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WEAVER, WILLIAM THOMAS GREEN

WEAVER, WILLIAM THOMAS GREEN (1832–1876). William Thomas Green Weaver was a pioneer, lawyer, Confederate soldier, judge, early advocate of women’s suffrage, and a poet who earned a reputation as one of the greatest orators in Texas. He was born on April 25, 1832, in Carrollton, Green County, Illinois, to Green Weaver and Nellie (Record) Weaver of North Carolina. The Weaver family had moved to Illinois from Tennessee and eventually relocated in Iowa, where Nellie Weaver died. In the fall of 1839 the Weaver family left Iowa and arrived in Clarksville, Texas, in the spring of 1840. They settled near Redding Creek in Hopkins County, where Greenview is now located.

The Weaver family home was a typical dog-trot house of the time. Weaver’s early training was neglected, with most of his education obtained from common schools of the day. He worked as a farmer on his father’s land in Hopkins County and briefly taught at a local school. He relocated to Gainesville in 1855, where he operated a modest farm and developed both his writing and oratory skills. Weaver became a noted romantic poet whose verse was published in newspapers across the state of Texas and was known as an intellectual genius who sang about what he saw, understood, felt, and suffered. When he was between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five, he composed a volume of poems entitled Hours of Amusement.

Weaver studied law and was admitted to the bar in McKinney by 1856. Later that year he began practicing law with his brother S. S. Weaver in the Eighth Judicial District and adjoining counties of the Ninth District. Weaver was nominated as notary public in Cooke County and was commissioned on September 24, 1860. He made a living as one of three lawyers in Gainesville and on May 7, 1860, defeated three able competitors to become district attorney for the Twentieth Judicial District. He was a member of the committee that drafted resolutions for the 1860 Democratic state meeting in Henderson.

Weaver opposed Secession but left his official positions to serve in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. On February 13, 1862, Weaver enlisted in Gainesville for twelve months service as a private in Capt. Frank M. Dougherty’s Company of the Sixteenth Texas Cavalry Regiment. The regiment mustered into service in Cooke County on March 10, 1862, and relocated to Hempstead by August. The Sixteenth Texas Cavalry operated in the Trans-Mississippi for the duration of the war and participated in the battles of Round Hill, Milliken’s Bend, Mansfield, Pleasant Hill, and Jenkins’ Ferry. After arriving in Little Rock, Arkansas, the unit dismounted in April 1862 and was subsequently reassigned to Flourney’s, Waterhouse’s, and Scurry’s brigades. On November 5, 1862, William was promoted to captain of Company “E” at Camp Bayou Metre, Louisiana.

In April 1864 Weaver briefly commanded Camp Glenwood Lee outside of Dallas prior to the departure of the Sixteenth Cavalry to Louisiana. On April 9, 1864, he was captured at the battle of Pleasant Hill and exchanged by Union Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks to Maj. Gen. Richard Taylor, CSA, on April 20, 1864, at Blair’s Landing, Louisiana. In March 1865 the regiment was sent to Hempstead, Texas, where they surrendered with Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith on May 26, 1865. When the war concluded Weaver returned to Gainesville, where he married Nancy Wilkin Fletcher of Bloomington, Missouri, on December 10, 1865. Within a few years the couple produced two sons named Claude and Green.

On August 1, 1865, Weaver was appointed district judge of the Twentieth Judicial District by Gov. Andrew J. Hamilton. The district included the counties of Clay, Collin, Cooke, Denton, Fannin, Grayson, Hunt, Jack, Montague, and Wise. While district judge in Cooke County he presided over cases that included divorce, gaming, illegal sales of liquor, illegal sales of cigars, theft, assault with intent to kill, perjury, violations of estray laws, horse stealing, and illegal voting. Weaver served as a delegate from Cooke County to the Texas Constitutional Convention of 1866.

An act on October 11, 1866, reduced the number of judicial districts in Texas from twenty to fifteen and redrew the boundaries accordingly. As a result, Weaver became the district judge of the Seventh Judicial District, which consisted of the counties of Clay, Collin, Cooke, Denton, Fannin, Grayson, Hunt, Jack, Montague, and Wise.

During his postwar service, Judge Weaver played an important role in the trial of participants of the largest lynching in United States history, known as the Great Hanging at Gainesville, when, in October 1862, a total of forty-two people were hanged in the largest publicized event of vigilante justice in the United States during the Civil War. More than 200 local people were arrested for conspiring to commit treason and foment rebellion. The local Confederate authorities permitted the victims to be prosecuted by a citizens court, whose jury consisted predominantly of powerful, slave-owning members of the community. After the war, Weaver presided over the acquittals of the first six jurors of the citizens court that included Samuel C. Doss, Reason and Wiley Jones, Benjamin Scanland, William J. Simpson, and Thomas Wright.

The second supplementary Reconstruction Act of July 19, 1867, gave district commanders like Gen. Philip Sheridan at New Orleans the power to remove officeholders at all levels of state government. As a result of Special Order #206, Judge Weaver was removed from his position on November 18, 1867. Judge Hardin Hart was appointed by Gen. J. J. Reynolds and approved by Governor Elisha M. Pease as his replacement. Ironically, former governor James W. Throckmorton and former district judge Weaver defended Thomas Barrett, who was acquitted of all charges related to the Great Hanging.

Weaver was elected as a delegate from Cooke County to the Constitutional Convention of 1875 and was a member of four important committees. Weaver offered a strong resolution favoring woman suffrage, which the representative of Wood County proposed be expunged from the journal of the convention. Following the convention he parceled out his land to his children in Gainesville and Marysville, where they operated small farms.

W. T. G. Weaver died on October 18, 1876, at his home in Gainesville, Texas, and was buried at Fairview Cemetery in Cooke County. His death resulted from an overdose of nearly a hundred grains of hydrate of chloral. On February 7, 1877, the Honorable F. E. Piner delivered a speech in memory of Weaver in Gainesville at a meeting of the bar. His wife Nancy died on August 1, 1933, in Oklahoma City and was buried alongside Weaver in Fairlawn Cemetery.

On September 21, 1897, the Dallas Morning News reported the discovery of an old clipping from the Galveston News of the attack on Fort Sumter. On the reverse side of that clipping was a handwritten copy of “Texas War Song” by W. T. G. Weaver. Two years later the Daughters of the Republic of Texas requested that San Jacinto Day should be remembered in public and private schools with a recitation of “Houston’s Address to His Men.” In 1922 the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that poetry was not cultivated or indulged in West Texas prior to the Civil War despite sufficiently inspiring conditions and native beauty. The journalist noted, “I cannot recall a local writer who attempted to mount his Pegasus except W. T. G. Weaver . . . This gentleman possessed the gift of poesy to the nth degree and left volumes of his beautiful thoughts admirably expressed to posterity.” In 2001 a Texas Historical Marker was erected in his honor at 311 S. Weaver Street in Gainesville, Texas.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Thomas Barrett, The Great Hanging at Gainesville (Gainesville, Texas, 1885; rpt., Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1961). Edward Franklin Bates, History and Reminiscences of Denton County (Denton, Texas: McNitzky Printing, 1918; rpt., Denton: Terrill Wheeler Printing, 1976). Randolph B. Campbell, “The District Judges of Texas in 1866–1867: An Episode in the Failure of Presidential Reconstruction,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly 93 (January 1990). Betsy Feagan Colquitt, ed., A Part of Space: Ten Texas Writers (Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1969). Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Texas, National Archives and Records Service, Washington. Joseph H. Crute, Jr., Units of the Confederate States Army (Midlothian, Virginia: Derwent, 1987). Sam Houston Dixon, The Poets and Poetry of Texas (Austin: Dixon, 1885). Davis Foute Eagleton, comp. and ed., Writers and Writings of Texas (New York: Broadway, 1913). E. B. Fleming, Early History of Hopkins County (1902; rpt., Wolfe City, Texas: Henington, 1976). Richard B. McCaslin, Tainted Breeze: The Great Hanging at Gainesville, Texas, 1862 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1994). David Pickering and Judy Falls, Brush Men & Vigilantes: Civil War Dissent in Texas (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2000). Stewart Sifakis, Compendium of the Confederate Armies: Texas (New York: Facts on File, 1995).  A. Morton Smith, The First 100 Years in Cooke County (San Antonio: Naylor, 1955).W. T. G. Weaver, Hours of Amusement (E. H. Cushing, 1876).Amelia W. Williams and Eugene C. Barker, eds., The Writings of Sam Houston, 1813–1863 (8 vols., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1938–43; rpt., Austin and New York: Pemberton Press, 1970). Bill Winsor, Texas in the Confederacy (Hillsboro, Texas: Hill Junior College Press, 1978).Mamie Yeary, Reminiscences of the Boys in Gray (McGregor, Texas, 1912; rpt., Dayton, Ohio: Morningside, 1986).

Brett J. Derbes

Citation

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

Brett J. Derbes, "WEAVER, WILLIAM THOMAS GREEN," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fwe90), accessed October 22, 2014. Uploaded on February 16, 2012. Modified on March 6, 2012. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.