George B. Lyles

George B. Lyles, son of John Lyles & Elizabeth "Betsey" Tridle, found his niche in the Chihuahuan desert lifestyle

by Robert Matta, Houston, Texas

Without a doubt, the foremost honor of the achievements of Irish descent George B. Lyles is the Texas State Historical commemorative marker (San Solomon Springs, Reeves County) at Balmorhea State Park, Texas. One hundred and thirty-eight years ago George B. settled in the semi-arid frontier of West Texas near what is now known as Toyahvale. In 1870, the total population of the county (Presidio) was less than 1,640. It was the place for rugged individuals.

In 1964, the Texas Historical Commission honored George B. Lyles, Samuel R. Miller, and Daniel Murphy and their contribution to the settlement of the Toyah Creek area. The marker #4557 text indicates significant large-scale commercial farming and establishes the importance of water resources and agricultural irrigation in the early 1870s. George B. and the other pioneers played a major role in diverting water from the San Solomon, Saragosa, and Giffin springs using a system of canals to irrigate area fields.

The State of Texas recognized the adventurous spirit of George B. and his vital part in the development of the American West and history of West Texas. While we look forward to the possibilities of the future, we should also look backwards to the romance of the past. The U.S. Federal Census of 1870 firmly establishes that George B., age 41, lived at Lylesville (in the Fort Stockton, Pecos County, Texas area) with his wife Basilia and their 8 children. 

The accuracy of the census is confirmed by a story told by T. Lindsay Baker (The First Polish Americans: Silesian Settlements in Texas) of an irrigation water conflict that ensued between George B. and Peter Pleasantier a farmer downstream from Leon Creek, near Lylesville. In addition, another reference points to George B and his appointment in 1870 as a county commissioner. This government document suggest strong social ties to the township of St. Gall and the military post at Fort Stockton (Twelfth Legislature 18702.

To the Unknown
Although many US Census documents state that George Lyles Senior was from Virginia, a glimpse into the life and times of George Lyles in the years prior to his marriage to Basilia (Bessie) McKnight cannot be confirmed and is unknown. How does a searcher plow through all the books, records, newspapers, and the internet? How does he or she know what information is accurate? One person cannot do it all and more importantly, you can't get everything online. 

Some of the best sources come from talking to older relatives. Conversations and recollections from your grandmother or grandfather can be invaluable. Every ethnic group has its own research pitfalls and gray areas. It can be difficult, but not impossible.  Researching and consulting public records has never been easier. Be patient and use step-by-step guidelines on genealogical websites such as your state archives and the National Archives archives.gov/genealogy/ . 

The records of George and his parents John and Isabel remain a mystery. He is one of many Americans who moved rapidly to the Southwest in the 1840s in a large mass migration to tame the "Wild West," a vast, and untouched wilderness. Documentation surviving from the early 19th century has proved to be elusive and the trail has either dried up or records have been destroyed. Searching for one's roots can help to fill bare spots in the family tree. Researchers collect records for important leads such as domiciles, occupations, neighbors, and local institutions such as County courthouses.  Another good site to check is www.familysearch.org.

Genealogy has become the passion of many Americans. The caveat to that is it can't be done overnight. Keep a journal and write everything down. One piece of information can spark other leads.

About the Chihuahua Desert
The Chihuahua Desert straddles the U.S.-Mexican border, West of the Pecos, parts of New Mexico, Arizona, and it covers the northern half of the State of Chihuahua, Mexico. Urban cities include: Ciudad Juárez (El Paso del Norte); neighboring El Paso, Texas; the city of Chihuahua; Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Roswell in New Mexico are among the other cities in this ecoregion. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, the Chihuahuan Desert may be the most biologically diverse desert in the world.

More about George >

Where is Fort Stockton >

Sons & Daughters of George and Basilia (Bessie) Lyles, based on U.S. Federal Census 1860 & 1870

Alejandro  (died young)
George II (died young)
(starting at the top, oldest to youngest)

U.S. Census Record 1860

 
George as a grocer. Lived at Birchville (Smith's Ranch/Rio Grande) with his wife Basilia (Bessie), and children Alfonso, Carmelita, Roberto, Alejandro, and George II.

U.S. Census Record 1870, Lylesville


Lylesville, Presidio Co., Texas, a farming enterprise at Leon Creek, also know as Leoncito (to the old-timers). George and his wife Basilia (Bessie), and children Alfonso, Carmelita, Robert, Caroline, Amada, Isabel, John, and George Jr.

Notes:
PRESIDIO COUNTY Elections,  1869 - 1871
For clerk of district court.—Peter Johnson, 19.
For sheriff.—Peter Donnelly, 24; Joseph Heid, 5.
For justice of the peace.—Precinct No. 1, John Moczygemba, 17; George Wilson, 15; T. II. Vahldeick, 1. Precinct No. 2, (no returns received.) Precinct No. 3, (no returns received.) Precinct No. 4, (no returns received.) Precinct No. 5, (no returns received)

EL PASO COUNTY Elections,  1869 - 1871
For clerk of district court.—E.M. Johnson 126.
For sheriff.—Juan Annenderies, 288; A.H. French, 154; J.P. Clark, 5.
For justice of the peace.—Precinct No. 1, J. Magoffin, 62; C. Yrigoyen, 29.  Precinct No. 2 Benito Gonzales, 60; Martin Aldurete, 45; J.M. Gonzales 7; Maximo Aranda, 1. Precinct No. 3, Rafael Telles, 55; Francisco Sembrano, 29; Domingo-Fresquis, 1; M.C. Aldurete, 1.  Precinct No 4, Maximo Aranda, 74; Gregorio Garcia, 27; Pl Lucero, 2; G. Gandra, 1. Precinct No. 5 C.H. Comly, 2.

House of Representatives 41st Congress. Second Session, page 47 & 60. 1869-1870 Executive Documents.

Death entry GB Lyles

Catholic Church baptism record of George B. Lyles from Mesilla, Dona Ana Co., New Mexico.  4

Internment church record, George B. Lyles Sr.

English translation of entry


San Albino Church, register of deaths (LDS/FHL film #16829), Mesilla, NM. Entry by parish priest Augustin Morin on page 100.

Death record of George B. Lyles from Mesilla, Dona Ana Co., New Mexico.  4



















© 2018 R.MATTA

Go to Contact Page to sent me an Emai

Caveat: Research on this family website is continuously being amended.  The content posted on this site is subject to change based on cited sources and new research findings.  Any new information, records, or insight is welcome. 

Mexican adobe house, Mt. Franklin in distance, El Paso, Texas 
(c.1907) Detroit Publishing Company Photograph Collection

George Lyles Sr. Timeline


1828 (
Born abt.): Fairfax County, Virginia. George is the son of John Lyles and Isabel Trytel (the surname given on vital records). IGeorge's exact place and date of birth is undermined at this time.

1840s (abt.): It is possible that George immigrated to the USA, with his father John Lyles, or was born and lived in Virginia (according to Census records and family legend). George, in his early 20s immigrates westward due to the migration wave from the eastern United States. The earliest known record of George Lyles is in Barranco Colorado, (Casas Grandes) Chihuahua, Mexico, with his wife Mrs. Lyles.

1848–49: From 1848 to 1849, George is at the McKnight silver mine in Chihuahua, Mexico. An American author reports in an American magazine journal, the Overland Monthly, and tells of a historical account by an anonymous silver mine manager. The story, in detail, acknowledges that George lived with his wife at the Hacienda of the famous frontiersman and miner Robert McKnight (his father-in-law), at La Barranco Colorado, Chihuahua, Mexico. The journal was owned and operated by San Francisco, California author and publisher Brett Harte. 

Two years earlier, Robert McKnight died in Mexico, and left his fortune to his daughter Refugio McKnight Flotte and her husband Louis Flotte. Robert McKnight received Catholic Funeral Rites at the Parish of San Francisco y Nuestra Señora de Regla, 11 Apr 1846, Chihuahua City, Mexico. 

1849: Alfonso (1st son of George and Basilia) probably born in Mexico. He received the rite of Baptism at the church of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, Juárez, (formerly Villa del Paso del Norte) Mexico. 2 

1851: Carmen (1st daughter of George and Basilia) probably born in Mexico. She received the rite of Baptism at the church of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, Juárez, Mexico. 3  She is also know as Carmelita.

1853Robert (2nd son of George and Basilia) born in Mexico. He received the rite of Baptism at the church of San Antonio de Padua, Casas Grandes, Chihuahua, Mex. Casas Grandes, Chihuahua, is about 8 miles from the hacienda of the McKnight family (Barranco Colorado).

1856: Alejandro (3rd son) probably born in Mexico. Early childhood death, however, no mortality record. Baptism record is unknown. Probably born at La Mesilla, New Mexico.

1856: George Sr. was awarded a one-year US military government, Dept. of Texas contract to deliver mesquite root for fuel with Fort Bliss (El Paso area) on July 16, 1856, at $4.25 per cord. Agreement made with Lieutenant H.M. Lazelles. View one-year contract #6. 7

1857 May 16: Marcos George  (4th son) probably born at La Mesilla, New Mexico. Early childhood death, however, no record of death.  Baptism record can be found at San Albino Catholic church Mesilla, New Mexico.9

1857: George Sr. was awarded a one-year US military government, Dept. of Texas contract to deliver mesquite root for fuel with Fort Bliss (El Paso area) on July 21, 1857. Agreement made with Major Longstreet. View one-year contract #288. 6

1858George Sr. has one-year contract with Fort Bliss to deliver mesquite root for fuel, June 21, 1858. View one-year contract #138.

1858George Sr. was witness to Ascarate deed at El Paso, Texas, 13 Dec 1858. Filed by Commissioner Stephen Crosby on July 18, 1859.

1858: Author W.W. Mills list George Lyles as a resident of the El Paso area. George held the hay contract for Fort Bliss and Fort Quitman.1 

1858–1861: Manager of Butterfield Stage Coach, Smith’s Ranch Station (Birchville Station on the “Old El Paso trail”). The 1860 U.S. census lists George as a grocer. Lived at Birchville (Smith's Ranch/Rio Grande) with his wife Basilia (Bessie), and children Alfonso, Carmelita, Roberto, Alejandro, and George. In addition, two employees lived in the household, a cook and servant. An eating house provided travelers a meal in-between stage coach stops. 

George Sr. was awarded a US military government, Dept. of Texas contract to deliver beans, at Fort Bliss (El Paso area) on Nov. 5, 1859. View one-year contract which ended on Nov. 5, 1860. 

1860 Caroline (2nd daughter of George and Basilia) probably born in Texas. 

1860George Sr. was awarded a US military government contract, Dept. of Texas, to deliver hay at Fort Quitman (80 miles south of El Paso); on Nov. 5, 1859, (one year, paid $20 per ton) deliver to Fort Quitman 75 tons of gamma grass. The agreement occurred on September 5, 1860, and approved by Lieutenant J.G. Taylor5 

1861Sons George (#1) and Alejandro probably die at the ages of 4 and 5 from disease or childhood illness.

1862 The Conferates State, mule contact

1862 The Confederate States, contract for mule, El Paso, Texas 
fold3.com

1863 Amada (3nd daughter of George and Basilia) probably born in Texas. 

1861–1865: American Civil War. February 1st, Texas seceded from the Union. More than likely George is a Unionist.

1865 Isabel (youngest daughter of George and Basilia) probably born in Texas.

1865: George Sr. was awarded a government contract to deliver mesquite beans, at Franklin (El Paso), Texas, July. His partner is Albert H. French.  The 38th Congress convened in December of 1864, so George had already secured a military contact before the end of 1864. As a secessionist, George would not have been considered as a US contractor.

Income tax receipt (George Lyles at Birchville, El Paso Co., Texas)

1866 Sept (IRS TAX ASSESSMENT):  Worked in the El Paso area, 47 miles downriver from El Paso. Proprietor of an eating house (cafe), and sold alcohol with a retail liquor dealers license. George reported $4,700 in yearly income for the year 1866, the equivalent of about $100,000. 

1867 "John" Juan Alejandro (son of George and Basilia) born 6 May 1867, in San Antonio, Texas. Baptism record (14 May 1867) can be found at San Fernando church San Antonio, Bexar Co., Texas.10

1867 (June) Return of military to Ft. Davis, Presidio Co., Texas.11

1867 Reopening of Ft. Stockton military garrison, Pecos Co., Texas.11

1868:  George Lyles and George M. Frazier develop Leon Valley Farms "Leoncito," Texas (8 miles from the city of Fort Stockton, Texas).

Official Post Trader, Fort Stockton, Texas 1868


Flakes Semi Weekly Galveston Bulletin, 28 Oct 1868, p 5 (Galveston, Tex)

1868: George Jr. (son of George and Basilia) probably born in Texas.

1868: Registered voter (Austin Republican, 25 Apr 1868) in Presidio, Co., Texas. 8 

1870: (early April)  Irrigation water conflict ensued between George Lyles and Peter Pleasantier a farmer downstream from Leon Creek, near Lylesville. [Local judge fines George everyday the dam is up]. 12 

1870: (Jul 9)  Texas Legisture orders Gallagher, Lyles, and P. Murphy to organize Presidio Co. Texas. [Commissioners to elect justice of the peace and county officers] 13 

1870 US Cencus (enumerated 25 July):  George Lyles is an authorized civilian military employee with a dwelling located 800 yards from the Ft. Stockton parade ground, Texas. George established Lylesville, a farming enterprise at "Leoncito" Leon Creek. Lived with his wife Basilia, and children Alfonso, Carmelita, Robert, Caroline, Amada, Isabel, John, and George Jr., at St. Gall (St. Gall was originally named Ft. Stockton, the township next to the U.S. Army military fort).

1871:  Basilia (Bessie) McKnight dies at the age of 40 on Nov. 2, she is survived by her husband George and her children Alfonso, age 22; Carmelita, 19; Robert, 18; Caroline, 11; Amada, 9; Isabell, 6; John, 4; and George Jr, 2.

1872: Registered voter in Pecos County, Texas (Texas State Archives) 

1872:  Lyles/Gamboa shoot out at La Loma homestead, October 27.

1873: (Feb 1)  George files an application to homestead survey #46 (160 acres), called La Loma by the locals (Toyahvale & Balmorhea State Park area). Three consecutive-year homestead is required by the State to be a bona fide settler. La Loma (The Hill), is about a mile and a half down the valley from the main head spring at Balmorhea State Park, Texas.

1873: (Mar 8)  La Loma homestead is surveyed (survey #46), 160 acres of vacant public land.

1873: (Nov 10)  La Loma survey is approved by Joseph Wilkin Tays, El Paso District Surveyor.

1873: (Nov 21)  Galveston Daily News reports that an affray took place at Toyah Creek between George Lyles and Jose Maria Gamboa. Gun shots were fired and Gamboa was mortally wounded. The incident is reported by Simeon Hart the editor and proprietor of the El Paso Sentinel.

1873:  George B. Lyles v. Daniel Murphy. Case argued and decided in the Supreme Court of Texas. Lyles vs. Murphy 38 Tex.

1874: (Jan 14)  La Loma (Abstract 532) is filed by the Texas Land Grant Office, Austin. 

1874:  George and 4 four others go to trial in the District Court of El Paso County. They were charged at the January term, 1874.  Texas Supreme Court Decision, Lyles vs. State, 41 Tex, June 29, 1874. Reversed and remanded, #2337, Galveston Daily News

1875:  George's son Robert is attacked by Mescalero Indians, in the summer (July), at Seven Springs, Texas, near McCutcheon ranch. Robert was attacked on 2 previous occasions, August 1873 and September 1874. 

1875:  Brothers Robert and Alfonso Lyles file applications for homestead on surveys #71 (Alfonso) and #72 (Robt), Reeves county, Texas, on March 5. Applications are ruled illegal and in conflict by the Texas Land Grant office. See Reeves County Abstract 533.

1870-78:  George Lyles develops large-scale irrigation system from San Solomon and Giffin spring water. La Loma and the Toyah Valley develop into a thriving farming community. 

1878:  Grandpa George died August 26, 18784 Part of the George B. Lyles Homestead is known as, the R. E. Lyles Estate. To this day, other Lyles family members have title to acreage of the homestead.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
Read an unbelievable and fascinating story about George B. Lyles, and his wife, while they were living at the Robert McKnight silver mine and hacienda in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico. Please send your request to 8318wind@sbcglobal.net



1. Smith, Thomas. The U.S. Army and the Texas frontier economy, 1845-1900. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1999.

2Mexico, Chihuahua, Cd. Juarez, Catholic Church Records, 1848-1851, digital images (image 82 of 525), from FamilySearch Internet (www.familysearch.org: accessed June 6, 2009), Baptism of Alfonso Lyles, 10 Apr. 1849, page 78, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, Villa del Paso del Norte, Chihuahua, Mexico, film number 1156613.

3Mexico, Chihuahua, Cd. Juarez, Catholic Church Records, 1848-1851, digital images (image 505 of 525), from FamilySearch Internet (www.familysearch.org: accessed July 1, 2009), Baptism of Carmen Lyles, 27 Jul. 1851, page 238, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, Villa del Paso del Norte, Chihuahua, Mexico, film number 1156613.

4Death record of George B. Lyles from Mesilla, Dona Ana Co., New Mexico., Deaths 1852-1956, Partidas y Entierros, Catholic Church. San Albino (Mesilla, New Mexico) (LDS/FHL film #16829, Salt Lake City, Utah); Page: 100. Father Agustin Morin officiated the funeral rites.

5Contracts of the War Department for 1860. Letter from the Secretary of War, transmitting a statement of the contracts made by the War Department for the year 1860. January 28, 1861. -- Laid upon the table, and ordered to be printed. Date: 1861-01-28; Publication: Serial Set Vol. No. 1099, Session Vol. No.8; Report: H.Exec., 36th Congress, 2nd session; Doc. 47, 2-47.

6Contracts -- War Department. Letter from the Secretary of War, transmitting statements of contracts for the year 1857. February 10, 1858. -- Ordered to be printed. Date: 1858-02-10; Publication: Serial Set Vol. No. 955, Session Vol. No.9; Report: H.Exec.Doc. 58;

7A Report of the Secretary of War, communicating a statement of contracts made under authority of that department during the year 1857. Senate documents, otherwise publ. as Public documents and Executive documents: 14th Congress, 1st session-48th congress, 2nd session and special session (Google eBook). Congressional serial set, Issue 924.

8Accessed 8 Feb 2011. Genealogy Newspaper Bank.

9Baptism record of Marcos George Lyles. Catholic church record of San Albino, La Mesilla, Dona Ana Co., New Mexico., Baptism register Catholic Church. San Albino (Mesilla, New Mexico) (LDS/FHL film #16827, Salt Lake City, Utah); Page: ___. Father Jose de Jesus Cabeza de Baca officiated the baptism rite.

10Baptism record of Juan Alejandro Lyles. Catholic church record of San Fernando, San Antonio, Bexar Co., Texas., Parish registers, 1703-1957, Baptism register Catholic Church. San Fernando (San Antonio, Texas) (LDS/FHL film #25439, Salt Lake City, Utah); Page: 294. Father Matthew Sarry officiated the baptism rite.

11. Jeff Davis County, Texas, _

12Pecos County History, Texas, _

13Jeff Davis County, Texas, _