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WALSH, WILLIAM C.

WALSH, WILLIAM C. (1836–1924). William C. Walsh, Civil War officer and Texas land commissioner, was born in Dayton, Ohio, on September 23, 1836. He moved to Austin, Texas, in 1840 with his father, a blacksmith, and his mother. He attended Georgetown University, in Washington, D.C., before he became a clerk in the General Land Office in September 1857. He remained in state service until April 30, 1861, when he resigned to become the first lieutenant of the Tom Green Rifles Company B, Fourth Texas Infantry, which later became a part of Hood's Texas Brigade. Walsh was a captain at the battle of Gaines Mill, where he was severely wounded. He used a crutch the remainder of his life. In November 1862 he was assigned command of the Austin post by Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith and in December 1864 was named quartermaster general of the state. After 1865 Walsh hauled wood, ran a rock quarry, and refused, as an ardent Democrat, to accept a state appointment from Republican Governor Edmund J. Davis. Walsh bought a Barton Springs farm in January 1866 and owned it until 1905. In January 1873 he was elected chief clerk of the House of Representatives, where he served until 1878. In 1878 he was appointed commissioner of the General Land Office by Governor Richard B. Hubbard to fill out the term of Johann Jacob Groos, who had died in office. As land commissioner Walsh launched the prosecution of a ring of forgers and land thieves who had raided the archives of the land office; thirty were convicted and sent to the penitentiary while at least 100 fled the state. Walsh also uncovered a scheme to defraud the school fund of pine timber lands acreage. His opposition to the free grass movement led to the establishment of the State Land Board in 1883; as a result of this opposition he was defeated for renomination in the Democratic convention in 1886. Walsh directed the first survey of one million acres of land granted to the University of Texas under the 1876 constitution. He then arranged for an additional survey of one million acres allotted to the school fund. It also was Walsh's duty to select the blocks of land for the university. The discovery of oil on those lands has been the basis of development of a splendid system of higher education in Texas, an accomplishment of which he was very proud. Walsh served on the state Capitol board and helped decide on the use of Texas granite for the capitol rather than Indiana limestone when the local limestone proved unsuitable; transportation of the designated block size of Indiana limestone was highly impractical. Architectural plans for using brick for the dome were corrected by Walsh, who had determined the weight would exceed the theoretical resistance of the foundation. Walsh served on the board of public works for the construction of the Austin dam, and, as president of the board of managers for the John B. Hood Camp, C.V., was active from 1888 until 1918 in promoting the construction of a Confederate Home. Austin's Walsh Docks and boat ramp were later named for him. Walsh never married. He died on August 30, 1924, and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Austin.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Austin American-Statesman, May 30, 1920. Mary Lasswell, comp. and ed., Rags and Hope: The Memoirs of Val C. Giles (New York: Coward-McCann, 1961). Charles W. Ramsdell, Jr., "Memories of a Texas Land Commissioner: W. C. Walsh," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 44 (April 1941). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Virginia Roberts Gilman

Citation

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

Virginia Roberts Gilman, "WALSH, WILLIAM C.," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fwa44), accessed July 31, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.