William Jesse Fears
The Life of W.J. Fears
William Jesse Fears was born 20 July 1853 in Hampton, Georgia to William Thomas and Frances Elizabeth Fears. He was born on the plantation of his paternal grandfather, William Sadler Fears, a minister as well as a gentleman farmer. His grandfather was a great influence on his life as the family spent a lot of his childhood on the plantation. W.J. Fears related to one of his daughters that he remembered during the Civil War when the Union Army came there and made the house their headquarters for a while. The men who were left at home took some of the livestock and hid out in the river bottom. The officers stayed in the house and the family stayed gathered in one area. They were not harmed by any of the enemy soldiers and were finally left alone.
After the war ended, it was difficult for so many family members to survive on one plantation so W.T. and Frances took their family and left for Magnolia, Arkansas. That is where William Jesse Fears and his sister, Mary Elizabeth Fears finished growing up.
In 1873 W.J. Fears and Ella Zachary were married. They followed their parents lead in those days and began farming in the Magnolia, Arkansas area. Later, W.J. Fears felt the call to become a minister like his grandfather. He continued farming but began studying for the ministry. In 1888 he was ordained in the Christian (Disciples of Christ) Church. At some point, he moved his family from Magnolia to East Texas where he served as minister to several churches in the area. In those days in Texas, ministers preached on a "circuit". A minister would preach one Sunday in the church where he lived and then would travel to other communities for each of the other Sundays in the month.
In the ensuing years, William Jesse and Ella had six children, two of which died as children. The children were as follows: Frances Florence b.1875, d.1876; James Thomas "Jim Tom" b.1879, d.1893; Jessie Eugene, b. 1880; Bonnie Griffen b.1886; Missouri Jane b. 1891; Anna Lou b.1894.
For whatever reasons, Ella was unhappy being a minister's wife and about 1902, the marriage fell apart. She returned to Magnolia, Arkansas with the children. This was a tremendous blow to W.J. Fears but he persevered with his vocation and had many requests for his ministry throughout East Texas and Louisiana.
About 1905, W.J. Fears went to the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) as a missionary. He often traveled back to East Texas to hold meetings at various churches. During one of these meetings at Summerfield Methodist Church in Longview, Texas, he met Jessie Arlee Thomas, the daughter of an old and respected family. Her parents were Ezekiel and Vander Artimissie Clark Thomas. Jessie Thomas played the pump organ at the church. After a brief courtship by mail and a few afternoon visits, they were married on April 1, 1906. They both spent the next several months in Bokchito, Indian Territory ministering to the people there. Jessie returned home to her parents for the birth of their first child, William Thomas Oren Fears born 13 February 1907. W.J. Fears, Jessie and baby Oren then moved to Clayton, then Timpson and Woodglen, Texas. Four more children were born, again two died in childhood. Gracie Loucille b. 29 June 1908, d.Oct. 1910; Bettye Frances b. 3 Nov. 1911; Allyene Elizabeth b. 5 Feb. 1916 and Winston J. b. 9 July 1921, d. 11 March 1927.
According to Jessie Arlee Thomas Fears, she and W. J. Fears had a happy marriage. He was loved and respected by all who knew him. According to his daughters, Frances and Allyene, he was a kind and gentle person who loved his family and those who he served in his Christian vocation. W. J. Fears died in Tatum, Texas on January 18, 1926. He is buried in the Tatum Cemetery, Tatum, Rusk County, Texas.
-Virginia B. Fields, Grandaughter McKinney, TX, April 2010
Jessie Arlee Thomas Fears - second wife of William J. Fears
Directions To The Grave Of William J. and Jessie Fears
The Fears are buried in the cemetery at Tatum, Rusk County, Texas. The Tatum Cemetery is located on Forest Road in Tatum, Texas. The general GPS grave location is: 32°18'37.6"N 94°31'06.2"W / or D.d. 32.310435,-94.518393
Special Thanks to Virginia B. Fields, the grandaughter of William J. and Jessie Fears. Your webmaster was contacted by Virginia in April, 2010 with updated information of William Jesse's grandfather, William Sadler Fears, long-time minister in Hampton, Georgia. Having personally visited the Fears homeplace and gravesite on many occasions, I was naturally drawn to the subject, especially becoming aware that the involvement in the movement did not cease with a first or second generation. There are still some of the Fears descendants who attend the Christian Church in Hampton. However, now we are aware that the family spread to the west as well.