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HAGUE, JAMES PRICE

HAGUE, JAMES PRICE (1848–1895). James P. Hague, attorney and El Paso civic leader, was born in Cassville, Missouri, on March 8, 1848, the son of William and Sara Hague. His father, a physician, died when Hague was eight years old, and two years later, when his mother remarried, Hague went to Texas to live with his sister and her husband. He entered McKenzie College at the age of fifteen and graduated with honors at the age of eighteen. He subsequently studied law as an apprentice in the Jefferson, Texas, law office of state senator David B. Culberson. In Jefferson he met Flora Brinck, who had been in a convent in Shreveport; they courted briefly and in May 1869 or 1870 eloped to her hometown of Minden, Louisiana, where they were married. They eventually had eight children.

Around this time Hague was appointed a clerk in the state Senate and continued to study law at night in Austin. He was admitted to the bar, and in 1871 Governor E. J. Davis appointed him district attorney for El Paso and Presidio counties. Hague replaced John W. Walker, who had resigned after his election in November 1870. Hague left his wife and child in Jefferson and traveled to El Paso by stagecoach in May 1871. He wrote to his wife his first impressions of his new home: "not much...but sunshine and sandstorms." His family joined him in 1873, and they moved into an adobe house owned by Louis Cardis. In June of that year Hague became one of the cofounders of the El Paso Real Estate and Immigration Company, along with Simeon Hart, Joseph Magoffin, and others, and he acquired a substantial amount of land in and around El Paso during the 1870s. In 1881 he was a member of the group of investors that bought the two-year-old El Paso International Times and changed its name to El Paso Times.

Perhaps recalling his arduous first trip to El Paso by stagecoach, Hague was a tireless advocate of linking the city by rail to the rest of Texas. In 1873 he and William W. Mills deeded land to the Southern Pacific Railroad for a depot in El Paso. On May 26, 1881, when the city officially celebrated the arrival of the railroad, Hague delivered the major address.

In 1876 he formed a law partnership with his brother-in-law, William M. Coldwell, which lasted until 1886. Their best-known case was the so-called "Courthouse Steal" in 1885. In May of that year the commissioners' court investigated the construction of the new county courthouse. The contractors and architect were accused of failing to live up to their promises by using stone instead of brick for the foundation, using sand instead of concrete under the vaults, and other cost-cutting measures. Hague represented the county in the ensuing trial, during which he revealed that he had been offered a $2,500 bribe to testify for the defendants. He pulled out the money in court, announcing dramatically, "I want the court to know that Hague and Coldwell are not for sale." He later donated the money to charity. The combination of Hague's reputation for incorruptibility and his position as a Republican won him enemies as well as friends, however. At one time, there was said to be a price of $10,000 on his head. His political affiliation may have cost him his position as district attorney in 1874. Hague and a rival candidate, William M. Pierson, claimed that a third candidate, the Democrat James A. Zabriskie, was not qualified to run, because he was a citizen of New Mexico. Hague filed suit after Zabriskie won the June election, but in January 1875 the court ruled that Zabriskie was entitled to the office and ordered Hague to pay the costs of the trial. Hague was appointed district judge in April 1876 and county attorney in 1880 and served as an alderman from 1885 to 1889. He ran for Congress in 1888 and for attorney general of Texas in 1890 but was defeated both times. He died in San Antonio on December 4, 1895, after a long illness.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

J. Morgan Broaddus, The Legal Heritage of El Paso (El Paso: Texas Western College Press, 1963). Password, May 1956, Winter 1975.

Martin Donell Kohout

Citation

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

Martin Donell Kohout, "HAGUE, JAMES PRICE," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fhaff), accessed December 21, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.