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FLY, GEORGE WASHINGTON LAFAYETTE

Title: George Washington Lafayette Fly (photo)  Source: Southern Methodist University, Central University Libraries, DeGolyer Library George Washington Lafayette Fly (1835–1905)
Lawrence T. Jones III Texas Photographs,
DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries,
Southern Methodist University

FLY, GEORGE WASHINGTON LAFAYETTE (1835–1905). George Washington Lafayette Fly, Confederate Army officer and Texas legislator, the youngest of ten children of William and Mary (Mitchell) Fly, was born on June 2, 1835, in Yalobusha County, Mississippi; in 1846 the family moved to Sharon, Madison County. Fly enrolled at the University of Mississippi in 1851 but after one term went to Madison College, where he graduated in 1853. He then traveled to Texas to join his parents, who had settled on Oyster Creek in Brazoria County earlier that year. At the death of his father in 1855 he moved with his mother to Big Hill Prairie in Gonzales County. There he became a planter.

Fly was a staunch supporter of states' rights and a regionally noted orator. He favored the Breckinridge-Lane ticket in 1860. During the Civil War G. W., as he was called, was a seasoned commander in the Second Texas Infantry and commandant of Galveston. In 1861 he gathered a small group of volunteers in Gonzales County who elected him their captain. These men were mustered into Confederate service as Company I, Second Texas Infantry, known as the Gonzales Invincibles, and later joined the Wilson Rifles to form a complete infantry company. Though designated the second, this unit was really the first infantry regiment organized in the state. Its colonel was John Creed Moore. With his regiment Fly saw action in the battles of Shiloh in April 1862 and Iuka in September; he was reported killed at Corinth in October. His family mourned at least three weeks before learning that he had been captured, exchanged, and returned to his command. He was promoted to major before the siege of Vicksburg, where his regiment served. He was again captured upon the surrender of Vicksburg on July 4, 1863, and again paroled and exchanged. He was ordered briefly to Demopolis, Alabama, and Enterprise, Mississippi, but in November was told to return to Texas to take command of and reorganize the regiment. With the forces he raised, Fly joined the expeditionary forces under Col. John S. Ford. In August 1864 he was made commandant of the post at Galveston, which he defended until the war's end. At that time he returned to his family in Gonzales County.

From 1866 to 1870 Fly ran an independent boarding school named Stonewall Institute (after Confederate general Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson), about six miles from Gonzales at Big Hill. He also took up the practice of law and was admitted to the Texas bar at Gonzales in February 1871. From 1873 to 1875 he served as president of Gonzales College. He was elected to the Seventeenth Texas Legislature in 1880 but refused to run for reelection despite his popularity. About 1885 he moved with his family to Victoria, where he continued his law practice and was a charter member of the William R. Scurry Camp, United Confederate Veterans. He was also a promoter of the Pan-American Railway Company. Fly long served as a lay member of the West Texas Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. His original law partnership with lieutenant governor Asbury Bascom Davidson and civil appeals judge William Lewis Davidson, known as Fly, Davidson, and Davidson, dissolved in 1889, and Fly formed a new partnership with his son-in-law, J. L. Hill.

On April 4, 1857, he married Mary Caroline Bell of Madison County, Mississippi; the couple had four sons and one daughter. Fly died at his law office in Victoria on January 27, 1905, and was buried in the Masonic Cemetery at Victoria. A son, Ben W. Fly, was county judge of Victoria County and city attorney of Victoria; another son, William M. Fly of Gonzales, was a state legislator.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

H. L. Bentley and Thomas Pilgrim, Texas Legal Directory for 1876–77 (Austin: Democratic Statesman Office, 1877). Joseph E. Chance, The Second Texas Infantry: From Shiloh to Vicksburg (Austin: Eakin Press, 1984). Roy Grimes, ed., 300 Years in Victoria County (Victoria, Texas: Victoria Advocate, 1968; rpt., Austin: Nortex, 1985). Methodist Episcopal Church, South, Journal of the West Texas Conference, 1905. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Theora H. Whitaker, comp., Victoria (Victoria, Texas: Victoria Advocate, 1941). Dudley Goodall Wooten, ed., A Comprehensive History of Texas (2 vols., Dallas: Scarff, 1898; rpt., Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1986).

Betty D. Fly and Craig H. Roell

Citation

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

Betty D. Fly and Craig H. Roell, "FLY, GEORGE WASHINGTON LAFAYETTE," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ffl39), accessed October 22, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on January 18, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.