Isaac and Mary Jane Power
By Ronald Jack Wright
Isaac and Mary Jane Power were early Texas pioneers who settled in Tarrant County when Fort Worth was still a military fort and life on the prairie was wrought with dangers for settlers and their families. Isaac Power, a native of Alabama, received a Headright Grant from the Republic of Texas in 1839. He and his wife, Mary Jane, a native of Illinois, settled first in East Texas in a section of Houston County that became part of Cherokee County. In 1853 they brought their growing family to southern Tarrant County near present-day Rendon to farm 140 acres of prairie that had been part of the Hiram Little League. The family prospered, and by the 1860s their land holdings had grown to more than 400 acres.
Like most people in Tarrant County, the familyÕs fortunes waned during the Civil War. The only food and supplies were those they produced themselves. Potatoes were parched and boiled as a substitute for coffee, and red corncobs were burned and the ashes used for soda. Famished for salt and no way to obtain it, the family removed the floor from what had been a full smokehouse and boiled the boards to extract the salt.
During the war, the two oldest sons, Thomas and George, served as Texas Rangers fighting Indians on the West Texas frontier. Both returned after the war, but Thomas would forever carry the scars from an arrow in his back, the result of an Indian attack as he was crossing a creek.
Isaac Power died in 1866 and was the first burial in what became the tiny Power Cemetery, one of the oldest pioneer cemeteries in southern Tarrant County. He left his widow, Mary Jane, to finish raising their children, two of whom were infants.
In the years following his death, the familyÕs holdings grew, adding significantly to the value of Isaac PowerÕs estate. In an effort to keep the estate together, Mary Jane Power refused to give the Power children their shares of the estate as Isaac PowerÕs heirs. In 1876, her son George sued for a partitioning of the estate, which had grown to 1481 acres and a large amount of livestock, including 1000 head of cattle, 200 head of hogs, and 40 horses. The courts decided in favor of the son, and the property was partitioned, with half going to Mary Jane as her part of the community property and half going to the surviving seven children: Thomas, George, Martha Power Grimsley, Wineyford Power Roberts, and minors Mary, David and Sallie Power. Soon afterwards, the son who brought the suit against his mother, George H. Power, sold his share and moved his family to Wise County.
In 1878 Mary Jane Power deeded three acres of her land near Village Creek to trustees of the Little League Common School as a site for a schoolhouse. The Little League School became a well known landmark in Southeast Tarrant County. A Masonic Hall occupied the second story of the schoolhouse.
Mary Jane Power died in 1925 and was the last burial in Power Cemetery. Mary Jane had traveled with her parents down the Mississippi River in a flat-bottom boat to New Orleans and then to Texas in a prairie schooner. She was driving oxen at age 10 and would plow the ground with a baby in her arms after she married. Her later years were spent dressed in black, smoking a pipe reflectively in a rocking chair on her front porch. She was known to be feisty and opinionated, but never swore and disliked those who did.
She died in the cabin high on the prairie that had been her home for 58 years. She was placed in a simple wooden box and carried to the family cemetery in a wagon where she was laid to rest with other family members. At the time of her death she had 44 grandchildren, 50 great-grandchildren, and had outlived all of her children but one, Wineyford Roberts.
Mary JaneÕs exact age is a mystery. An extensive article in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, dated February 3, 1924, listed her age as 114, and stated that she was the oldest living person in the county. A similar article printed when she died a year later, stated that she was then 115. Her marble tombstone repeats this age, listing her birth in 1810. These articles, however, are not consistent with U.S. Census Records. Unfortunately, those records also vary widely, with possible birth years from 1825 to 1832.