Catherine Deborah Brown Powell Barker: Part 5. Blended family series-Powell, Brown, Barker

Twice wed, twice widowed, twice stepmother to another woman’s chlldren and mother of six.  Those words summarize the matrimonial life of Catherine D. [Brown] Powell Barker. This post is the fifth (and last) in this series about one blended family in my husband’s family tree.  Catherine was second wife of James Thomas Lafayette Powell; Catherine and James are my husband’s great-great-grandparents on his dad’s side.venn diagram_blended family_copy2

Briefly, James T.L. Powell fathered three children with his 1st wife, Deborah Daniel. His 2nd wife was Catherine Deborah Brown, the subject of this post. James died in 1890, leaving Catherine a widow with 3 living children aged 2 to 11 years. Elias Barker fathered six children with his 1st wife, Launa Barber. Elias and Catherine married in 1892 and brought three more children into the world. Catherine is the one person held in common by all of these children.

PROFILE: Catherine Deborah Brown

BORN:    19 November 1860, Mississippi (possibly Simpson county)

MARRIAGES:  1st–22 March 1877 to James T.L. Powell at Cherokee county, Texas. James died 1890 at De Soto, Louisiana. 2nd – 1 September 1892 to Elias Barker at Cherokee county, Texas. Elias died 20 August 1900 at Cherokee county, Texas.

DIED:     10 March 1944, Port Arthur, Jefferson county, Texas

BURIED: Mount Hope Cemetery, Wells, Cherokee county, Texas

PARENTS:  R.L. Brown & Marguerite Puckett (as named on Catherine’s death certificate)


1861 – 1865:  Civil War. Catherine and her parents lived in Mississippi. Relatives fought on the side of the Confederacy.

30 March 1870 – Texas readmitted to the Union.

October 1870 – Brown family moved to Cherokee county, Texas.

1870s to 1930s – agricultural growth, especially cotton in Cherokee county. Railroad expansion meant that smaller towns disappeared. Sawmill towns proliferated in East Texas.

1930s- farming declined in the area although cotton is still a significant crop. Timber and cattle becoming more prominent.


Catherine barely remembered her life before Texas. She called Cherokee county, Texas, her home for 60 years and that’s where she is buried. Married at 17 to a widower with 3 children,  life revolved around her husband, James Powell, children and step-children.  She loved them all.  She bore the loss of at least one child, possibly two. Then, unexpectedly, James died in 1890. Catherine, only 30 years old, became a widow with three young children to raise. The next years were difficult for the family.

Elias Barker’s family lived near James and Catherine. Remember, ‘near’ in the 1890s meant within a mile or two or on the next farm. When Elias’ wife, Launa, died in 1892, Catherine may have attended the funeral.  However they met, Elias and Catherine married in September 1892 and another blended family was born.  Three children were born to this union: Reba Barker in 1893; Ernest Emory Barker in 1896 and Alpha M. Barker in 1898. Their happiness was short-lived. Elias Barker died in August 1900, only months after the Twelfth Census of the United States.  Ten years after the death of her first husband, Catherine again found herself a widow with young children to raise.

During the next years, the family moved from place to place. 1910 found Catherine as head of household in Wildhurst, Cherokee county, “one of the many sawmill towns in East Texas,”  with her three children by Elias Barker.  Sometime after this, she became dependent on her children.  In 1920, Catherine lived with her son, William Powell, in Alto, Cherokee county,  Texas.  Between 1920 and 1930, she moved to Claiborne Parish, Louisiana, with her daughter, Reba Barker Dennis.  They moved back to Texas by 1935 and resided in Port Arthur, Jefferson county, Texas in 1940.

Children of Elias Barker and Catherine Brown Powell:

  1. Reba ‘Bertie’ Barker. (5 August 1893 – February 1990). Married Joe Mavert Dennis. Reba and Joe had two children: Lilly Kathryn Dennis (25 March 1915 – October 1993), married in 1935 to Alton G. Hall (1904 – 1985);  Joseph M. Dennis JR (12 September 1923 – 17 November 1999), married to  Betty F. Thomas ( 1924- 2016 ).
  2. Ernest Emory Barker (17 February 1896 – 23 October 1965). Married 4 May 1919 to Willie Etta Mae Chilcoat (1902-1944). Children of Ernest and Willie Etta: Norma Kathryn Barker Carlin (1921-2016); Clara Inez Barker Kelly (1924-2011); Edith Mae Barker Meadows (1926-1996); Billie Nell Barker Benoit (1928 – 1997); James Reginald Barker (1930-1992); Roy Milton Barker (1935 – 2006); Reba Sue Barker Tomplait (1939 – ? ).
  3. Alpha M. Barker (6 September 1898 – 19 March 1991). Married about 1921 to Sherman Albert McCoy (11 Dec 1895- 8 August 1966). Children of Alpha and Sherman: Albert Merle McCoy (1921-1968); Billy O. McCoy (1924 – 1925); Donald Ray McCoy (1938-2007).

Mrs. Catherine Barker died on March 8, 1944, in Port Arthur, Jefferson county, Texas at the age of 83 years, 3 months and 20 days. Cause of death? Uremia, an elevated level of waste products in the kidneys, usually the result of chronic kidney disease.  She is buried in the Mount Hope Cemetery at Wells, Cherokee county, Texas, near Elias Barker.  Interestingly, her gravestone shows her name as “Kathryn”.  She signed her name as “Mrs. Catherine Barker” on her Widow’s Pension Application and “Catherine” is the spelling that I use.

Journeys taken by Catherine Brown Powell Barker:

About 1870:  Simpson county, Mississippi to Cherokee County, Texas – about 360 miles

1870 to 1920:  Within Cherokee County, Texas – about 10 to 15 miles for each move

Between 1920 &  1930:  Alto, Cherokee County, Texas to Homer, Claiborne Parish, Louisiana—about 180 miles

Between 1930 & 1935:  Homer, Claiborne Parish, Louisiana to Port Arthur, Jefferson County, Texas – about 245 miles

1944:  Port Arthur, Jefferson County, Texas to Wells, Cherokee County, Texas – about 145 miles




This series represents work that began in 2011. I added some details in 2017 and more as I wrote.  Confession time–I consulted more sources than are listed here. I was not as obsessive about listing each source separately. Why? No specific reason. I have the documents and references in my paper and digital files. If you want or need a more complete list, I will provide it to you.  Future posts will revert to  more comprehensive source lists.

What I learned:  There are multiple stories for each person. I enjoyed writing the stories as I tried to personalize the events in each person’s life.  Call the stories ‘historical fiction’ if you like. I don’t have evidence to support parts but the stories are based on real events.

What helped:  Previous work on the Ellerbee family. Semi-complete paper files. Entering information to Roots Magic. Catherine’s middle name from death certificate of daughter, Katherine Deborah Powell Ellerbee.

What didn’t help: Incomplete information about some of the children in each nuclear and blended family.

To-do:  Continue to follow collateral lines at some point in future.  Search for picture of Catherine Brown Powell Barker.  Consolidate all 5 parts into a cohesive document and send for publication in local or state journal.  Consider a ‘process’ post about how I put information together.  Explore Catherine’s connection (1910 census) to Wildhurst, Texas, a town that ceased to exist after the sawmill closed in 1944.


Jefferson county, Texas, death certificates, death certificate #14269 (1944), Mrs. Catherine Barker, 8 March 1944; digital images, Ancestry (  : accessed & downloaded 9 November 2017); citing Texas Department of State Health Services, “Texas Death Certificates, 1903-1982”, Austin, Texas.

Catherine Brown & J T L Powell:  “Texas, Marriage Index, 1824-2014,” database, Ancestry (   : accessed 1 February 2020), entry for J.T. L. Powell and Catherine Brown; citing Texas Department of State Health Services and county marriage records on microfilm located at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Catherine Barker widow’s pension: “Widow’s Application for Confederate Pension”, 8 February, 1932, Catherine Barker, widow’s pension application no. 50567,service of James Thomas Lafayette Powell (lieutenant, Co. C, 25th Regiment Georgia Infantry, Civil War); “U.S. Confederate Pensions, 1884-1958,”   Ancestry (   : accessed,downloaded, printed 29 Nov 2012)  citing Texas, Confederate Pension Applications,1899-1975, Vol. 1-646 & 1-283, Texas State Library and Archives Commission, Austin, Texas.

“Texas Marriage Collection, 1814-1909 and 1966-2002,” database, Ancestry (   : accessed and printed 29 November 2012), entry for E. Barker and Mrs. Catherine Powell, 25 September 1892; citing Texas Department of State Health Services and county marriage records on microfilm located at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

1900 U.S. Census, Cherokee county, Texas, population schedule, Justice Precinct 8, enumeration district (ED) 0030, p. 1B (ink pen) & p. 2A, dwelling 16, family 16, Catherine Booker [Barker]; digital images, Ancestry (   : accessed, downloaded 9 October 2019); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. , microfilm publication T 623, Roll 1619.

1910 U.S. Census, Cherokee county, Texas, population schedule, Wildhurst, enumeration district (ED) 24, p. 1A (ink pen), dwelling 5, family 5, Catherine Barker head, age 48; digital images, Ancestry (   : accessed, printed, downloaded 11 October 2019); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T624_1538.

1920 U.S. Census, Cherokee county, Texas, population schedule, Alto town, Justice precinct 2, enumeration district (ED) 21, p. 6B (ink pen), dwelling 127, family 131, Barker Katherine, mother, age 62; digital images, Ancestry ( : accessed, downloaded, printed   11 October 2019); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T625_1786.

1930 U.S. Census, Claiborne Parish, Louisiana, population schedule, Homer City, enumeration district (ED) 14-16, p. 7B (ink pen), dwelling 145, family 146, Borker [Barker] Kathyrn, mother, age 69; digital images, Ancestry (   : accessed, printed, downloaded 11 October 2019); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T626.

1940 U.S. Census, Jefferson county, Texas, population schedule, Port Arthur, enumeration district (ED) 123-100, p. 15A (ink pen), dwelling 331, Barker Catherine, age 79; digital images, Ancestry  (       : accessed, printed, downloaded 11 October 2019); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T0627_04079.

Find A Grave memorials for Reba Barker Dennis, J.M. Dennis, Lilly Kathryn Dennis, Alton G. Hall, Joseph M. Dennis, JR ; Emory Ernest Barker, Billie Nell Barker Benoit; accessed November 2019 through January 2020.

Texas Birth Index entries for Reba Sue Barker, Lilly Kathryn Dennis; accessed January 2020.

John R. Ross, “Cherokee county”, no date, Texas State Historical Association (   :   accessed 15 Jan 2020).

“Wildhurst, Texas,” no date, Historic Texas (  :   accessed 2 February 2020).

© Susan Posten Ellerbee and Posting Family Roots, 2020


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