Jichonias W. (Uncle Jake) Housewright, his wife Sally and eight of their children—William, Nig, Lewis, Napoleon, Hoss, Sis, Mattie and John—were the first Housewright’s to lay foot on Wylie soil. They came via wagon train from Churchill, Hawkins County, Tennessee where Jichonias was a well-known millwright with his own gristmill powered by water from the Holston River.
Why this family moved to Texas has not been recorded. They came via New Orleans to Jefferson and settled near Bonham. In 1852 they moved to this area and bought part of the Thomas Chambers Survey on the west bank of the East Fork of the Trinity River. There he cleared land and built a log cabin. In this vicinity he continued to buy land.
Uncle Jake not only farmed but was better known for running a freighting from here to Jefferson, Texas. Commodities such as flour, sugar, coffee and farm implements were needed in this raw frontier. Lumber to build stores and homes from Jefferson was a luxury. From there was the quickest route to Wylie. Uncle Jake began making a good profit. His question was what can I take from this area? Since these were the days before the barbed wire fence, this ingenious man thought that bois d’arc apple seed planted close together would make an excellent fence for the protection of young crops. It was his idea to separate the seed from the pulp with water. At first the bois d’arc apples must be clubbed, but Uncle Jake invented a crude machine to grind them. He sold the seed for $18.00 per bushel and would sell as many as $1,500.00 worth at one time.
Another invention of Uncle Jake’s was a place his money would be safe from a robber or “highwayman”, as they were called in those days. On the left front axle of the wagon he made a special compartment for his money. Unless the wheel was removed, one could not get to his cash. Consequently, Uncle Jake was one of the few freighters who never got robbed.
Four sons entered the Confederate Army—William, Alexander, Lewis and Hoss. While serving in the state of Louisiana, Hoss died of malaria. In 1870 the Housewright’s lost three children by typhoid—Sarah, Lucinda and John. All are buried in the Old Decatur Cemetery, Murphy.
Following the Civil War, cotton production increased here. It was Jichonias who built the first Cotton Gin. For almost forty years Uncle Jake made his home here. Many of his descendants still live in and around Wylie. All are proud of their heritage and try to exemplify citizens of country and town whom “Uncle Jake” would be proud.
Courtesy Wylie Area Heritage by Beb Fulkerson. Additional Wylie history can be found here.