Capt. John Files Tom’s Family Tree
Capt. John Files Tom’s Family Tree
John Files Tom was a major player in Texas history. Born in Tennessee in 1818, he moved with his family to Texas in 1835 and when he was 17, he joined the volunteer army fighting for Texas’ independence from Mexico.
He served under Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston, participating in several of the most famous battles of that war. During the battle of San Jacinto—which the Texans won and which ended the military conflict—a musket ball shattered Tom’s knee. He recovered from that injury and went on to serve as a Texas Ranger during the Civil War.
Before his death in 1906, he also served as sheriff of Guadalupe County and was elected to the Texas House of Representatives. Tom was married twice: first to Mary Ann Moffitt, with whom he had four daughters, and after her death, to Nancy Henderson; they had eight children together.
One of those eight children was the grandmother of noted Sherman, Texas quilt artist and pattern designer Shirley Fowlkes Stevenson. In 1984, Shirley decided that she wanted to make an historical quilt to commemorate the 150th birthday of Texas in 1986, and she looked no further than her own great-grandfather for inspiration.
For two years Shirley worked on an album quilt, Capt. Tom, A Tall Texan, which features her original appliqué scenes from Tom’s remarkable life. The quilt has won numerous awards and it was chosen for inclusion in Lone Stars III: A Legacy of Texas Quilts, 1986-2011, the third in the trilogy of books documenting great Texas quilts by Karey Patterson Bresenhan and Nancy O’Bryant Puentes. It was also chosen to be part of the inaugural exhibition at the Texas Quilt Museum in La Grange, Texas.
La Grange is a delightful small city in east central Texas, and the Texas Quilt Museum is a welcome addition there, bringing many new visitors to the community. The mayor of La Grange, Janet Moerbe, is especially excited about the Museum. She was fully expecting to be awed and inspired by the quilts on display, but she was definitely not expecting to see a relative of hers depicted in one of them. Imagine her surprise when, entering the space and seeing Captain Tom, A Tall Texan hanging on the wall, she realized that she was looking at a depiction of her great-, great-uncle’s life.
Janet Moerbe’s great-, great-grandfather was John Files Tom’s brother. The mayor knew all about Captain Tom, because she had recently completed all the research and paperwork necessary to become certified as a Daughter of the Republic of Texas (DRT). DRT membership is limited to descendents of those who served Texas prior to 1846, when Texas ceased being a separate country and became one of the United States.
Shirley Fowlkes Stevenson is also a member of the DRT, but she did not know about Janet Moerbe’s great-, great-uncle. The two women are planning on getting acquainted when Shirley visits the museum in the near future. No doubt their shared ancestry will be high on their list of conversational topics. It seems as though Captain Tom is still making history.
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Column 95: Her Mother Pieced Quilts
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