DENNIS, JOSEPH (1810–1894). Joseph (Uncle Joe) Dennis, early settler and Bell County official, was born in Warren County, Tennessee, on December 10, 1810, the son of Joseph and Ann (Bybee) Dennis. The elder Dennis was a farmer of Irish extraction. Dennis moved to Madison County, Arkansas, in 1839 and served in the state legislature from 1846 to 1848. He moved in 1849 to Milam County, Texas, where he became a herdsman in a ranching partnership with Judge Orville T. Tyler near Belton. At the 1850 Charter Oak election in newly established Bell County, Dennis was appointed chairman of a commission to locate the county seat at the site of Nolan Springs or present Belton, establish the county boundaries in Milam County territory, obtain the deed to the county seat from Mrs. Connell of Williamson County, plat the site, and advertise the lots for sale. He then served for eight years as first treasurer of Bell County. In 1854 he purchased more than 1,000 acres of land on Friar's Creek and the following year established a residence seven miles east of Belton. He subsequently purchased a larger farm on the Leon River, where he raised crops and livestock. But in 1861 he lost his house and possessions and returned to Friar's Creek to pursue a spinning and weaving business in addition to farming.
Dennis owned several tracts of land in Bell County; he operated a gristmill on Bird's Creek near the Midway Gravel Pit at Marietta and a lumberyard at Nolanville. When the Civil War began he was considered too old for active duty, so he remained at home aiding families whose men were in the army. He contributed to the outfitting of Capt. H. E. Bradford's Company from Bell County, served as a Democratic political leader, and was a member of the Primitive Baptist Church. After the war he sold his farm and mill on the Leon River, moved to new land on the Leon purchased in 1871, and in 1875 moved to 1,900 acres eighteen miles west of Belton, purchased from John Marshall. This site, known as Elmore Ranch, was continuously owned by his descendents until the 1970s. Dennis later divided his lands among his children, rented the farm, and moved to Temple, where he built three tenement houses. Sometime later he bought 600 acres in Callahan County and moved there.
Dennis married Isa (Ice) Seitze on March 15, 1836, and they had eleven children. In 1890 they broke up housekeeping and moved to California to be with their children. At his death on October 19, 1894, Dennis owned 870 acres of land in Bell, Callahan, and Eastland counties valued at over $7,000; he also had forty cattle and twenty-two horses. He died at the home of his daughter Margaret Neal near Temple and was buried in Hodge Cemetery there. His grave is marked by a Texas historical marker.
A Memorial and Biographical History of McLennan, Falls, Bell, and Coryell Counties (Chicago: Lewis, 1893; rpt., St. Louis: Ingmire, 1984). Texas State Gazette, November 1, 1851.
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Polly Peaks Elmore, "DENNIS, JOSEPH," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fde93), accessed May 25, 2015. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.