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CHALK, WHITFIELD

CHALK, WHITFIELD (1811–1902). Whitfield Chalk, millwright and soldier, was born on April 4, 1811, in Hertford County, North Carolina, the son of Rev. William Roscoe and Mary Elizabeth (Williams) Chalk. In 1823 the family moved to Maury County, Tennessee, from where Chalk immigrated to Texas in 1839. En route, all of his fellow steamboat passengers died of cholera; Chalk and the captain alone survived. Chalk first settled in Nashville, Milam County, but sometime later moved to the frontier community of Georgetown.

His military service to the Republic of Texas is said to have been nearly continuous after his arrival in the new country. He participated in the battle of Plum Creek on August 12, 1840, and the battle of Salado Creek on September 18, 1842. When the Somervell expedition was organized to retaliate against the raids of Mexican generals Rafael Vásquez and Adrián Wollqqv in 1842, Chalk was elected a lieutenant in Capt. John G. W. Pierson's company, the Milam Mounted Riflemen. When Col. Alexander Somervell ordered the disbanding of the expedition after the seizure of Laredo, Chalk chose instead to remain with the volunteers who elected William S. Fisher as their new commander and crossed the Rio Grande on the Mier expedition. Fisher's men exhausted their supplies of food, water, and ammunition at the battle of Mier on Christmas Day 1842, and were forced to surrender to the forces of Gen. Pedro Ampudia. Chalk and William St. Clair, however, hid under a pile of sugarcane and became the only two Texans to escape capture. They then made their way out of the town in the dark and joined the small force of men under George B. Erath that had been left north of the Rio Grande. Together they returned to Texas after Fisher and the rest of his men were marched off to captivity in Mexico City. For his role in the fighting in 1842 Chalk was ultimately awarded $402.50 and 320 acres of bounty land in Milam County. He returned to Georgetown, where, on August 5, 1844, he was elected major of the Second Regiment of the First Militia Brigade. After two years he resigned the commission. During the Mexican War Chalk served as a private in Capt. Shapley P. Ross's company of Texas Rangersqv, assigned to the defense of the frontier between the Little River and the San Gabriel River against Indian raids.

On August 9, 1847, Chalk married Mary Elizabeth Fleming. His brother, Rev. John Wesley Chalk, performed the ceremony. In 1848 Chalk was elected sheriff of Williamson County, and at the same time another brother, Ira Ellis Chalk, was elected district clerk. In 1850 Chalk was living in Milam County, where he was employed as a millwright. At the time he owned $3,000 in real estate. Ten years later he had moved to Belton, where he and Ira Chalk founded a lumber and grist mill on Salado Creek near Salado. By that time he owned $3,600 in real estate and some $400 in personal property.

In 1870 a special act of the state legislature awarded veterans' benefits to Chalk as a survivor of the Mier expedition, and in 1873 he joined the Texas Veterans Association. That same year he moved his family to Kempner in Lampasas County. In December 1881 Ira Chalk was charged with the murder of a deputy sheriff in Bonham. Whitfield Chalk died at his Lampasas County home on May 18, 1902. On Texas Independence Day, 1944, a marker was erected at his grave, with full military honors from the United States government. He had nine children.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Dallas Herald, December 15, 1881. George B. Erath, "The Memoirs of George B. Erath, 1813–1891," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 26–27 (January-October 1923; rpts., Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1923; Waco: Heritage Society of Waco, 1956). William S. Speer and John H. Brown, eds., Encyclopedia of the New West (Marshall, Texas: United States Biographical Publishing, 1881; rpt., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978). Charles D. Spurlin, comp., Texas Veterans in the Mexican War: Muster Rolls of Texas Military Units (Victoria, Texas, 1984). Houston Wade, comp., The Dawson Men of Fayette County (Houston, 1932). Olive Todd Walker, "Major Whitfield Chalk," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 60 (January 1957).

Thomas W. Cutrer

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Thomas W. Cutrer, "CHALK, WHITFIELD," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fch03), accessed April 20, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.