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The Diuguid Family, Patrick Henry

and

Danville, Texas

 by Karen "Candy" Lawless

 

    We all know that Patrick Henry was the first post-colonial governor of Virginia, a lawyer and an outspoken advocate of the Revolutionary War, and it is common knowledge that Henry was born and raised in the wilds of the Virginia countryside, a son of Col. John Henry of Scotland and his wife, Sarah Winston. His life is written up in the history books, and numerous biographies have been published about him. But in the course of my genealogy research, I discovered that one of my Texas ancestors who settled and died in the little community of Danville in Montgomery County had ties to the Patrick Henry family back in Virginia.

    It is not a well-known fact that William Diuguid (b. 1717, Aberdeen, Scotland - d. 1764, Buckingham Co., Virginia) was a first cousin to Patrick Henry. William's mother was Jean Henry, a sister of Patrick Henry's father, Col. John Henry. When William emigrated from Scotland to Virginia ca. 1740s, he lived with his uncle John Henry and family before marrying Anne Moss in 1745. An extant letter found in the Library of Congress in Patrick Henry's personal correspondence proves the relationships between the Duguid/Diuguid family and the Henry family. A transcript of the 1790 letter from William’s half-sister, Margaret Donald of Scotland, written to Patrick Henry in Virginia.  See Margaret Donald to Gov. Patrick Henry So, what does this have to do with Texas?  

    One of my ggg-grandmothers was Jemima Susanna "Susan" Diuguid (1825-1897), a great-granddaughter of William Diuguid. In 1844 she married George Anderson Spiller (1818-1854) in Lynchburg, Campbell County, Virginia, as Spiller’s second wife. Two years later, along with their one-year-old son William Fielding Spiller (1847-1913), they set out on an 11-week trek by wagon on route to Danville, Montgomery County, Texas where George's older brother, Samuel Fielding Spiller and his wife, Elizabeth Kyle, had gone a year or so earlier. Samuel must have been sending glowing reports back to his brothers in Virginia because a younger brother, Preston Hampden Spiller (1825-aft.1875) and his wife Mary Elizabeth "Betty" Gary, also followed in 1851.  

     George kept a diary and wrote letters about their trip to Texas.  See Esperanza: Story of the Spiller Family - Virginia to Texas.  The Spillers, along with numerous other brave souls, made their first Texas home in Danville, located in the middle of the Joseph Lindley Survey in Montgomery County. Lindley obtained his headright in 1835 and began selling off parcels almost immediately. The townsite was developed by land speculators, merchants, farmers and others along what is now present-day Old Danville Road, just west of I-45 North. Daniel Robinson and Jonathan Collard sold and developed the original town lots of the business district beginning ca. 1847. The lots changed hands frequently as shown by surviving deed records. Each block was approximately one acre in size and contained 8 lots.  There were three blocks on the west side of Main Street (present-day Old Danville Rd.).  The development on the east side of Main was arranged slightly different and possibly had more development on the north end of the townsite. Acreage around the town was homesteaded and farmed. The town thrived up until the civil war, boasting mercantile businesses, a physician's office, apothecary and blacksmith businesses, a Baptist church, a Masonic lodge, general store, and others. A cemetery for some of the local families was located down the road and is still in use today, cared for by descendants.

    The Civil War took its toll on the town's menfolk as well as its economy. During Reconstruction many of the surviving townspeople went bankrupt or moved away, unable to make a living there any longer. The local economy, dependent on the cotton industry, collapsed, and Danville began its decline. The town buildings were gradually vacated and fell into disrepair, being torn down as the land reverted to farmland over time. By 1900, it is found referenced in the deed records as "Old Danville." A school, churches, a blacksmith shop and perhaps other businesses seem to have survived just north of the original townsite, along present-day West Danville Road and near the intersection of present-day Old Danville and West Danville. One early post-civil war Baptist church (New Hope) still occupies the same property on West Danville and the Catholic Diocese still owns its early post-civil war property north of the townsite.

    My ancestor, Susan Diuguid Spiller, was one of the Danvillians who stayed after the Civil War. Widowed in 1854, she ran a boarding house for a while, and when her son became an adult, he farmed their existing land and commenced buying up other acreage in the area. Before the turn of the century he started a new tobacco and cotton plantation called Esperanza just east of Old Danville.  His mother died in 1897 at the age of 71. She lived to see her husband and two daughters buried in the Spiller family plot at Danville Cemetery, where she herself was laid to rest. William married a local Danville girl named Elizabeth Catherine Irvine in 1872. They had a large family of 12 children, two of whom died young. The remaining 10 children moved with William and Elizabeth from the Spiller home in Danville to their new home, Esperanza, probably sometime soon after William's mother died. 

    You can read more about Danville, the Spillers, and some of the other families who lived there at the website Danville Cemetery.  Research into the history of Danville is also being chronicled at Journey to Danville.

  

  

Karen "Candy" Lawless

Texas Heritge Society