J. Kevin McCulloch
21 December 2000
All Rights Reserved
As a merchant, Jeff Dyer was one of the very few of our ancestors who did not earn his living exclusively from farming. He and his wife, Sallie are responsible for moving our Dyer family from Tennessee to Texas.
Jefferson Franklyn Dyer was the son of Jefferson M. and Nancy E. (Buck) Dyer. Known throughout his childhood as "Little Jeff" and later as simply "Jeff," he and a twin sister named Nancy Lucinda E. Dyer were born 15 March 1858 in or near Cookeville, Putnam County, Tennessee. Jeff was one of four children. Although he grew up around a host of aunts, uncles and cousins, he never knew his father. According to family tradition, Jefferson M. Dyer was killed on 7 January 1858 about two months before Jeff was born. Some say Jefferson died in a bar room brawl, others say it was some sort of duel; nonetheless, his death was premature and apparently violent. Jefferson had not yet reached twenty-six years old when he died. Already a widow at the age of twenty-four with two small children aged four and two and two more on the way, Nancy was lucky to still have her parents and a number of her siblings living close by. This is probably one of the reasons Nancy never remarried. According to family tradition, Nancy lived in a house that was situated in her parent’s front yard. Nancy died at the age of forty-six on 9 December 1879.
Almost nothing is known about Jeff’s childhood. He was three years old when the Civil War broke out and almost seven when it ended. Jeff had an uncle named Isaac Newton Buck who is credited with starting the first school in the area. It was officially called Andrews College but more commonly known by the locals as "Buck’s College." The School was not really a college but something slightly less than a high school. The school offered Latin, English, math, the Classics and Bible studies. It was open for anyone, ages 6 to 90 that could pay the tuition or was willing to work to pay the tuition. The School opened its doors in 1852 and ran until the outbreak of the Civil War. Since Jeff was literate, it seems probable that he would have received at least a basic education from his Uncle Isaac.
Jeff was fifteen years old when he married twenty-six-year-old Sallie Maria Anderson on 18 May 1873. It is most likely they were married in Putnam County. Sallie and Jeff knew each other from childhood because they grew up within one and one-half miles of each other. The daughter of a Methodist minister, Sallie was the last of twelve children born to Peter and Sarah Anderson. The Anderson children were well educated, three of the boys became doctors and one of the girls became a teacher, while Sallie was a schooled seamstress.
Jeff and Sallie were married for almost sixty-one years. During that time they had six children. Their first child, Marino Frances also known as Mary Frances or Fannie was born eleven months after their marriage. She was born in 1874 at Berryville in Carroll County, Arkansas. It seems that Jeff and Sallie left Tennessee sometime after their marriage and went to Carroll County, Arkansas where they probably lived with or near some of Sallie’s siblings for a few years. They did not remain in Arkansas long because they were back in Putnam County by 1878 when their second child, Gideon Thomas "Gid" was born. They remained here for about three more years. In 1881 their third child, Navarro Uvalde "Lade" was born. Before Navarro was born, Jeff had caught the "Texas fever" and had decided he wanted to re-locate there. According to family tradition, at the time of Navarro’s birth, Jeff was studying a map of Texas and was torn between settling in Navarro or Uvalde County. This is believed to be the origin of their third child’s name. As it turned out, Jeff did not settle in either county.
On 26 April 1881, less than one month after Lade was born, Jeff loaded his family in an ox wagon and set out for Texas. They did not reach their final destination, which turned out to be Weatherford in Parker County, until almost one and one-half years later on 2 September 1882. One of the reasons the trip from Tennessee to Texas took so long was because they probably stopped off in Arkansas again to visit with some of Sallie’s siblings.
While living in Parker County, Jeff and Sallie had two more children, Sam Oley "Sam" in 1885 and Robert Cummings "Bob" in 1888. Around 1890 Jeff and Sallie moved their family once again, this time to Lipan in Hood County where they remained for the next twenty-three years. During their stay in Hood County the Dyer family experienced several significant events. Their sixth child, Abraham Anderson "Abe" was born in 1891 and all of their children except for Sam were married there.
Jeff and Sallie moved to Olney in 1913. On 25 April 1913, Jeff purchased 22 town lots in the city of Olney for $513.60. Jeff and his son, Sam, the former owner of a barbershop in Lipan, opened the Dyer Department Store in downtown Olney. The store was located on Main Street and carried mostly dry goods. Over the years a number of Jeff’s grandchildren and even some of his great-grandchildren would spend time in that store and its warehouse. The warehouse was surrounded by some sort of pin, which the family found useful for keeping track of children! Some of our family that spent time at the Dyer Store included Ivy (Holt) Lewis, Ann (Holt) Bellamy and Almarine (Lewis) Klose. Jeff later expanded his stores to the nearby towns of Newcastle and Megargel.
Sallie was only three days shy of being 87 years old when she passed away on 7 May 1934. She had been sick for a week with pneumonia. In her obituary, Sallie was hailed as a "true pioneer of Texas…a brave spirit…who possessed a gentle manner…a thoughtful neighbor, a devoted wife and a loving mother." Sallie’s funeral was conducted the day after her death. Her services were held at the First Methodist Church although she was a member of the Olney Christian Church. The minister who performed the service was Rev. T.H. Burton, a retired minister from Olney Christian. Sallie was buried in the New Olney Cemetery. If Sallie’s health had held out for a few more days, she would have no doubt enjoyed the celebration her children had planned for her on Sunday, May 13th. The celebration was intended to acknowledge her 87th birthday, her 61st wedding anniversary and to honor her on Mother’s Day. Needless to say, Sallie was well loved by her family and friends.
Jeff lived without Sallie for about two more years before he died at their home on East Howard Street on 5 July 1936. Jeff was 78 years old and had suffered a paralytic stroke the week before his death. Jeff was regarded as a "Pioneer Merchant" of Olney. His obituary stated that Olney had lost one of its oldest citizens who had been identified in a business way (along with his son) with the development of Olney since 1913…in the Dyer Department Store. Jeff’s funeral was held the next day. The same minister that had conducted Sallie’s service two years earlier now conducted Jeff’s. This service was also held at the First Methodist Church. Because of his stature in the community and the regard with which he was held, on the day of his funeral, all business activities in Olney were suspended for one-half hour out of respect. Jeff was buried in the New Olney Cemetery next to Sallie.
Jeff and Sallie’s six children were as follows:1. Marino Frances "Fannie" Dyer married David Simpson Holt
2. Gideon Thomas "Gid" Dyer married Sarah Lucretia Bryant
3. Navarro Uvalde "Lade" Dyer married Andrew M. Watson4. Sam Oley "Sam" Dyer married Mrs. Bell "Cleffie" Soaps
5. Robert Cummings "Bob" Dyer married Eleanor Elizabeth Stell
6. Abraham Anderson "Abe" Dyer married (1) Nancy Elizabeth Dickenson, (2) Vada Hewlett