Washington Swisher Rector   1845-1918


Washington Swisher Rector, Fisher County organizer, son of Jesse and Sarah (Stout) Rector, was born in Rhea County, Tennessee, near the town of Washington, on November 22, 1845. At the age of sixteen he left home to fight for the Confederacy as a member of Company E, Twenty-sixth Infantry. He was captured in 1864 and imprisoned at Camp Chase, Ohio, for eleven months. He entered Sequatchie College in Tennessee in 1867 and received a bachelor of science degree in 1870.

Because of poor economic conditions after the war, Rector was among the multitudes who left the South and moved to Texas. He settled in 1873 at Johnson's Station. He was qualified to teach and obtained contracts to conduct schools in Tarrant and Johnson counties. While teaching at Caddo Grove, he married one of his former pupils, Myra Melinda Selvidge, who had been born in Reliance, Tennessee, in 1859. Their marriage took place on January 6, 1878, in Tarrant County. In 1882 the Rectors moved to Indian Gap, Hamilton County, where he continued to teach school.

The state of Texas was offering attractive land deals in the western part of the state, so in 1885 the family and their four children moved to Fisher County. Rector bought 320 acres of land for three dollars an acre near Rotan. He made concrete blocks to built their homestead, which still stands. A large gypsum mill is located nearby.

Rector helped organize Fisher County and worked on land surveys in the area. He was appointed county clerk in 1887. He was elected county and district clerk for 1888-92. He made his livelihood raising fine dairy cattle, and he had the first dairy in the county. He was active in the Immigration Society, which was formed to attract colonies of new settlers to Fisher County. He helped organize the Masonic lodge in Rotan in 1907. He was a Methodist. Fourteen children were born to W. S. and Myra Melinda Rector. Several of the daughters became teachers and taught in nearby community schools.
In the early 1900s eight of the sons and daughters moved to California. They were joined in 1917 by their parents, who established a permanent home there. Rector died in Madera, California, on December 15, 1918.

A collection of more than 650 of his letters, documents, photographs, and manuscripts covers events in the lives of family and friends and embraces a wide variety of subjects. The collection was given to the Barker Texas History Center at the University of Texas at Austin in 1985.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Delila M. and Josie M. Baird, Early Fisher County Families: A Biographical History, 1876-1910 (Rotan, Texas, 1976). Levi Brimner Salmans, History of the Descendants of John Jacob Rector (Guanajuato, Mexico, 1936; photostat, Texas State Library Genealogy Collection, Austin).

Margaret L. Rector

Helen Bassett

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