Reunion brings historic Nacogdoches families together

By Donna McCollum - bio | email

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - "These are my grandparents," said Mary Helen Coats Ahrens as she proudly points to a dated picture of her relatives. She's among the over 130 descendants of early Texans eager to share just how far their family tree branches out.

They attended the First Families of Nacogdoches Reunion. It's an attempt to link family histories.

"Is there any family you're not related to?," Rita Muckleroy is asked. Her name tag has a long list of last names. She cheerfully answered, "No, not in this town."

Deena Wadsworth came up with the idea to have the multi family reunion when tracing her own family tree. She quickly learned she couldn't stick with just one family when it came to tracing the roots of early Texas families.

"We've already had some people who have found lost cousins that they didn't know that they had. From the Manchaca's, the Cordova's, the Y'barbo's," said Wadsworth.

They're just some of the 200 family names known to have traveled with Gil Y'barbo. "As a young man he came into east Texas, which at the time was Tejas," explained L.V. Gatlin, a direct descendent of Y'barbo.

To this day Gatlin lives on a homestead more than 200 years old. "History on both sides of my family. Y'barbo and Gatlin. I'm proud to be living on some of the land he (Y'barbo) had," said Gatlin.

The Spaniard's wagon trains traveled the El Camino Real, passing directly through Nacogdoches, the Gateway to Texas.

"They came here when there was nothing here, but frontier," said Coats Ahrens. "All Texans are indebted to them."

And when Texas became a state the family trees really began to sprout. "I put all my information in family tree maker and I have 13,000 people in there now," said Peggy Arriola Jasso as she sits in front of a computer. She helped individuals get started on tracing their historic roots.

Computers can trace a family heritage, but there's nothing like old photo albums. Hidden in attics and under beds, they're brought out to tell a story.

Pictures show 90 year old Allie Jordan Wilburn what she missed. Her grandparents died when she was only a babe. " I think about them now, how happy I would have been to have enjoyed the company of them people," said Wilburn.

She now enjoys the company of future generations. Texans gathering as strangers, but quickly bonding as only true Texans can.

The First Families of Nacogdoches Reunion will become an annual event. It will be held again next year around this time. For information contact  or

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