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GIDDINGS, GEORGE HENRY

GIDDINGS, GEORGE HENRY (1823–1902). George Henry Giddings, pioneer mail-line operator and stage driver, was born on July 4, 1823, in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, the son of James and Lucy (Demming) Giddings. In 1846 he traveled with his brother J. J. to Texas, where they joined an older brother, Jabez Demming Giddings, who was practicing law in Brenham. Soon after his arrival, George became a member of Capt. Thomas Smith's twenty-eight-man volunteer party to combat marauding Indians in the area. He was named surgeon of the unit, although he had no medical training and, in fact, had been studying law with his brother and serving as deputy district and county clerk of Washington County. Later in 1846 the volunteer group was enlarged to 100 men and mustered into United States military service as a part of the battalion of Texas Volunteers. Giddings was hired in the fall of 1847 by the San Antonio firm of C. J. Cook and Company as a clerk. Two years later he purchased that store and one operated by Cook in Franklin (El Paso). He operated both establishments until 1861.

During this time he took over operation of the San Antonio-Santa Fe Mail Line, which he assumed from its original owner, David Wasson. Congressional action confirmed the transfer of the route from Wasson to Giddings in August 1854, but it is generally thought that Giddings began operating the route as early as July of that year. The service operated the dangerous San Antonio-to-El Paso leg of the 1,100-mile route with one six-mule team, thirty-six additional mules, and a guard of seven men. From El Paso the number of guards was dropped to three, as the line covered the safer route on to Santa Fe. In 1855 Giddings lost 270 mules and sixty horses as a result of Indian raids. A small increase in government payments authorized in March was not sufficient to make the line a profitable enterprise. Though he constantly had to be replacing stations, livestock, and supplies, Giddings kept the line operating into 1857.

The San Antonio-San Diego Mail Line contract was secured by James E. Birch on June 22, 1857. Birch named George Giddings and M. B. Bramhall his agents on the "Jackass Mail," with Giddings operating the part of the route from San Antonio to El Paso. Upon Birch's death at sea in late 1857, Giddings continued to operate the mail line with help from Robert E. Doyle and Isaiah Woods. On March 5, 1858, Giddings purchased from Birch's widow the controlling interest in the SA-SD line. However, heavy losses continued to plague the line. The government again pledged to reimburse losses incurred, but the financial burden was much greater than anyone involved could have anticipated. By 1861 Indian raids and competition from the Butterfield Overland Mail Route combined to destroy the business.

With his mail contracts canceled and most stations and supplies lost, Giddings began a trip to Washington to plead for reparations. There he encountered an old friend, James Longstreet, who influenced him to join the Confederate Army, first as a procurer of needed materials and then as head of a volunteer militia along the United States and Mexican border. There Giddings commanded troops that fought the battle of Palmito Ranch, the last battle of the Civil War, a few miles outside Brownsville.

After the war he lived at Brownsville, where he was involved in colonization and mining projects in Mexico. Later he returned to San Antonio to practice law and deal in real estate. Giddings spent his last years in attempts to gain reimbursement from the government for his stage-line losses. When the United States Court of Claims finally heard his case in 1891, they disallowed his claims because he had not personally witnessed his many losses.

Giddings was married twice and fathered eight children. He married his first wife, Emma (Lockwood), on November 27, 1855. She died in an accident in Galveston on February 14, 1868. Six years later he married Julia Thompson of Washington, D.C. Giddings died at the Mexico City home of his daughter, Mary Wheatley, on December 12, 1902, and is buried in a public cemetery in that city.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Wayne R. Austerman, "Giddings' Station, A Forgotten Landmark on the Pecos," Permian Historical Annual 21 (1981). Roscoe P. and Margaret B. Conkling, The Butterfield Overland Mail, 1857–1869 (3 vols., Glendale, California: Clark, 1947). LeRoy R. Hafen, Overland Mail, 1849–1869 (Cleveland: Clark, 1926). Frank W. Johnson, A History of Texas and Texans (5 vols., ed. E. C. Barker and E. W. Winkler [Chicago and New York: American Historical Society, 1914; rpt. 1916]). Robert N. Mullin, Stagecoach Pioneers of the Southwest (El Paso: Texas Western Press, 1983). San Antonio Daily Express, May 4–27, June 1, 1902.

Beth Schneider

Citation

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

Beth Schneider, "GIDDINGS, GEORGE HENRY," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fgi06), accessed October 25, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on March 4, 2011. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.