Historical women's group remembered during lecture at Bell County Courthouse

Herald/David Morris - The names of the Sanctified Sisters of Belton are displayed on a slide as forensic genealogist Kelvin Meyers of Dallas lectures on the group of women during the monthly Bell County Historical Commission meeting in Belton.

By Mason W. Canales

Killeen Daily Herald

BELTON – Bell County history lovers and others just curious about the Sanctified Sisters of Belton came together Monday night in a second-floor courtroom to hear some of their stories.

The Sanctified Sisters of Belton were a group of women who lived during the 19th Century without husbands or the authority of men. During their time in Belton they ran a boarding house called the Central Hotel Company. The group later became known as the Women's Commonwealth and later owned several other boarding houses.

The Bell County Museum and Bell County Historical Commission hosted a program called "The Sanctified Sisters of Belton: The Rest of the Story," where Kelvin Meyers, a forensic genealogist presented his research about the woman he called "interesting."

"It didn't take long for me to get interested in what this group of women did and what they wanted to happen," Meyers said explaining to the crowd of about 100 people that he first ran across the women's history while trying to find heirs to a families estates.

In the program, Meyers spoke on his research, he called "A Happy Home without Husbands: The Women's Commonwealth of Texas." Meyers presented details about every woman that was listed on a 1900 Census paper for a residence in Washington D.C.

He told the audience what happened to the women's families who joined the commonwealth after they left them and how some of the Sisters became members.

Josephine Shelton Rancier was the wife of a prominent jeweler before they divorced, Meyers said. Two of her sons later became bankers in Killeen, and their home used to be located on Rancier Avenue, named for the family, he said.

Martha White, the head of the group, was a mother of 12 children, only six of which lived to adulthood, Meyers said. White never divorced her husband, but moved him into a small room above his shop in Belton.

Of the six children, one currently lies with her in the Sanctified Sisters' grave in Maryland, Meyers said. Sam, her youngest, is the only man to be buried with those that were buried together.

Overall, Meyers shared details of more than 10 women's lives and their children's and former husband's lives.

Those in attendance, such as Judy Scarborough, enjoyed hearing about Meyers' research.

"I thought it was excellent," said Scarborough, of Belton, after listening to Meyers speak. "I found out a lot more details with him going into the details about their genealogy."

Scarborough thought the stories in their own way were inspiring.

"I think they were very brave to do what they did," Scarborough said. "In that day in time, you didn't defy your husband."

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