Barclay, James (1816–1873)

By: Howard N. Martin

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: March 16, 2018

James Barclay, legislator, county official, and Indian agent, was born in Tennessee on February 11, 1816, the son of Walter and Elizabeth (McQueen) Barclay. In 1826 he came to Texas with his father and brother, but they all returned to Tennessee the same year. In February 1836 the family arrived in Jasper County and settled permanently in Texas. On April 16, 1841, Barclay married Virginia Ann Foster; they eventually had twelve children. Barclay was one of the earliest settlers in what is now Tyler County. In 1852 he bought land in the John Wheat survey that included a village of the Alabama Indians. These Indians had begun moving southward about 1840 from their Fenced-In Village in northwestern Tyler County to a location on Cypress Creek. The Alabamas referred to this village as Jim Barclay Village and continued to live there after 1852 with Barclay's permission.

After the organization of Tyler County in 1846, Barclay served in many of the county's elective positions. He was elected the first tax assessor-collector; in 1850 he was elected sheriff; and he was the county's chief justice during terms that began in 1856 and 1858. On February 3, 1854, Barclay and Samuel Rowe were appointed commissioners to purchase a tract of land for an Alabama Indian reservation in Polk County. This land is now a part of the Alabama-Coushatta Indian Reservation. On May 12, 1858, Governor H. R. Runnels appointed Barclay agent for the Alabama, Coushatta, and Pakana Muskogee Indians. From November 7, 1859, to February 13, 1860, he served as the Tyler County representative in the Texas legislature. He returned to the legislature in December 1863 to represent Tyler and Hardin counties and served on several legislative committees, including Indian Affairs. During the administration of Governor Pendleton Murrah, Barclay served a second term as agent for the Polk County Indians, from November 9, 1864, until he was replaced on August 29, 1865, by A. J. Harrison, an appointee of provisional governor A. J. Hamilton.

Barclay continued to operate his large plantation and to participate in civic affairs until his death at his Tyler County home on December 14, 1873. He was buried in the Hart Cemetery, three miles south of Woodville.

Members of the Legislature of the State of Texas from 1846 to 1939 (Austin: Texas Legislature, 1939). J. E. and Josiah Wheat, "The Early Days of Tyler County," Tyler County Dogwood Festival Program, 1963. James E. and Josiah Wheat, "Tyler County and the Texas Republic," Tyler County Dogwood Festival Program, 1967. Dorman H. Winfrey and James M. Day, eds., Texas Indian Papers (4 vols., Austin: Texas State Library, 1959–61; rpt., 5 vols., Austin: Pemberton Press, 1966).

  • Peoples
  • Native American
  • Indian Agents
  • Politics and Government
  • Eighth Legislature (1859-1861)
  • Tenth Legislature (1863-1864)
  • House

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

Howard N. Martin, “Barclay, James,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 29, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

March 16, 2018