Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tamsitt, Powell, and Kavanaugh Families in Howard County, Texas

Contributed by James R. Tamsitt (Austin, Texas)jtam121419@austin.rr.com

The first railroad to lay tracks across West Central Texas     

was the Texas & Pacific Railway Company.  The T & P reached

Big Spring in 1881, having begun to lay the Texas portion of its

tracks west from Texarkana in 1873, and Big Spring became the

division point between Ft. Worth and El Paso (Texas Almanac

2008- 2009, TX. State Hist. Assn.)    Its shops became a major

industry in the county (A Howard Co., Texas Primer, vol. 1, 1997)

and provided employment for many of my family who made Big

Spring their home.

I am grateful to the late Robert Coyner for access to his exhaustive

data on the genealogy of the Tamsitt family and to John Currie for facts on Frank

Powell.  The late Thelma Kent gave access to family photographs in her possession.

Pat and Rigsby Kavanaugh allowed me to examine family photos, and

Charlotte K. Wilson gave useful data on the life of Willie Kavanaugh.  


            My great grandfather, Steven Tamsitt (1850-1923), was born in Ashford, Kent,

England, and, as a young man, immigrated to the U. S. in 1870.  In 1874 he married Martha

Wheatley (1849-1929), a young woman he had known in England in his youth.  He and

Martha lived in Illinois, where my grandfather James Oliver “Pop” (1875-1932) and

great aunt Edith May Tamsitt (1880-1933) were born.  After his older brother George M. Tamsitt

(1844-1925) moved to Marshall, Texas, Steven and family followed, and the brothers obtained

work in the railroad yards.  But opportunites in West Texas beckoned, and  Steve Tamsitt rode

the first train into Big Spring in May 1881.  The family moved to this small town where shops

and a station of the Texas & Pacific Railway Company offered employment for Machinists and

men of other trades.  My great grandfather Steven was a foreman of the T & P blacksmith

shops for more than 40 years.  Steven and Martha owned several pieces of property in

Big Spring and were members of the Episcopal Church.  Martha was the last Charter Member

of the Church when she died on March 21, 1929, at age 81  [D. Phillips, Big Spring's

Best (Before the Bust): 1929].

            When he was 21, my grandfather J. O. Tamsitt married May Powell

(1879-1953), the daughter of Thomas Buchanan “Can” (1846-1939) and Eva L. Powell

(1853-1935). Eva was a niece of the abolitionist John Brown, who, with armed

followers, raided Harpers Ferry, W. Va., in 1859.  The family came from Sweetwater, having

originated in Pennsyvania.  Can Powell, a blacksmith in his younger years, was the oldest

World War I veteran and the last Union Army veteran in the country at the time of his death

in 1939 at age 93 (Big Spring Herald, 1939).

            May Powell came to Big Spring when “sweet sixteen” and had several siblings.

Frank Powell (1895-1969) owned a filling station in the 1800 block of Gregg St. and for

a time had an auto repair shop, Powell’s Garage.  Frank was married to Esther Powell

(1897-1996) and lived in the 500 block of Johnson St.  Frank was a man of few words

and even less hair.  The union was childless. Charlie Powell (1884-1966) became a cook

and lived in San Francisco, Galveston, and elsewhere before ending his days in a

Masonic Home in Ft. Worth, Texas.  Grace Cardwell (1881-1975) married at age 18 and

divorced after the birth of her only child, Ruth E. Mathews (1901-1998).  Grace lived in

El Paso, Texas, most of her adult life.  Lily (1888-1977) married William M Robinson

(1873-1945),  an immigrant from England.  He was a Brakeman and later Headmaster for

the T & P Railroad in Toyah, Texas.  They had no children.  Ora Lee Powell (1873-1967)

married Robert L. Wood (1863–1934), a rancher from Texas, when she was 17.  Their

home was Portales,  New Mexico.  Maude Powell (1887-1973) moved to Tucumcari, N.M.,

and few data of her exist.

              My grandparents Tamsitt built a house at 307 Johnson St. and had two children,

my father Guy James (1898-1944) and Lillian Alice Tamsitt (1903-1997). My

grandparents were active in civic affairs and attended the First Presbyterian Church.  J. O.

Tamsitt belonged to the Big Spring Volunteer Fire Department, for a time was County

Tax Collector, and was Financial Secretary of the local Machinists Lodge (Machinists’

Monthly Journal, vol. 33, no. 2, p. 157, 1921).  May Tamsitt was an early member of the

Big Spring Home and School Club, which later became the Parent Teacher Association

(History of  Howard County, Howard County Historical Commission, p. 22, 1982).  Of

Big Spring, May Tamsitt said, “I have lived here a good many years and still love the old

town as I did when I first came here.” (Big Spring Herald, 1939).

            Edith May Tamsitt (1880-1933) married Edward E. Brindley in 1896, but the

marriage did not last,  and in 1911 she married W. G. Nabors.  They had two daughters,

Minnie Belle and Edith May, who settled in Dallas.  Minnie Belle married Harvey

Williamson, and Edith May married John Seymore.  Aunt Edith committed suicide

by a gun shot to the head and is buried near the Tamsitt plot in New Mt. Olive

Cemetery, Big Spring.

            After graduation from Big Spring High School, Lillian Alice married Aubrey

Lynn Kent (1902-1972), and they moved to Louisiana, where their only child, James

William “Billy” Kent (1923-2005), was born.   As a young man Bill enlisted in the U. S.

Air Force and retired as a Senior Master Sergeant after 23 years.  He married Thelma

Walker (1922-2012) of Crockett, Texas, and the family was stationed in Ft. Worth and Wichita

FallsTexas; Lincoln, Nebraska; and Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  Bill served overseas

during World War II, was shot down twice,and lived to tell about it.  He was interned

for a while in Turkey.  Bill worked as a supervisor at General Dynamics after retiring from

the Air Force. 

            Bill and Thelma had two children, Jimmy Michael (1947 -) and Sherry Lee

(1954 -).  Jimmy “Mike” graduated from The University of Texas at Austin and lives in

Austin, where he owns a home security business.  A graduate of California State

University at Sacramento, Sherry married James R. Burgeson (USAF Ret.) (1948-)

They lived in Guam, Rapid City, South Dakota, Sacramento, and Omaha, Nebraska,

before retiring to Austin. Their son Michael James (1981-) graduated from Texas State

University in San Marcos, Texas, and is a law enforcement Officer with the Austin

Police Department.

            The union with Aubrey Kent was short lived, and Aunt Lillian married William

Hugh Dugan (1892-1974), a Brakeman and Conductor with the Texas and Pacific

Railroad.   They lived many years in Ft. Worth, Texas, and had two children, Jackson

Raymond Dugan (1940 -) and Evelyn Olivia Dugan (1945 -). Jack attended The

University of Texas at Austin, where he majored in Accounting and played varsity

basketball.  He became a tax lawyer and settled in Dallas, Texas.  Jack married

Adrianna Klentos (1937 -), and they have one daughter, Cristina Elaine Dugan.  Cristina

married Eric Schmidt, and they have two sons, Hunter William and Mathew Charles.

            Evelyn studied Journalism at The University of Texas at Austin, where she

met her future husband, John Paul Sommers (1945 -). John obtained his Ph. D. in

Statistics, and for a time they lived in Dallas, where Evelyn obtained her M. B. A. from

Southern Methodist University. They moved to Washington, D. C., where John worked

for the U. S. Government and Evelyn was Director of  a national nursing association for

many years. They make Bethesda, Maryland, their retirement home.

        My father Guy Tamsitt became an apprentice at the railroad shops when he was a lad

and rode his donkey "Dobbin" to work.  His training served him well, and for many years he owned

a sheet metal shop with T. B. McGinnis near Third and Johnson Sts.  In 1924

Guy married Steva May Kavanaugh (1905-1997), daughter of Alfred Rigsby (1881-1960)

and Della Viola Kavanaugh (1881-1965).  They built a house at 712 Goliad Street,

where I was born in 1928.  My sister Lillian Nell (1931-2006) was born in the Bivings

and Barcus Hospital in July 1931.   My parents decided that the nearby city of Midland

offered more opportunities than did Big Spring, and we moved there in the early 1940's.

A house was built on N. Marienfield St. near the city center, and my father built a shop

not far from the railroad depot.  After Guy's death in 1944, we returned to Big Spring

and the house on Goliad St. 

            After Lillian graduated from Big Spring High School, she was briefly married to Harold

Berry  (1930-2008) before marrying William Milton Condra (1930-2006) of Austin in 1953.  The

Condras lived for a time in Big Spring before moving to Austin and eventually retiring in Kerrville.

Bill worked for SW Bell Telephone Company for many years before becoming a Real Estate Agent

and Insurance Broker, and Lillian worked for the State National Bank when they

lived in Big Spring. Lill later owned and ran a Gift Shop in a local mall for several years.

They had two sons, Guy (1955 -) and Phil (1961 -).

            Guy graduated from Crockett High School in Austin and attended

Texas A and M University, where he graduated with a B. S. degree in Biology

and met his first wife, Debra Stallings.  They had four daughters. Christi Lynn Condra

(1978 -) obtained her degree in Nursing from Emory University and is a nurse in Oakland, CA,

studying to become a Nurse Practitioner. Fraternal twins Marsha Lee (1980 -) and Shelly Marie

(1980 -) graduated from The University of Texas at San Antonio and live in Boerne, TX.  Marsha

teaches high school Mathematics, and Shelly is an Architectural Designer.  Marsha divorced Nat

Pendleton  after several years of marriage and had two children, Keith (2000 -) and Addison

(2004 -).  Marsha is now married to Ken Guidry.  Shelly married Victor Garza, and they have a girl,

Marisa Joy (2005 -).  Kimberly Joy (1983 -) graduated from Texas A and M University and

teaches Mathematics in Boerne.  In 2008 Kimberly married Ryan McGinnis, who works for two

companies that drill water wells and sell irrigation systems.

           Guy has been in construction as a Contractor for much of his adult life and lives in

Boerne.  With his second wife, Lisa Rodawalt (1960 -), now divorced,  they have one daughter,

Katelyn (1989 -), who attended Texas Tech University in Lubbock and now lives in Houston.  She

and her companion have a daughter..

            Phil graduated from Texas A & M with a degree in Civil Engineering and, after

several years in commercial construction, was employed by The University of Texas

System in Austin for many years before returning to work in the private sector.  .  He married

Sarah “Sally” Hagan (1964 -) in 1985, and their children are Philip Condra II (1990 - ),

 a student at Austin Community College, Mary Catherine (1992 -), a student at Texas A & M

University, and Patrick  (1996 -), a student at Austin High School in Austin, Texas.

            I graduated from Big Spring High School in 1946 and attended The University of

Texas at Austin, where I entered the Plan II Liberal Arts Honors program and was awarded the

B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees in Zoology.  I was on staff at the University of the Andes,

Bogotá, Colombia (1959-1963), the University of Manitoba (1957-1958) in Winnipeg,  the

University of Toronto and the Royal Ontario Museum (1967-1985), Canada, and was a

National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Medicine in San Juan,

Puerto Rico (1965-1967). Twice (1975, 1982) I was a Senior Fulbright Lecturer in Colombia.

I was a Visiting Professor of Biology at the Javeriana University, Bogotá (1975, 1982), at the

National University of Colombia in Bogotá (1982), and at the Industrial University of Santander

in Bucaramanga, Colombia (1982).  My research through the years was supported by the

Rockefeller Foundation, the National Research Council of Canada, the Americamn Philisophical

Society, The Society of the Sigma Xi, and other granting entities.   I have numerous scientific

publications (some  are in my web site www.austincc.edu/tamsitt), and with Dr. Dario Valdivieso

I co-authored a chapter on bats in the book A Tropical Rain Forest, H. Odum, editor, 1970.  

With co- authors I described a Colombian bat (Sturnira aratathomasi) and a Puerto Rican bat

(Stenoderma rufum darioi) as new to science.   I was Associate Editor of the Journal of

Mammalogy (1968-1970) and an Editor of Life Sciences Publications, Royal Ontario Museum,

on two occasions (1971-1973, 1981-1984). I am listed in American Men and Women of

Science, Who’s Who in the South and Southwest, Who’s Who in Science and Engineering,

and I am a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of  Science, the

Herpetologists' League, and of Sigma Xi, the Honorary Research Society of America. 

A Colombian frog new to science, Pristimantis (=Eleutherodactylus) tamsitti, was named

for me.  I was an Adjunct Professor at The University of Texas at Austin (1986 -1988) and at

Austin Community College (1988- 1998) before retiring in 1998 at age 70.  I volunteered at

University Medical Center Brackenridge (2002-2009) and was Treasurer of the Brackenridge

Hospital Auxillary for several years (2004-2008) until illness mandated my retirement.

An intrepid traveler, I  am using my ninth passport.


Steve and Martha Tamsitt with their children, James Oliver and Edith May, Big Spring, Texas, ca. 1880.

Steve Tamsitt and family at home, 4th and Runnels Sts., Big Spring, Texas, ca. 1904.  From left:  Martha, James Oliver, Edith at piano, Steven.  The lad seated on the floor is Guy James.

The J.O. Tamsitt home at 307 Johnson St., Big Spring, Texas (white roof at right) seen from the hill where the City Hall and Auditorium were later constructed. The Ritz Theater is the large building on the left.  To the right of the Ritz is the First Methodist Church, then the school, then the Courthouse, and then the Crawford Hotel.  Left of the Tamsitt house is the Hodges home, and then the house on the corner at Fourth and Johnson Sts. is where Phillips Tire was built.

The home of Steve and Martha Tamsitt at 4th and Runnels Sts., in Big Spring, Texas.  The Ritz Theater looms behind the house.

                 May Powell Tamsitt as a young lady.  Taken in Kaufman, Texas, ca. 1880
James Oliver "Pop" Tamsitt, Big Spring, Texas.  Ca. 1928.

                                         May Powell Tamsitt, Big Spring, Texas.  Ca. 1928.

Baby Guy James Tamsitt, Big Spring, Texas.  Ca. 1898-1899.

                           Young Guy James Tamsitt, Big Spring, Texas.  Ca. 1904-1905.

                    Guy James Tamsitt as a young man, Big Spring, Texas.  Ca.1914-1915.

Guy and Lillian Tamsitt with his donkey Dobbin.  Guy rode Dobbin to the railroad yards when he was an apprentice. Taken at 305 Johnson St., Big Spring, Texas, ca. 1905.

The J. O. and May Tamsitt house at 307 Johnson St., Big Spring, Texas. On the porch are (from left) May, Lillian, Guy, and J. O. "Pop" Tamsitt.

Lillian Tamsitt Dugan in school finery. Taken in Corry, Pa, age 10 or 11 (1913 or 1914).  She was not fond of the photo, from the bow on her head, her curls, the lace on the dress, socks to shoes.  She didn't like being "gussied up,"according to her daughter Evelyn.  It was all too fancy for her liking!

                      Guy Tamsitt in the Tin Shop near Third and Runnels Sts., Big Spring, Texas, 1928.

Guy Tamsitt with his grandparents, Eva and Can Powell. Guy joined the Navy in World War I and was stationed at Pensacola, Florida.  Can was in the Army when he was younger and was stationed at the Army Post Office in El Paso, Texas.  Big Spring, Texas, ca. 1917-1918.

         Thomas  Buchannan "Can" Powell, Thurman Studio, Big Spring, Texas.  No date given.

J. O. "Pop" Tamsitt with his parents, Martha and Steven Tamsitt, Big Spring, Texas. No date given

J. O. Tamsitt, Martha Tamsitt (holding J. R. Tamsitt), and Guy Tamsitt. Taken on porch at 307 Johnson St., Big Spring, Texas, 1929.

Toward the end of World War II Guy Tamsitt (lower right) joined  the Navy and was stationed in Gulfport, Mississippi, 1918.

Vacation in Long Beach, CA. 1920's.  From left:  J. O. "Pop" Tamsitt, May Powell Tamsitt, Grace Powell Cardwell, and Can Powell.

712 Goliad St. at 8th St., Big Spring, Texas, recently-built home of Guy J. and Steva M. Tamsitt. Steva is in the back yard holding baby Jim.  1929

Guy and Steva Tamsitt, James Ray and Lillian Nell, Big
Spring, Texas.  1933.

East Ward, Big Spring, Texas,  1933, First Grade.  Mrs. Troup was the teacher.  I am 2nd row, far right, in overalls. A. J. Cain, 3rd from left, and Leatrice Ross, 3rd from right, are also in the 2nd row. Lola Neill is 2nd from left on top row.

East Ward, Big Spring, Texas. 3rd Grade, 1937.  I am 3rd from left, 2nd row.  Lola Neill is at far left, 2nd row, and James Edward Brooks is at center, first row.  The teacher was Mrs. Long.  











My grandfather, Alfred Rigsby (A. R.) Kavanaugh (1881-1960), the second of four surviving

children of Emily (1850-1941) and John Harmon Kavanaugh (1848 - 1889), was born in

HendersonRusk County, Texas. His middle name is the maiden name of his mother, Emily

Apless Rigsby (Emily’s middle name has also been written as Aplis or Applis in family

documents) .

      Willie Annah Kavanaugh (1872- 1926), the oldest sibling, married William Royal

Brownlee,  had 12 children, and lived most of her life in East TexasJohn Herring

Kavanaugh (1879-1957) married Ida May Montgomery, and after her death, Birdie (Bertie)

P. Seale became his  second wife.  John was the editor and publisher of the Round

Rock Leader for many years.   Alvin Lucian Kavanaugh (1882 – 1987) became a farmer

and lived most of his life in California.  My grandfather Rigsby was a farmer in his younger

years but worked for the T & P Railroad most of his adult life, first as a Fireman and then

as an Engineer. Grandad made the run from Baird to Toyah and later from Big Spring to

El Paso.  In 1901 he married Della Viola Downs (1881-1965) of  Marquez, Leon County,

Texas. The couple lived in Ft. Worth and Baird before settling in Big Spring. Their house

was on the corner of Goliad and East Fourth Streets, and they were members of the East Fourth

Street  Baptist Church. Grandad survived a severe heart attack in the late 1930’s and retired

from the Railroad. He and my  grandmother moved to Austin, Texas, to be at a lower elevation

for his health.

       They had eight children, but only five lived to adulthood.  Their first child, Maybell (1902),

died at birth. Their fifth child, Rigsby Alfred (1908 – 1911), died from childhood diabetes.

Kathlyn (1920 – 1924), their seventh child, died from a  heart defect. The oldest son, Alvin

Luther (1903 - 1963), graduated from Big Spring High School, married Imo Farmer (1908 -

1984), and moved to northern California, where they raised four children. The youngest son,

David Carroll (1922 – 2001), married Barbara Welter, and they and their four children made

Washington State their home. The second oldest daughter, Mary Emily (1907 – 1982), married

Leo Fitzsimmons in 1932, and, with their two daughters Viola and Emma, lived in Corpus

Christi, Texas. The youngest daughter, Wynelle (1913 – 1986), married Alvie Porter in 1933,

and they and their four children settled in northwestern Arizona.

        Of the five surviving children, only my mother, Steva May Tamsitt Brown (1905 –

1997), the oldest daughter, lived in Big Spring or vicinity during her married life (see Tamsitt

 history for offspring). After the death of my father Guy Tamsitt (1898 - 1944), Steva was a

widow many years before her marriage to Andrew "Andy" D. Brown (1895 - 1975), a farmer

and cotten buyer from Ackerly, Texas.  After Andy Brown's death, Steva moved to Austin,

Texas, to be near her daughter Lillian Tamsitt Condra and family, and her remaining years

were spent here.

           10 April 2012

Emily Apless Rigsby, my Great Grandmother, was born in Tyler, Texas, in 1850. This tintype photo was taken in 1866 when she was 16-years-old.

My Grandfather Alfred Rigsby, left, and his older brother, John Herring Kavanaugh. Probably taken in Tyler County, Texas, ca. 1890.

Siblings John Herring (back left), Alfred Rigsby, Lucian, and Willie Annah with their mother Emily Rigsby Kavanaugh. Picture taken ca. 1900 when Emily was about 50 years old.

My Grandfather Alfred Rigsby Kavanaugh and my Grandmother Della Viola Downs, taken at the time of their marriage in Ft. Worth, Texas, in 1901.

Alfred Rigsby Kavanaugh and Della Downs Kavanaugh, Big Spring, Texas. No
date given.

Rigsby and Della Kavanaugh, Austin, Texas, 1954 

Steva May (left) and Alvin Kavanaugh, 1905, the year of Steva's birth, Ft. Worth, Texas

Siblings Alvin (left), Mary, Rigsby, and my Mother Steva May Kavanaugh, ca. 1910, Marshall, Texas. Rigsby died the next year from Juvenile Diabetes Mellitus.

David Carroll and Kathlyn were the youngest children of A. R. and Della Kavanaugh, taken in Big Spring, Texas, Bradshaw Studio, ca. 1924. Kathlyn died of an enlarged heart soon after this was taken.

My grandparents lived at 400 Goliad St., in Big Spring,
and this was taken in the front yard in 1929. My Uncle Carroll is the lad on the left, and my Grandmother Della is holding me.

Swimming attire in the Roaring Twenties! My Father Guy and my Mother Steva Kavanaugh Tamsitt Brown at a local Big Spring pool. 1920’s.

My Mother Steva (right) at age 13, with her life-long friend Ana Myrl McGowan. Taken in Baird, Texas, 1918.

My mother Steva as a teenager.  Big Spring, Texas.  No date given,  ca. 1920.. 

Reunion of A. R. and J. H. Kavanaugh families with the matriarch, Emily Rigsby Kavanaugh, seated in front, 1941, Round Rock, Texas. My Grandfather is standing behind his Mother, my Grandmother is to his right, and his brother John to his left. My Uncle Carroll is standing at far left.