Biographies



BATEMAN, ISAAC (ca. 1790-1848). Isaac Bateman, pioneer Red River County settler, was born in North Carolina, probably around 1790. Around 1816 he moved to Arkansas Territory with Charles Burkham and others who settled in the Red River valley. Around 1820 he moved across the river into Texas, where he joined the Burkham Settlement in northeastern Red River County, thus becoming one of the earliest settlers in the region. He purchased 400 acres from Ahijah Burkham in Bowie County in 1844. He evidently died in the summer of 1848, for his estate was probated in July of that year.


BLOCKER, DAN (1928-1972). Dan Blocker, television actor, was born on December 10, 1928, in DeKalb, Texas, the son of Ora Shack and Mary (Davis) Blocker. His delayed birth certificate, filed by a doctor on March 22, 1929, recorded his name as Bobby Don Blocker. When he was six years old the family moved to O'Donnell, in West Texas, where his father operated a general store. Dan attended local schools before entering Texas Military Institute in San Antonio at the age of twelve. He studied at Hardin-Simmons University and then entered Sul Ross State Teachers College (now Sul Ross State University) in Alpine in 1947. He was always big–fourteen pounds at birth, reportedly the largest baby ever born in Bowie County. He stood over six feet and weighed 200 pounds as a youth of twelve; by the time he became a star football player at Sul Ross he was six feet, four inches tall and weighed over 275 pounds.

At college Blocker became interested in acting. When he graduated with a B.A. degree in speech and drama, he refused offers of professional careers in both football and boxing. He acted in summer stock in Boston and soon afterward was drafted for combat duty in Korea, where he served as an infantry sergeant with the Forty-fifth Division. In 1952 he returned to Sul Ross, where he earned an M.A. degree. There he married his college sweetheart, Dolphia Lee Parker, on August 25, 1952; they had four children. Blocker taught school in Sonora, Texas, and Carlsbad, New Mexico, before moving to California in 1956 to work on a Ph.D. degree at the University of California at Los Angeles. During this time he also worked as a substitute teacher at Glendale and began his career as a professional actor in Los Angeles. In 1959 he was cast in the role of "Hoss" Cartwright on the NBC network television production, "Bonanza," one of the longest-running and most popular TV series. Blocker was an enormously popular actor and successful businessman; he was co-owner of a nationwide chain of steak houses called Bonanza. He received the Texan of the Year Award in 1963 from the Texas Press Association, and in 1966 he served as honorary chairman of the Texas Cancer Crusade. He played the role of Hoss Cartwright for thirteen seasons on national television, until his death on May 13, 1972, from complications following an operation. The television series was terminated soon after his death. Blocker was buried in Woodmen Cemetery, DeKalb, Bowie County, Texas.



BURKHAM, CHARLES (?-1837). Charles Burkham, pioneer Red River County settler, was born in Virginia before 1790. By 1804 he was living in Madison County, Kentucky, where he married Indiana native Nancy Ann Abbet on September 30. The couple had at least six children, including James Burkham. According to family legend, Burkham served in the War of 1812, though no record of his service has been found. In 1816 he moved with his wife, three oldest children, and several other families to Arkansas Territory, where he settled in the Red River Valley. In March 1820 the group crossed the river and founded a permanent settlement, known later as Burkham Settlement, on the mouth of Mill Creek near the present border of Red River and Bowie counties. Burkham was particularly interested in gaining title to his land and over the course of the next decade and a half negotiated with authorities in Miller County, Arkansas, and Mexico seeking clear title. In 1836 he and his son Ahijah joined Capt. Thomas Robbins's company of mounted riflemen. Burkham was murdered by a man named Page in the winter of 1837, while hunting for a runaway slave. Page thought the chains and hand irons in Burkham's saddlebag were gold.


ELLIS, RICHARD (1781-1846). Richard Ellis, planter, jurist, and legislator, son of Ambrose and Cecilia (Stokes) Ellis, was born in the "Tidewater Section" (probably Lunenburg County) of Virginia, on February 14, 1781. After a common-school education he possibly attended college, but no record of attendance has survived. In any event, he studied law with the Richmond firm of Wirt and Wickham until 1806, when he was admitted to the Virginia bar and joined that law firm. Sometime between 1813 and 1817 Ellis left Virginia and settled at Huntsville, Madison County, and later at Tuscumbia, Franklin County, Alabama, where he established a plantation and continued the practice of law. Then, in 1818, he was elected one of two delegates to represent Franklin County at the Alabama Constitutional Convention. The next year saw him elected a judge of the Fourth Circuit Court of Alabama, an election that automatically made him an associate justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. During his tenure on the bench, Ellis had a reputation for firm administration and a rough manner that made him unpopular with the other members of the bar. In 1829 he helped to found and served on the first board of trustees of La Grange College in Franklin County, Alabama. The college had a Methodist connection, which may indicate that Ellis was a Methodist.

Ellis made his first trip to Texas in 1826 not as a colonist but in a futile effort to collect a debt from a Colonel Pettus. In December Stephen F. Austinqv induced him, along with James Kerr and James Cummings, to go to Nacogdoches in an unsuccessful effort to persuade Haden Edwards to abandon his revolt against the Mexican government. It was not until February 22, 1834, that Ellis moved his family and more than twenty-five slaves to Pecan Point in the disputed territory claimed by Mexico as part of Old Red River County and by the United States as part of Miller County, Arkansas. Ellis's land grant of 4,428.4 acres (one league and one labor) was located near Spanish Bluff in what became Bowie County, Texas. He established a considerable cotton plantation there and entertained lavishly at his elegant home.

Late in 1835 he was chosen by Miller and Sevier counties as a delegate to the Arkansas constitutional convention scheduled to meet at Little Rock on January 4, 1836. Ill health forced him to decline, and he resigned his seat by January 21, 1836. Near the end of the month he was selected as one of five delegates from around Pecan Point to the Texas constitutional convention scheduled to meet at Washington-on-the-Brazos on March 1, 1836.

As the convention opened Ellis was unanimously elected president. On March 2, 1836, he signed the Texas Declaration of Independence as president of the convention. Although some observers were critical of him as a presiding officer, the general verdict is that he had a good grasp of parliamentary procedure and that he presided with a remarkable degree of gentleness and urbanity. Most importantly, he held the convention together for the seventeen days needed to draft a constitution for the Republic of Texas. Between October 3, 1836, when he was first elected, and February 5, 1840, when he retired from public life, Ellis represented his district as a senator in the First, Second, Third, and Fourth congresses of the Republic of Texas.

On January 9, 1806, he married Mary West Dandridge, daughter of Nathaniel West and Sarah (Watson) Dandridge of Hanover County, Virginia. The bride was a second cousin of Martha Custis Washington and a first cousin of Dolly Madison. Richard and Mary Ellis had at least two children. An obituary printed in the Clarksville Northern Standard reports that Ellis died at his home in Bowie County on December 20, 1846, at age sixty-five and states, "Judge Ellis came to his death suddenly by his clothes taking fire." He was buried in the family cemetery near New Boston, Texas, but in 1929 his remains and those of his wife, who died on October 20, 1837, were transferred to the State Cemetery in Austin. A son, Nathaniel Dandridge Ellis, also settled in Old Red River County and was granted a league and labor of land as the head of a household. Ellis County, formed in 1849, most probably was named in Richard Ellis's honor.


ESTES, WILLIAM LEE (1870-1930). William Lee Estes, lawyer and judge, the son of Benjamin Thomas and Jessie (Hicks) Estes, was born in Boston, Texas, on October 18, 1870. His father was a district judge and the founder of the Texarkana National Bank. Estes attended public school at Boston and Wytheville Military Academy at Wytheville, Virginia, where he graduated with honors in 1888. He received an A.B. degree with class honors at Hampden-Sydney College in 1891. He then entered law school at the University of Texas, where he received his LL.B. in 1894. He returned to Bowie County and opened a law office in Texarkana.

Estes was soon a prominent and successful attorney. In 1899, with Hiram Glass and John J. King, he founded the law firm Glass, Estes, and King. With the addition of A. L. Burford the firm was renamed Glass, Estes, King, and Burford. It became one of the best-known corporate law firms in the state and numbered among its clients some of the largest railroad corporations in Texas. On February 18, 1920, Estes was appointed United States district judge for the Eastern District of Texas, a position he held until his death.

He was also president of the Texarkana Board of Education and the state bar association, vice president of the Texarkana and Fort Smith Railway Company and the Port Arthur Channel and Dock Company, a director of the Texarkana National Bank, and a trustee of the William Buchananqv Foundation. He was also a Mason and a Democrat. He attended the First Presbyterian Church of Texarkana, where he served as a deacon. On December 9, 1903, he married Annie Poindexter Dunn, the daughter of a prominent Arkansas congressman. The couple had three children, two of whom survived childhood. Estes died on June 14, 1930.



HENRY, ROBERT LEE (1864-1931). Robert Lee Henry, lawyer and politician, was born in Linden, Texas, on May 12, 1864, the son of Francis Marion and Mary E. (Taylor) Henry and the great-great-great grandson of Patrick Henry. His family moved to Bowie County in 1878. Henry graduated from Georgetown University with valedictory honors in 1885, was admitted to the bar in 1886, and received a law degree from the University of Texas in 1887. He settled in Bowie County and was elected mayor of Texarkana in 1890 but resigned in 1891 to become first office assistant to the attorney general. Henry was assistant attorney general from 1893 to 1896, when he moved to McLennan County. He represented the old Seventh Congressional District in the Fifty-fifth and nine succeeding congresses. He was chairman of the Rules Committee during the Woodrow Wilson administration. In 1923 Henry moved to Houston, where he practiced law and participated in state politics. He ran unsuccessfully for nomination as the Democratic party's candidate to the United States Senate in 1916, 1922, and 1928. He married Lourine Tyler, and they had two sons and one daughter. Henry died at his home in Houston on July 9, 1931, and was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery, Texarkana, Texas.


JOHNS, STEPHEN B. (?-1848?). Stephen B. Johns, legislator and teacher, was born in Montgomery, Alabama, and later taught at Johns Academy near Montgomery. He apparently moved to Texas sometime after the Texas Revolution and settled on land in what is now Bowie County, where he was issued a conditional teaching certificate on October 3, 1839. In 1844 he served as secretary of the board of trustees of DeKalb College in DeKalb. The same year he was elected representative from Bowie County to the Ninth Congress. He was widely regarded as an influential and active member of the House. He evidently died shortly after leaving office, as Clement R. Johns appears as the administrator of his estate on the 1848 Hays County tax roll.

KING, JOHN JEFFERSON (1863-1940). John Jefferson King, lawyer and politician, the son of John and Virginia (Ship) King, was born in Franklin Parish, Louisiana, on July 26, 1863. His prominent and wealthy family was devastated by the Civil War; his father was a former member of the governor's staff, and his mother was descended from early settlers of Jamestown, Virginia. Late in 1863 the family moved to Bowie County, Texas, where King was educated in the public schools.

He served as deputy district and county clerk in 1883-84 and then began to study law on his own. He was admitted to the bar on December 10, 1885, and elected county attorney in 1886 and 1888. In 1890 he was elected representative from Bowie, Cass, Marion, and Morris counties to the Twenty-second Legislature. In the House he was made chairman of the House Committee on Engrossed Bills, a high honor for a first-term representative. After his term in the legislature he was elected county judge of Bowie County in 1892 and again in 1894.

King retired from politics in 1897 and began to practice law in Texarkana. In 1899, with Hiram Glass and William Lee Estes, he formed the law firm of Glass, Estes, and King. The firm, later named Glass, Estes, King, and Burford (with the addition of A. L. Burford), was one of the most prominent corporate law firms in the state; it served as general attorney for some of the largest railroad companies in Texas. In the 1920s it was dissolved after Glass died, Estes was appointed to a United States judgeship, and Burford became general attorney for the Louisiana and Arkansas Railroad. King then became senior member of the law firm King, Mehaffey, and Wheeler.

He was a director of Texarkana National Bank, first vice president and director of the Texarkana and Fort Smith Railway Company, vice president of the Port Arthur Canal and Dock Company, trustee of the William Buchanan Foundation, and a member of the boards of the local chapters of the chamber of commerce, United Charities, and Community Chest. He was a Mason, a Democrat, and a Presbyterian. On March 18, 1894, he married Caroline A. Wise of Barton, Texas. The couple had two children. King died on February 6, 1940, and was buried in Texarkana.



MCDUFFIE, DAN LAFAYETTE (1883-1931). Dan LaFayette McDuffie, Texas Ranger, was born in Prescott, Arkansas, on February 16, 1883, the son of J. C. McDuffie. Around 1886 the family moved to Bowie County, Texas, where the elder McDuffie became a successful farmer. At an early age Dan began training as a law-enforcement officer with his uncle W. D. Hays, chief of police in Texarkana. At age eighteen McDuffie was appointed deputy constable, and the following year he was appointed to fill the unexpired term of the constable, who had died. In 1903 Sheriff T. C. Morris commissioned him deputy sheriff responsible for all of western Bowie County. In 1904 McDuffie was elected constable in New Boston, where he served until 1910. Subsequently he served as chief deputy sheriff of Bowie County. He ran twice unsuccessfully for sheriff and later served as deputy United States marshal, special agent for the northern division of the Cotton Belt Railroad, and a federal prohibition agent. In 1923 he won fame during a campaign against local moonshiners by confiscating some eighty illegal stills. On July 7, 1931, McDuffie was appointed to Company B of the Texas Rangers, active in the East Texas oilfield. He went to Gladewater on a case and was driving with Gladewater chief of police W. A. Dail when they received report of shots fired. When they arrived on the scene McDuffie was shot by Jeff Johnson, a former policeman, and died a short time later. He was buried in Reed Hill Cemetery, a short distance from New Boston. The service was attended by 2,000 people, including law-enforcement officers from around the state. A state historical marker was placed at the site in 1967.

MILAM, JEFFERSON (1802-1844). Jefferson Milam, surveyor and planter, was born on October 5, 1802, in Franklin County, Kentucky. He was the only son of Archibald and Susan (Shannon) Milam. In the 1820s he and other family members moved to Missouri, but in 1826 he joined his uncle, Benjamin R. Milam, agent for introducing settlers into the Wavell Red River Colony in northeastern Texas. He became surveyor for his uncle and in 1830, as a single man, took up land in the southern part of the area that later became Bowie County. In 1837 President Sam Houston appointed him official surveyor for Red River County, Republic of Texas. In 1831 Milam married Eliza Serene McKinney, youngest daughter of Collin McKinney. They had ten children. Milam was a member of the Disciples of Christ. He died November 26, 1844, and was buried at his homestead in southern Bowie County.

PORTER, WILLIAM N. (ca. 1813-ca. 1846). William N. Porter, lawyer, soldier, and legislator, was probably born in Tennessee about 1813. He moved to Texas no later than the summer of 1838. By 1840 he was living in the Red River District, and when Bowie County was formed in December of that year, he was elected to represent the new county at the Sixth Congress in the House of Representatives. He was a member of the Tarrant expedition and signed a report of its activities as acting brigadier inspector. Following his term in the House of Representatives, Porter returned to the Red River District, where he entered a law partnership with W. G. Crump. Porter appeared as an attorney in Clarksville when the district court met there in October 1842, but no further references to his activities in Texas have been located. By the spring of 1846, he was living in Memphis, Tennessee, where he helped raise and was elected captain of the Eagle Guards, a mounted volunteer company which joined Zachary Taylor's army in the fall of 1846 and was assigned to guard duty. Porter, who was the company's only casualty during its twelve months service, died of disease sometime between September 1846 and February 1847.

RUNNELS, HARDIN RICHARD (1820-1873). Hardin R. Runnels, governor and legislator, the son of Hardin D. and Martha "Patsy" Burch (Darden) Runnels, was born on August 30, 1820, in Mississippi. His father died in 1839, and in 1842 he moved with his mother, his three brothers, and his uncle Hiram G. Runnels to Texas. The family first settled on the Brazos River, but Runnels soon moved with his mother and brothers to Bowie County, where they established a cotton plantation on the Red River. From 1847 to 1855 he served as state representative in the Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth legislatures. He was speaker of the House during his final term. In 1855 he was elected lieutenant governor. During these years he acquired a reputation as a loyal member of the Democratic party and a staunch supporter of states' rights. He was the son of a prominent and wealthy family and also became a wealthy man in his own right. By 1860 his real and personal property was worth an estimated $85,000 and included thirty-nine slaves. In May 1857 the state Democratic party held its first convention at which a gubernatorial candidate was nominated. Leading Democrats, angered by Sam Houston's votes in the United States Senate and his seeming endorsement of the American (Know-Nothing) party in 1856, wished to prevent Houston's election as governor. Because of his support of Southern positions and his party loyalty, Runnels received the nomination on the eighth ballot. Shortly thereafter, Houston announced his candidacy as an independent Democrat, saying that the issues were "Houston and Anti-Houston." Runnels was a poor public speaker and made few appearances, but the party's candidate for lieutenant governor, Francis R. Lubbock, campaigned actively. Houston also campaigned vigorously, but had no party machinery and little support from Texas newspapers. Runnels won by a vote of 38,552 to 23,628 and thus became the only person ever to defeat Sam Houston in an election.

During his term Runnels consistently supported Southern positions. He frequently asserted that Texas might be forced to secede from the Union, supported the unsuccessful effort to put the Texas legislature on record in favor of reopening the African slave trade, and signed into law a bill allowing free blacks to choose a master and become slaves. He also signed into law the bill that appropriated financial support to establish the University of Texas and the bill establishing the State Geological Survey. The most vexing problem Runnels faced during his term as governor was the problem of protecting frontier settlers against Indian depredations. The year he took office there was a marked upsurge in Indian attacks, generally by the Comanches. Although Runnels supported and signed into law bills that called for the raising of temporary ranger battalions to meet the emergency, he opposed efforts to form permanent battalions on the grounds that the state could not afford them and that the federal government was responsible for protecting the frontier. When angry settlers took matters in their own hands and retaliated against Indians on the Brazos Indian Reservation, they clashed with the army. Runnels's efforts to make peace failed. In 1859 the state Democratic convention renominated Runnels, and Houston again declared himself a candidate. This time however, Houston's key issues were his record of service to the state, particularly at the battle of San Jacinto, and Runnels's record as governor. Houston made particularly effective use of the problems on the frontier and the African slave-trade issue. The Democratic party attempted to blunt the criticism on the slave-trade matter by remaining silent on the controversy in their platform, but they were largely unsuccessful. The combination of Runnels's mediocre record as governor and Houston's personal popularity resulted in a reversal of the 1857 results, and Houston defeated Runnels by a vote of 36,227 to 27,500.

Runnels subsequently retired to his plantation in Bowie County but remained active in the Democratic party. He was a member of the Secession Convention in 1861, where he was a vigorous supporter of the secession resolution. After the Civil War, although he had not yet received a pardon from the president, he was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1866. At this convention he was one of about eleven delegates who were often termed the "aggressive secessionists" or the "irreconcilables." Although this group nominated him for convention president, he was not elected, and his extreme reluctance to seek or endorse workable compromises negated any influence he might have had on the convention's deliberations. In the 1850s Runnels built an impressive Greek Revival mansion near Old Boston and furnished it in anticipation of his approaching marriage. For some reason the wedding never took place, and he remained a bachelor for the rest of his life. When the Texas Historical Society was organized in Houston on May 23, 1870, Runnels was elected one of its vice presidents. He was also a member of St. John's Masonic Lodge. He died on December 25, 1873, and was buried in the Runnels family cemetery in Bowie County. In 1929 his remains were exhumed and reinterred in the State Cemetery at Austin, where a monument was installed at his new grave.



RUSSELL, ALEXANDER J. (1824-1850). Alexander J. Russell was born in 1824. Research has linked him to the James W. Russell family that moved to Bowie County, Texas, in 1842, as well as to the Russell families in Hopkins County. He was teaching school at DeKalb College in Clarksville in 1844 and paid his first poll tax in Red River County in 1845. He represented Bowie County in the First Legislature in 1846 and served in Capt. Benjamin McCulloch's company during the Mexican War; he took part in the battle of Monterrey. Russell owned his first business, A and R Russell, in 1847 in Bowie County, and served as superintendent of the Clarksville Male Academy (later Clarksville Male and Female Academy). Russell married Ann Duty on January 9, 1849, in Clarksville. The Dutys had settled in Red River County as early as 1838. The Russells had one child, Sarah, born in 1849. Russell died in Red River County on January 20, 1850, of a sudden illness. The county court appointed his widow the administrator of his estate.


WHITAKER, WILLIS, SR. (1798-1867). Willis Whitaker, Sr., early Cass County settler and one of the largest slaveholders in Texas on the eve of the Civil War, was born 1798 in South Carolina. He immigrated to Texas in May 1840 and settled in what is now Cass County, where he received a 640-acre grant in November 1841. He and his wife, Sarah, whom he married on September 19, 1843, had several children, among them Benjamin F. Whitaker, who later served as a member of the Texas Senate. Whitaker gradually added to his landholdings and by 1860 had 1,000 improved acres and a net worth of $100,400. He also owned 102 slaves and was thus one of the 100 largest slaveholders in the state at the time. His plantation's extensive facilities included brick slave quarters that faced a street and a brick jail with separate cells for men and women. In 1859 Whitaker's plantation produced more rye than any other in the state, 500 bushels. In 1860 it produced 2,000 bushels of corn and 150 bales of cotton. Whitaker evidently died around the time of the Civil War and was buried in Old Harrison Chapel Cemetery near Redwater in Bowie County.


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