Ruins of El Copano
Mary Hannah Hollingsworth Brundrett Thompson Gaston biography given
By Janet Haseman Taylor
Friends of the History Center for Aransas County
Hannah was 11 years old when the Albert Hollingsworth family sailed from Manchester, England, to Canada in 1823. They did not see land for 62 days. Sailing with the family was George Albert Brundrett, an orphan and family friend. George and Hannah married on March 9, 1835 in Canada. They later moved to Ecorse, MI, where George earned a living as a sea captain on the Great Lakes.
Circa 1846 Hannah and George, with their five children (George, Jr., Sarah, John, Mary and Jed) and Henry Mote (their adopted son) traveled to Texas, settling first in Corpus Christi. When she came to Texas, Hannah brought with her the latest medical book. She used information from this book to successfully care for the ill, which caused some to think she had magical powers. George earned a living as a gunsmith, machinist boilermaker and ship captain hauling freight between Indianola and Port Isabel. He was also one of the first aldermen in Corpus Christi in January of 1847. They had two more children, Thomas and Hannah, born in Texas before George was lost at sea during a storm near Mud Island sometime before Nov. 27, 1848.
The widowed Brundrett family moved first to St. Mary’s, then to Bludworth Island before finally settling on St. Joseph’s Island where Hannah established a ranch. Neighbors helped Hannah and her children manage the ranch until she remarried. Hannah was a friend to the Indians. She took care of them when they were sick and they liked her. When they knew another tribe was going to make a raid on white settlers, they would warn Hannah in advance so she could protect herself and her children.
Hannah wed T.L. Thompson on May 3, 1853. They had one daughter, Emma, who married Ned Mercer whose daily life was recorded in the Mercer logs. This second marriage didn’t last long as Thompson died of pneumonia at an early age. On Nov. 5, 1855, Hannah married Elias Wilson Gaston. They had two daughters, Sara and Capitola. It is not really known what happened to the Gaston marriage. It has been suggested they were either separated or divorced or he left her for a younger woman.
During the Civil War, St. Joseph’s Island became a dangerous place to live as Union ships were shelling the island. Almost the entire population of the island decided to abandon their homes and go to the mainland for safety. Hannah, estranged from her third husband, refused to take her children and leave. Fifty marines landed on the island and began killing livestock as well as burning and demolishing homes. Marines remained on the island several days and made Hannah’s home their headquarters. Fortunately they were friendly to Hannah’s two young daughters, holding the girls in their laps and giving them candy. Forty-five year old Hannah rode along the island, then waded across Cedar Bayou in neck-deep water to warn the Hawes families and the Confederate soldiers the Union soldiers were coming.
Four of Hannah’s sons (George Albert Brundrett, Jr., John McOskery Brundrett, Jed Peter Brundrett and Henry Mote) served in Major Alfred M. Hobby’s 8th Texas Infantry Batallion Company D. They were at the Battle of Corpus Christi where Henry Mote was the only casualty. He was buried in an unmarked grave at the Old Bayview Cemetery.
Hannah eventually moved with her son Thomas Brundrett’s family to Normanna, Texas. From 1875 until her death at the age of 84, Hannah delivered most of the babies born in Normanna and also continued to care for sick people. Hannah outlived three husbands. She had 10 children and 98 grandchildren! Hannah was an amazingly brave and independent woman. I am very proud to be her great-great granddaughter. Hannah is buried in the San Domingo Cemetery in Normanna, Texas in Bee County.
Read more about Hannah in the current exhibit at the History Center which is about the Civil War in this area. The History Center is located at 801 E. Cedar St. and is a venue of Aransas Pathways.
For more information, go to the website www.aransashistorycenter.org