Anna Minerva Kimmel was the first bride to be married in Dallas County. She and Crawford Trees applied for a license to wed on July 20, 1846; vows were exchanged and the marriage recorded on July 22. They were two of only 350 people who inhabited the area when Texas, which itself had been admitted as the 28th state of the United States on December 29, 1845, recognized it as a county. The year 1846 was propitious for Dallas. It was the year that Dallas County was chartered, and thus official business could be conducted.
Both Anna Kimmel and Crawford Trees had come to Texas in 1845, she with her recently widowed mother, Catherine Hunsaker Kimmel, and he traveling alone. He was a 22-year-old single man and she a teenager. Both had been born and reared in Union County, Illinois, but had never met until they settled on farms adjoining each other in Dallas County. The Kimmels and Crawford Trees arrived within months of each other, and it was not long before the 22-year-old bachelor was courting his 14-year-old neighbor. Anna married him the following year when she was 15.
They built their home on the highest geographical location in North Texas on a white chalk bluff escarpment surrounded by cedar trees. Since the Kimmel and Trees families were the first settlers west of the Trinity, Anna had only family for neighbors. They were some 15 miles from the John Neely Bryan cabin, a day’s wagon trip. At the time of their marriage, Crawford had already been granted 640 acres of land from Peter’s Colony, property to which they acquired free title after they had lived on it and cultivated it for three years. By the time they had the title, they were already accumulating additional land.
Anna gave birth to their first child on April 11, 1848, making her a 16-year-old mother. They named the premature baby Catherine and kept her alive through sheer determination and ingenuity. Helen Joy Straus Hodge, Anna’s great-granddaughter, tells the family story of her grandmother’s survival. “She weighed only two and a half pounds. Her cradle was a padded wooden box. Her incubator was the back of their wood-burning stove. They kept constant vigil, forcing drops of milk into her mouth.” All the infant wanted to do was sleep, so when she was too tiny or too disinterested to nurse, Anna expressed her milk and forced it into her baby’s mouth.
Survive and thrive the infant did. She grew up to marry Jesse M. Ramsey and continue the lineage of the family through Winnie Ann Ramsey Straus to Helen Straus Hodge. Catherine was the first of Anna’s 10 children, which included Beatrice, born January 31, 1852; David, born May 15, 1854; Philip Wilson, born March 28, 1857; Samuel Henry, born August 24, 1859; Crawford, Jr., born January 20, 1962; Texanna, born November 20, 1864; Mary Ellen, born June 4, 1867; Robert E. Lee, born June 12, 1870 and George Washington, born February 6, 1873. Anna had given birth to her first child when she was 16 and her last when she was 41.
In 1849 when baby Catherine was less than a year old, Crawford, along with most of the other Dallas men, went to California on the gold rush and was gone for two years. Anna was left to manage the farm and livestock. She had two St. Bernard dogs for protection.
Crawford was more successful in his search for a fortune than most of the men who made the trip to California. He returned with several thousand dollars in gold and a thin gold watch and chain, which he willed to Catherine and which was handed down in the family to the first daughter of each generation for more than a hundred years. Crawford invested in land—rich black soil ideal for growing cotton and for raising cattle.
The Trees gave 160 acre farms to each of their children. When Crawford died on January 31, 1899, Anna owned 3,858 acres of land plus some $40,000 in case and stock. Anna Minerva Kimmel Trees died on November 18, 1913. She is buried in the Trees Cemetery in Cedar Hill beside her husband.
Courtesy “Daughters of Dallas” by Vivian Anderson Castleberry.