Live Oak County Historical Commission
Live Oak County Historical Commission

          Charles and Emma (Lewis) Tullis

Tullis descendants stand in front of marker at the SouthTrust Bank in George West with Leslie Walker, granddaughter and marker sponsor, on the day of dedication. Photo Richard Hudson.

Live Oak County Judge: Honorable Jim Huff 

Live Oak County Historical Commission Chair: Sue Denniston

LOCHC Marker Chair: Richard Hudson

Chair Assistant: Janis Hudson

Tullis Marker Sponsor: Leslie Walker

Year Unveiled: 2014



Tullis Texas Historic Subject Marker Text:


                                      Charles and Emma (Lewis) Tullis. 

  Charles (Charlie) and Emma Tullis, native Live Oak County residents, shared roots preceding the republic of Texas and Live Oak County. Charles' (b. Oct. 10, 1873) forebears, James and Rhoda Creel Beall Winters and family, walked from Tennessee to Texas in 1834. James, who fought with Sam Houston in the War of 1812, provided three sons and supplies in the Battle of San Jacinto. Winters' daughter, Lillie Ellen, widowed by Thomas Adams and later William Cude, married Charles O. Edwards. Their grandson, Andrew Mitchell Tullis (Charlie's father), defended against one of the last Indian raids in South Texas in 1872. 

  Emma's Texas roots began in 1835 with a Mexican land grant procured by her ancestor, John McGloin, killed with Fannin in the Goliad Massacre. A portion of the property passed to Mary McGloin. It later passed to grandaughter, Margaret Ellen Dolan, married to Simeon Wise Lewis, owner of a Gussettville General Store. Their son, W.H. Lewis (Emma's father), preceded Charlie as sheriff and tax assessor-collector. Charlie assumed the office in 1909 and, shortly after, his first wife, Jessica Kay, died of cancer. 

  Charlie and Emma married on Jan. 1, 1913. Known to deliver tax notices without a gun, Charlie served during tough times including county seat transition from Oakville to George West. Emma supported him in the tax office during his tenure until 1922. 

  As founding president of First National Bank of George West, Charlie served the bank thirty-eight years. His leadership and integrity in banking, ranching and law enforcement earned him the title of "Mr. Charlie." He and Emma are buried in St. Joseph's Cemetery at Gussettville, established by Irish Catholic pioneers. (2014) Marker is Property of the State of Texas.



Charles and Emma (Lewis) Tullis


I.                   CONTEXT


           It is difficult to know whether Live Oak County influenced Charles and Emma Tullis more, or they influenced Live Oak County more. Each Tullis shared roots to the area that preceded the Republic of Texas and Live Oak County.  Yet, Live Oak County is where each was born and where they chose to remain their entire lives.

Emma’s American roots began in 1828. Her ancestor, James McGloin, applied for a Mexican land grant and was made Empresario for the San Patricio Colony. While Texas still belonged to Mexico, John McMullen and James McGloin, natives of Ireland but residents of Matamoras, obtained an empresario contract from the state of Coahuila and Texas in August, 1828, to settle 200 families along the north bank of the Nueces River. McMullen and McGloin recruited Irish families and brought them from Ireland to New York. Sailing from New York, these families then traveled by sea to Texas to colonize the grant.[1]  John McGloin, Patrick McGloin’s son, procured an original Mexican grant in 1835.[2] Through a succession of family deeds, land ownership passed from John (killed at the Goliad Massacre with Fannin), to his father Patrick McGloin, to Patrick’s sister, Mary McGloin Fox. The family line then goes from Mary McGloin Fox to her daughter, Mary Ellen “Nellie” Fox Dolan and her daughter Margaret Ellen Dolan married Simeon (Bill) Wise Lewis, owner of the Gussetville General Merchandise which was established by Norwich Gussett, for whom the original community of Fox Nation changed its name to Gussettville. Bill and Ellen’s son, William Henry Lewis, married Josephine McMurray, and their daughter is Emma Lewis who married Charles Tullis. The McGloin title to land just north of present day Gussetville remains in the McGloin-Fox family.[3]  

Charles Tullis’ family came by land to the Texas Big Thicket just above the San Jacinto River before the Texas Revolution then moved to northern San Patricio Colony after they fought for Texas’ Independence. James W. Winters, who fought with Sam Houston in the War of 1812, had two elder sons who left their home in Memphis, Tennessee for Texas in 1832. By 1834, Winters, age 62, with his wife, Rhoda Creel (Beall), loaded up their family and a wagon and began the long trek to Texas. Their daughter, Lillie Ellen, married Charles O. Edwards, a friend of Stephen F. Austin, after they arrived in Texas.[4] Together with James, Jr., Rhoda, the Cude children, Lillie’s by her second husband then deceased, and the Edwards made their way to the San Patricio colony in the late 1840’s. A cousin’s letter described the Oakville grave where Rhoda is buried as “…a lonely grave where the wild winds blew in the brush country and the wild beasts devoured each other and the lonesome wolves howled on the hill tops.”[5] Yet fifth generation, Henry “Dude” Tullis, saw it as, "Living here in the brush country is so wonderful, it’s almost like heaven."[6]

By 1855, pioneer frontiersman gathered beneath the massive limbs of a Live Oak Tree in Gussettville to petition the State of Texas for the creation of Live Oak County. The State granted county status on February 2, 1856. Gussetville and a stage stop called “on the Sulphur,” a tributary creek feeding into the Nueces River, contended for the honor of county seat. The stage stop won out when Thomas Wilson donated 640 acres encompassing the stage stop to establish the town of Oakville on Sulphur Creek September 8, 1856.[7]

Disgruntled over the loss of the county seat, Norwich Gusset, for whom Gussetville was named, sold his store to Simeon Wise Lewis and left for Corpus Christi.[8] With the store, Lewis also purchased stables, fresh horses, and an adjoining racetrack. According to an interview with James Joseph Gallagher published in the 1970's, "one could buy anything at the Lewis store, whiskey was brought in by the barrel and the fireplace was so large a whole tree trunk could be put in without cutting".[9] Lewis married Margaret Ellen Dolan, niece of Mary McGloin Fox.[10] Their son, William “Bill” Henry Lewis, who married Josephine McMurray, served as Live Oak County sheriff from 1897 to 1909.[11] 

During the Civil War, with most of the local men gone, Oakville collapsed into lawlessness. Before the war ended, Confederate Sergeant Alexander Coker left the war to return home to serve as sheriff.[12] By 1875, Captain Leander McNelly and a 40 man contingency of Texas Rangers bivouacked outside the town in an all-out effort to restore order to Oakville and the larger Nueces Strip (the area between the Nueces and the Rio Grande Rivers) where ownership was still contended by Mexico.[13]

Soon after the Civil War, enterprising mustangers and cattlemen came to Live Oak County to roundup and herd the wild horses and longhorns that had become plentiful to northern markets. By 1880, George Washington West, having gained a fortune as a young cattle drover, and his wife, Kitty Searcy West bought 140,000 acres of land in Live Oak County, and continued amassing their fortune raising cattle and braving the hardships wrought by the drought ridden territory.[14]


II.                    Overview 


West intuitively foresaw the demise of the cattle kingdom, as he knew it, with the coming of the railroad. West sold off much of his ranch to build a town with his name in the geographic center of the county. With visions for making his town the county seat, George West platted the town with a reserved area for the courthouse. [15] The town, George West, was recorded in the Live Oak County Clerk’s office in Oakville on September 22, 1914.[16]

Charles Lee Tullis was born October 10, 1873 near where West later built his ranch house on the Salt Branch. Charlie was third of 12 children born to Andrew Mitchell Tullis and Rhoda Ann Edwards.[17] Charles’ great grandfather James Winters Sr., 62, was warned by his old friend and neighbor, Sam Houston, that “we are going to have it out with the Mexicans for sure,” and advised Winter’s to plant all the corn he could for next spring. Too old to fight, James and his youngest son, Benjamin, supplied the Texas militia with much needed grain and supplies. Three Winters’ sons and two sons-in-law including Charles O. Edwards fought at the Battle of San Jacinto, April 19, 1836.  From their home in the Big Thicket near San Jacinto, Great Grandmother, Rhoda Creel Beall Winters, could hear the report of rifle and canon from the nearby battlefield as Houston’s army routed the Mexican army and captured Santa Ana. James Winters, Sr. died May 23, 1848 and is buried at Waverly.[18] 

            Charlie was one among many of Andrew Tullis’ children. It forced Charlie to work hard and grow up fast infusing a determination and stamina that remained with him throughout life. Charlie’s father set an example for valor and toughness. In 1872 he played a principal role in the last Indian fight in South Texas. Near Oakville, Tullis and a small posse of ranchers engaged marauding Indians stealing horses. A desperate fight ensued and the stolen horses retrieved. The fight was first published Sept. 10, 1931 in the Bee – Picayune, and it marked the last time Indians raided in South Texas.[19]

            Charles Tullis married Jessie May Kay, daughter of William Drury and Mary Francis Kay who had considerable land and cattle holdings in McMullen County. Charlie and Jessie were married at the ages of 20 and 21 respectively.[20] Their children were: Drury Lee born 1896 who later served in World War I, Ruby born 1898, Albert born 1902, and Beulah, 1905. Jessie died in 1911 of colon cancer in Beeville. [21] By the time of Jessie’s death, the family was living in Oakville where Charlie had been sheriff since 1909. Charlie remained widowed until 1913.   

 Referred to as "Sheriff Charlie" and later as "Mr. Charlie", Tullis’ hardscrabble life served him well for he had many brushes with death while carrying out justice.[22] In the 1800s and early 1900s, the office of Sheriff and County Tax Assessor-Collector was one and the same.[23] Historian Walter Prescott Webb described Oakville as "a hard country where civil authorities were helpless and took no notice of any outrage."[24]  Oakville had grown into a thriving town that shipped cattle, horses, and cotton.  Sheriff Charlie maintained law and order during a time when "taming the west" was no easy task. And he often did it without carrying a handgun.

Charles Lee Tullis and Emma Augusta Lewis were married January 1, 1913 in Oakville.[25] "Miss Emmie", as she was known, was the eldest daughter of a large Irish Catholic family descended from Michael Fox and Mary McGloin (sister to Empresario James McGloin).  St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Gussettville, established in 1874, remained the center of life until St. George Catholic Church began in George West.  Entire families were baptized, married, and buried right next to the Gussettville church.  Emma was a devout Catholic and contributed generously to the early establishment of the St. George Catholic Church in George West.[26] Charles and she had two children, Henry Andrew “Dude” and Grayce. [27]

As the daughter of earlier Sheriff, Henry “Bill” Lewis, Emma was used to working in the Tax Office. She continued this role helping Charlie throughout his time as Sheriff. Charlie’s tenure included the transition time when the county seat was moved from Oakville to George West. It was a trying time for the county as so many people refused to believe that George West actually won the election, and law enforcement was necessary to transfer court records. The courthouse in George West was not complete, and all the offices connected with the courthouse were spread out between the school and hotel.[28]  Emma’s steady hand supported Charlie in the Tax Office until 1922 when he left the office to become president of the George West State Bank.[29] When needed, during the depression years, Emma helped her friends with loans. Many of today's citizens went to Miss Emmie with "hat in hand" to finance their first farm, establish a homestead, or finance a new mercantile business.

Charlie’s many brushes with death are the substances of myth, especially during the years at Oakville. More than once a deputy or friend came to rescue Charlie, some notably like Lurtis Johnson who saved his life, while Willie James Sr. lost his life in the process.  That story has several versions. One says the posse had to face a train load of banditos and another says there was only one very dangerous wanted man on the train.  In the subsequent shoot-out the bandito(s) were killed as was Deputy Willie James.[30] In 1914, two men murdered jailer, Harry Hinton, and carried out a jail break at Oakville.  They were promptly apprehended, arraigned before a grand jury, tried in a court of law, and sentenced to death.  Governor J. E. Ferguson gave one man a stay of execution, which Charlie Tullis faithfully executed protection for the condemned man from a crowd of angry citizens. A month later, Charlie prosecuted the man’s hanging. Rumors abound that the condemned men or their accomplice were lynched and shot full of holes, though the New York Times did give credit to Oakville’s law enforcement for protecting the last accused.[31] Court documents reveal there was no lynching as described by The Times, but that there was an actual trial, a governor’s stay, and final execution.[32]    

Sheriff Charlie served both Oakville and George West when they were the county seat and was elected to the post for seven consecutive terms.[33] George West, the town, considered itself refined compared to Oakville by early 20th century Brush Country standards. Charlie admitted to family and friends that he never liked hangings, and he never sought public attention, but followed the law when called upon to do so. During his tenure as Sheriff, he was known to be a peaceable sheriff who effectively enforced the law without constantly wearing a gun because he did not have to.[34] 

Mr. Charlie proved his trust-worthiness during his tenure as Sheriff and Tax Collector.  The pioneers in Live Oak County did not trust bankers, especially with their reputation for confiscating property and extracting forfeitures. Charlie’s strong reputation for honesty, fairness, and integrity established him as a natural leader in the banking business. He was recognized in the 1940s Who's Who of Texas.[35]   He was President and instrumental in the founding of First State Bank of George West in 1917 when George West needed a banking institution.[36]  His reputation brought security and encouraged others to invest. He served as President for most of his 38-year-long association with the bank.  Even when the bank was reorganized during the Depression, Charlie was there to welcome the community when the doors opened once again as the First National Bank of George West. He was a major stockholder, grew assets, and served without pay or compensation for most of his banking career. His name was First National's greatest asset, and he was respected throughout the county and South Texas for his abiding judicious respect for law, his knowledge of the banking business, and necessary connections with prominent people throughout South Texas.[37] Under his leadership, the bank soon acquired the largest holdings within the county.[38]

Charlie died in his home on Houston Street in George West at age 97.  He outlived most all his peers of the era and continued ranching on family held land, now a registered Family Land Heritage Ranch, until his death.  He is buried at Gussettville Cemetery beside his wife, Emma, and the earliest Irish pioneers of South Texas.[39]


III.                Significance


The land in Live Oak County is known to be unforgiving; staying the course meant loving the place with all its thorny brush, droughts, floods, rattlesnakes, scorpions, and tarantulas. There were always better opportunities in the urban centers north to San Antonio or southeast to Corpus Christi. People who made the choice to stay in this rugged county chose to leave city convenience, society, educational opportunities, and often prosperity.  Over time, this legacy of hard scrabble love passed down as though it was fed in the formula of each generation.  Today, men and women like Charlie and Emma Tullis are reflected in the children's children of those early pioneers who loved the land and its rugged individualism. 

Charlie Tullis transitioned the dawn of the 20th century from pioneer lawman to bank president. He was a man of his times, growing up in early pioneer days with posses on horseback and guns strapped to their hips to modern times with automobiles and telephones. Yet, Mr. Charlie was a man beyond his times. In a lawless land where peace often came by the gun, Charlie displayed a calm respect for life by refusing to carry a firearm except when the occasion called for it. It spoke volumes about his respect for each person’s life. The esteem he gave others was reciprocated in the banking business. He earned the title of Mister. The community faith in his fair treatment as a law enforcement officer transferred to trust in local banking. Through his often unpaid leadership and guidance, the bank continued to prosper and, subsequently played a leading role in the growth and economic success of Oakville, George West, and Live Oak County. With the support of his mate, Emma, this couple represents not only the stamina and determination of a hardy pioneering family but the timeless legacy of ancestral roots and endeavors well invested.


IV.                    Documentation


[1] Hebert, Rachael Bluntzer. The Forgotten Colony: San Patricio de Hibernia. Eakin Press, Austin, Texas. 1981. 1-60; Christopher Long,  "MCMULLEN-MCGLOIN COLONY," Handbook of Texas Online, (, accessed December 03, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.


[2] Spanish Land Grant from the State of Coahuila and Texas to Juan (John) McGloin for 8,333,333 sq. VRS, Lands lying between the Hefferman and Conway surveys. 07-04-1835.


[3] Hebert, 252-254; Will of Patrick McGloin to sister, Mary McGloin Fox, author’s collection. Olson, Margaret. Texas Roots. Southern Historical Press, Inc., Greenville, South Carolina. 1999. 71-72a.


[4] “Author unknown, Three Rivers News, “Live Oak Album”, circa 1950. Author’s Collection; Marriage Certificate of C.O. Edwards and L. E. Cude (Cude, Lilly’s second husband deceased.) Montgomery County. June 24, 1848. Text below mistakenly spells Edwards’ initials as C.D. Tullis-Walker’s collection, George West, Texas.


[5] Text from Texas Historical Commission Marker # 8480, Walker County, Texas; Retrieved from Texas Historical Commission Atlas, accessed November 10, 2013; Letter from a Cousin Sarah at the time of Rhoda’s death, repeated in a letter by J.W. Crouch during the 1936 Texas Centennial. Tullis-Walker collection, George West, Texas.


[6] Lindholm, Thelma Pugh. The History of the People of Live Oak County, Texas. “Oakville.” Live Oak County Library, George West, Texas, 1982. 299.


[7] Lindholm. Ibid. 15.


[8] Contract between N. Gussett and Simeon Wise Lewis. Nueces County, December 6, 1872; Live Oak County District Clerk’s Office, January 15, 1873. Book C. 373 and 374.


[9] Adlof, Viola. “We’d Like You to Know James Joseph Gallagher of Gussettville.” Three Rivers News. Date unavailable.


[10] Marriage Certificate of Simeon W. Lewis and Margaret Dolan, May 5, 1857 at Gussettville, Texas, Live Oak County District Clerk’s office.


[11] Sparkman, Ervin. The People’s History of Live Oak County, Texas. Ide House, Mesquite, Texas. 1981. 55.


[12] Hudson, Richard and Janis. Images of America: Live Oak County. Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, South Carolina. 2013. 22.


[13] Scott, Robert. Leander McNelly, Texas Ranger: The Story of a Courageous American Winning Battles with War, Terrorism, and Bureaucratic Red Tape, While Losing His Battle With Illness. Eakin Press, Austin, Texas. 1998; George Durham as told to Clyde Wantland. Taming the Nueces Strip: The Story of McNelly’s Rangers. Austin: The University of Texas Press, 1982.


[14] Kurt House, "WEST, GEORGE WASHINGTON," Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed December 06, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.


[15] Plat of the City of George West, 1914. Author’s Collection.


[16] Kurt House. See footnote 14.


[17] Live Oak County 1880 census; “Live Oak County Album: Andrew Mitchell Tullis and Rhoda Ann Edwards,” The Progress, April 22, 1981.


[18]  Text from Texas Historical Commission Marker  # 8480; Crouch, J.W. Letter.  “James Winters, Sr.” McMullen County History. Unknown publisher and date. 8.


[19] Text from Texas Historical Commission Marker  # 17279, McMullen County, Texas; Retrieved from Texas Historical Commission Atlas, November 10, 2013,


[20]. McMullen County History, published by McMullen County Historical Commission, Undated. 35.


[21] “C.L. Tullis,” The History of the People of Live Oak County, Texas. Live Oak County Historical Commission, George West, Texas, 1982. 298. Davis, Ellis A. The Historical Encyclopedia of Texas. Vol I, Unknown publisher and date. 756-757.


[22] Author’s research reveals the community’s oral collective memory repeatedly refers to Sheriff Tullis as “Sheriff Charlie” when speaking of him and his time as Sheriff. However, as President of First National Bank and generally after he became a banker, he was addressed as “Mr. Charlie”.


[23] Sparkman. 60.


[24] Sparkman. 55.


[25] Marriage Certificate of C.L. Tullis and Emma Lewis. January 1, 1913 in Oakville, Texas., Tullis-Walker collection, George West, Texas.


[26] Obituary: “Mrs. Emma Lewis Tullis Dies After Long Illness.” Newspaper and date unknown. George West Library Scrapbook.


[27] Lindholm, et. al. 298.


[28] Lindholm. 8.


[29] Sparkman. 60.


[30] Johnson, Marnie. Story as told by his father, Lurtiz Johnson, written to Leslie Tullis-Walker. November, 2013; Conversation between Lamar James and Richard Hudson. October, 2012.


[31] Sparkman. 36-37; The New York Times. December 14, 1914.


[32] Grand Jury Indictment for Ysedro Gonzales. Live Oak County. December 24, 1914; Grand Jury Indictment for Frederico Sanches. Each to be hanged on February 1, 1915; Ysedro Gonzales hanged on February 1, 1915. Notice of Governor’s 30 day Stay of Execution for Frederico Sanches. January 29, 1915. Sheriff’s return of Frederico Sanches’ hanging on March 3, 1915, Live Oak County District Clerk’s office and author’s collection.


[33] Davis.


[34] Letter from son by first marriage, Albert Tullis, to daughter of Charlie and Emma, Grayce Baily. Author Collection.


[35] Davis.


[36] “C.L. Tullis”. The Live Oak County Herald. George West, Texas. August 31, 1939;  Organization Certificate and Documents. January 27, 1934 and May 20, 1955. Tullis-Walker collection, George West, Texas.


[37] “C.L. Tullis.”


[38] Pugh. 365, 366.


[39] Obituary. “Charlie Tullis,” Unknown newspaper and date. Possible newspaper, the Bee-Picayune, Beeville, Texas, Circa 1970.



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