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 George McMahan Installs Protective Fence at Gravesites of William and Elizabeth Smith 


A new fence safeguards the graves of William and Elizabeth Smith. 


By Carol Snyder, Bastrop County Historical Commission


Recently, during fence work and other work being done on his property near Smithville, owner George McMahan had the area cleaned around the graves of William and Elizabeth Smith, for whom Smithville is named. He also built a new and lovely white fence to better protect the graves. 

Smithville was named for this Smith family: William was born October 7, 1812, in Tennessee and Elizabeth Beachum Smith was born March 31, 1816, in Kentucky. They married before coming to Smithville around 1850 and their first six sons were born in Alabama and Mississippi between 1836 and 1850: David P., George, John, William, Franklin and Dudley. Two more sons were born in Texas: Henry C. and Anderson. Soon after arriving in this area, William bought land from F. W. Grassmeyer, who property was about at the Bastrop/Fayette County line off current Highway 71.

Father William Smith died May 4, 1873, and Elizabeth died June 7, 1870, both in Smithville, Texas. In 1874, Frank bought land and stayed in this area while the other boys left. He also bought out Dr. Taylor's interest in a small store and went into business with Murray Burleson.

In addition to the Smith's burial site, George McMahan also had the trees and land cleared off around the grave of Henry Mordorff on his property.

Who was Henry Mordorff?

When German citizen Heinrich C. Mordorff stepped off a ship in New Orleans in December, 1835, he had no idea of how his life was to change. The 18-year-old man was most likely coming to make his fortune in America.

A man named Captain Amasa Turner approached Henry (Americanized name) and began to speak with him. Turner was on a mission! He was an Anglo Texian who had settled Mexican territory in Tejas a few years earlier on land grants which Stephen F. Austin and others had negotiated for them. The new settlers had begun to grow weary of broken promises by the Mexican government. The Texians were starting to fight back to keep their land and enjoy self-government. But they had lost significant battles at Goliad and at the Alamo and needed help.

Captain Turner successfully recruited Mordorff with over 100 other men, to join the struggling Texas Army. They boarded a schooner and went to Texas. They started training immediately with Captain Turner's First Regiment of the Texas Volunteers.

After helping the Texians win their independence at the Battle of San Jacinto in 1838, Henry Mordorff was granted a headright land grant of 1,476 acres. He then received bounty land for participating in the Battle of San Jacinto -- 40 acres of land. He chose land in Bell County, but in about 1851 moved to Bastrop County where he purchased a farm about a half-mile south of Smithville where he lived the rest of his life. Mordorff, apparently a single man, engaged in horse breeding and farming and had a good reputation as a responsible horse trader. He had the reputation of a man who performed needed chores to help women and children left behind while their men were away.

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