The Trees family ancestry can be traced from Jacob Trees of Union County, Illinois. He was born in Germany and was one of the first settlers in the State of Illinois.
Crawford Trees, Sr., the son of Jacob Trees, was born in Union County, Illinois December 6, 1823. Crawford, a literate single man, migrated to the Republic of Texas in 1845 at the age of twenty-two. He rode on horseback from Illinois and settled adjacent to the Kimmel tract which was located about fifteen miles south of the John N. Bryan site. Crawford Trees and the Kimmel family were the first white people to settle west of the Trinity River. It is ironic that Crawford and Anna Minerva Kimmel were both born in U n i o n County, Illinois, and traveled separately in 1845 to settle in Texas for the same reasons and, also, to meet for the first time in Dallas County. They were married on 22 July 1846. Their marriage is the first documented and recorded marriage license in Dallas County. Their union produced ten children (David, Philip, Samuel, Crawford Jr., Robert, George, Catherine , Beatrice, Texanna, and Mary).
Crawford and Anna were to live to see most of their children married and settled in life. Anna handled most of the written business. Crawford was literate but usually signed his name with an “X” when he first arrived in Texas.
Crawford and Anna’s original farm site, which lies near the Ramsey land, is on the highest geographical location in North Texas – the white chalk bluff escarpment. It was wooded with Cedar trees. The rich black soil produced crops of cotton and grazing land for the livestock, and natural springs provided water. Their original home site, which burned, was built one half mile southwest of Trees Cemetery. Crawford and Anna were farmers with livestock and became cotton planters. “The nearest settlements were to the east John N. Bryan’s site; to the north of Dallas five miles Old Cedar Springs; and another settlement seventy-five miles distant.” Crawford went to the Red River for his milling. The Indians were frequent visitors, but did little harm. By the year 1849, Crawford and Anna had secured the land grants to their properties by fulfilling their contractual duties to Peters Colony which required that they establish, clear, and produce their land for three years. They were eventually to become one of the five largest land owners in Dallas County. Through much toil and years of labor they acquired several thousand acres of land. Their first patent was issued “prior to 1 July 1845 for 640 acres in Dallas County (Robertson Third Class No. 1653 for 288 acres) and in Johnson County (Robertson Third Class No. 2505 for 352 acres).” The original deed, written on sheepskin and issued by Governor E.M. Pease, is in the possession of Helen Straus Hodge.
In 1849, Crawford left his wife and family with the livestock and two St. Bernard dogs, and rode on horseback to the California gold rush. He returned in 1851 with several thousands dollars in gold, a gold pocket watch and chain, and a horse. On 7 November 1853, Crawford purchased three negro slaves (one woman and two children) for $1200.00 from John N. Bryan to work on the ranch. When the land was sold by Helen Straus Hodge on 15 November 1973, it was the oldest Dallas County ranch to have been owned and operated by a single family. Helen Straus Hodge has donated many of the Trees’ items, periodically, to a museum built by the Cedar Hill Historical Society.
Crawford Trees gave land for the “first school house in Dallas County which also served as a church”. It was called Little Bethel and located at Duncanville. Crawford and Anna were credited with many firsts in Dallas County. His biography in the Memorial & Biographical History of Dallas County, states, “with the exception of the two years spent in California his life was devoted to farming and stock raising, and by hard work and conservative dealings he amassed quite a fortune. •Before his death, 31 January 1889, he had acquired 5,458 acres of land and deeded to each one of his children a farm of 160 acres, and at his death left all his possessions to his widow, which amounted to about $40 ,000, consisting of 3,858 acres of land, stock and cash. He lived to see what was a wild prairie, inhabited mostly by wild animals, converted into one of the finest farming sections in the State.” Anna died 18 November 1913 and was buried with Crawford at Trees Cemetery, Cedar Hill, Texas. Trees Cemetery was established by Crawford on 21 August 1856 for his son Philip and has remained under the auspices of his descendants.
By Bradley C. Hodge for Dallas County Pioneer Association’s Proud Heritage, Volume I.