awfully good men there in buckskin but Sam won't care what we're wearing when he gets ready to ask us for our gold."

The 17 men bidden had assembled and Houston ordered that no drinks be served. It was a solemn occasion. THROUGH THE YEARS, Sam Houston had capitalized on his buckskin qualities, but he had, at times, polished his talents when he chose to do so. In Tennessee he had read law and passed the Bar and he was an able and a persuasive speaker. Sam was never a money maker; he never had much of this world's goods, but he had lately routed Santa Anna upon the battlefield and he stood tall among his fellows. When the meal was finished, he arose and laid squarely before them the pressing matters, the delinquent accounts and the bare necessities that had to be provided in order for the government to go forward. He reminded them that TEXAS HAD NO MONEY: THAT TEXAS HAD NO CREDIT, and told them of President Jackson's disappointment in the Congress' refusal to help. Then he turned toward Robert and said, "Andrew Jackson said that any immediate help for Texas was going to have to come from within. Looking at each man around the table he made his impassioned plea. He said, "I know how every man here feels about his gold, however much or however little he may own. Robert, I know that yours is an old family legacy; I know the story from your kinsman and I know that yours represents by far the greatest amount here, but gentlemen, these are grave times, and Texas, the land we love, must stand or fall on what we do here today, Gentlemen, Texans, how many of you will give your all, will give your gold to Texas?" and they sprang to their feet with the shout of "Aye," every man.

Among themselves, the men decided that as a safety measure against robbers along the way, that the gold was to be transported in disguises over a period of several weeks, lest word leak out and all be lost. In a letter that year, Robert described how he had fitted the keg in the center of a load of wood, among logs of the same circumference to conceal it, with the thought that a load of wood would be least likely to tempt robbers to fall upon him on his journey. One donor had concealed his in a bucket of molasses, Robert wrote. When the gold was all in, the Texas 'redback' rose from 2 cents U.S. currency to 98 cents U.S. value. A number of years later, in recognition of their gifts, the donors of gold were given 'worthless Texas land', and it remained worthless as long as Robert lived and for many years after his death on August 31, 1850. Robert was given 10,000 acres and the Robertson County deed records show that he divided it among his children. His youngest son, Joshua, (1830-1906) said that Robert never regretted his gift to Texas.

Robert McCustion, an Unsung Texas Hero.

The next section which relates some extra details picks up the story from when Robert McCuistion married Elizabeth McWhorter and moved to Texas to the death of Noah McCuistion. It is from a column written by Eloise Lane a noted historian of Pampa, Texas.

Robert's second wife was Mary Elizabeth "Betsy" McWhorter, and they were the parents of Joshua, their youngest child, born May 2, 1830 in Coffee County, Tennessee.

In January 1834, Robert added three wagons to a caravan going to Texas. Elizabeth had told Robert that her Bible and her complete set of Shakespeare's Works were not to be jettisoned if all else had to go. The Bible, Shakespeare's Works and "Mama's little keg," which weighed more than eighty pounds, were loaded on a pontoon wagon and arrived intact on Texas soil.
When the wagon-train headed south on the Old San Antonio Road to the safety of the forts, Robert turned his three wagons north to an unsettled area ... now Robertson County.

The place became known as McCuistion Headquarters and the first one-room schoolhouse in Robertson County was built there. Elizabeth taught Bible, ciphering, spelling and reading Shakespeare. Robert held church services at his home every Sunday. The regular year 'round preachin'-all-day-and-diner- on-the-ground Sunday service was non-sectarian. There was a camp meeting every summer with a real ordained "saddlebag" preacher.

After the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836, the Republic of Texas was declared and Sam Houston was faced with the responsibility of establishing a government and paying accruing bills. He went to Washington, D.C. to ask President Andrew Jackson's advice and learned of the keg of gold that Jackson's "Dear Old Great Aunt Ann" had hidden from Cornwallis.

After returning to Texas, Sam Houston summoned the seventeen men known to have gold and asked them to give their gold to Texas because any help was going to have to come from within. Every man of the seventeen agreed ... one man had kept his gold hidden in a bucket of molasses ... and Robert surrendered the keg of gold that his mother had protected for seventy-nine years and he had kept for seventeen years. He died in Robertson County on August 31, 1851, and his children remembered that he never regretted his gift to Texas.

Joshua was nineteen years old when his father Robert sent him to New Orleans to "broaden his horizons." Later Joshua told his children that he became an abolitionist and a slaveowner in less than an hour. He was passing a sign which read SLAVE BLOCK where an auction of slaves was taking place. Joshua was horrified to see human beings in pens with shackles on their ankles and drinking buttermilk from troughs like animals. The last lot of slaves to be auctioned was a family of five, and Joshua, distressed at their plight, bid one thousand dollars. His bid was not raised, and his family was surprised when he returned home with his purchase.

Joshua built a house on the west part of ten thousand acres of land granted to Robert after he gave the keg of gold to the Republic of Texas. Joshua's first wife was Mary Elizabeth O'Neal, the first graduate of Baylor Female College at Independence (now University of Mary Hardin-Baylor at Belton). Joshua and Mary Elizabeth O'Neal had four children: John Clayton in 1853, Mary Jane in 1855, Noah Wesley in 1857 and James Robert in 1959. Mary Elizabeth died four days after the birth of James. Joshua married a second wife, Mary Elizabeth "Lizzie" McGuire.

When Texas seceded from the Union in April 1861, Joshua felt that he had no choice but to join the Confederate Army. He was mustered out of the Confederate Army; Sibley's Texas Cavalry in April 1865. In his desire to leave behind a war with which he did not agree, he moved his family to Limestone County. When the carpetbaggers' acts of violence there increased, he moved farther west to Bosque County.

About 1872, when Comanches, Kiowas, and Apaches were crossing the plains of Texas, Joshua chose the vigorous and dangerous life of a surveyor. When he was seventy-five years old, he went pioneering into Old Mexico where he and his land-workers were slain by Pancho Villa's men on March 22, 1906.

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