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BLAKE, BENNETT

BLAKE, BENNETT (1809–1896). Bennett Blake, jurist, legislator, land dealer, banker, and delegate to the Confederate Congress and the Constitutional Convention of 1875, the son of Samuel Dow and Abigail (Lee) Blake, was born at Sutton, Vermont, on November 11, 1809. He married Mary Lewis in New Hampshire in 1833, but she died the next year, leaving a son who died at age sixteen in Philadelphia. After the untimely death of his first wife and the failure of his first business venture, Blake moved to Boston, where he lived with a sister for several months before deciding to seek his fortune in Texas. He arrived in Nacogdoches in 1835 with only twenty dollars but ultimately acquired a large farm and began a new life as merchant and farmer. He married Keziah Catherine Harrison, daughter of William Fenley, on December 26, 1850; and on November 24, 1853, he married Ellazina Harris, daughter of Elbridge G. and Mary Hamilton Harris. With his third wife he had three children.

As his financial condition improved, Blake soon began acquiring additional land in Nacogdoches County and over all of East Texas. Some he purchased outright, but much he acquired as a result of his moneylending. For many years, while Texas laws prohibited banks and restricted banking operations, Blake lent varying sums of money to his fellow Texans, the loans usually being secured by land and land titles. In effect, he functioned as a private banker and consequently as a land speculator.

He entered upon a distinguished career in public service shortly after his arrival in Texas. His neighbors first elected him a justice of the peace in 1838 and reelected him until, by 1850, he had served some ten years in that office. Thereafter, he became chief justice of Nacogdoches County, an office he held for twelve years. In these twenty-two years he reportedly heard and decided 7,000 civil suits and 500 criminal cases.

Blake fought in the Texas Revolution. He also served under Gen. Thomas J. Rusk in an expedition against the Cherokee Indians in 1839 and engaged in a second Cherokee expedition in 1841. East Texas voters elected him to the state legislature in 1862, and he became one of the Texas delegates to the Congress of the Confederate States of America, where he served during 1863–64. After the Reconstruction period, voters again chose him to represent them at the Constitutional Convention of 1875, where at age sixty-six he was the second oldest delegate. Thereafter, although his friends and neighbors urged him to continue in service to the public, he declined to accept public office and concentrated instead on his banking and farming. Judge Blake was a Democrat and Mason. He died in Nacogdoches County on March 1, 1896, and is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery in Nacogdoches.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Bennett Blake Papers, Special Collections, Steen Library, Stephen F. Austin State University. Joe E. Ericson, Banks and Bankers in Early Texas, 1835–1875 (New Orleans: Polyanthos Press, 1976). Joe E. Ericson, Judges of the Republic of Texas (1836–1846): A Biographical Directory (Dallas: Taylor, 1980). Memorial and Genealogical Record of Texas (East) (Chicago: Goodspeed, 1895; rpt., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1982).

Joe E. Ericson

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Joe E. Ericson, "BLAKE, BENNETT," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fbl35), accessed October 24, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.