William Edward Beeson, Confederate infantry officer, school administrator, and teacher, was born in Berryville, Berkley County, Virginia, on October 21, 1822. His parents were Edward Beeson and Dulcabella Wilhelmina (Stribling) Beeson of Virginia, who were devout Episcopalians. He obtained his early training in Logan County, Kentucky, and in April of 1840, joined the Logan Presbytery of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. He graduated from Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee, in 1849 and taught at Bowling Green, Kentucky, until 1853, when he became president of Chapel Hill College at Daingerfield, Texas. In 1851, while teaching at Bowling Green, he married Margaret E. Fleming, who worked as an assistant teacher and music teacher at Chapel Hill College. They had eight children that included: Marcia, William, Emma, Jessie, Wilhelmina, William Stribling, Edward, and Clarence.
During the Civil War, he enlisted in the Ninth Texas Infantry regiment known as Maxey's or Young's regiment. The unit organized in late 1861, and he was elected lieutenant colonel on November 4, 1861. The unit served in Texas, the Trans-Mississippi Department, Mississippi, and East Louisiana. The unit was reorganized in, both 1862 and 1863. Beeson participated in the Corinth Campaign, Kentucky Campaign, and the battles of Shiloh, Murfreesboro, and the siege of Vicksburg. He was captured at Vicksburg on July 4, 1863, and paroled the next day.
After the war, Beeson became a member of the Texas Synod at Clarksville in 1867. In 1868 he was moderator of the Texas Synod in Dallas and was named on the joint committee of three synods responsible for locating and setting up a new university. He returned to Chapel Hill and stayed until 1869, when the school closed. He left to become the first president of Trinity University located in Tehuacana, Texas. Trinity University was formed using assets from Ewing College in La Grange, Larissa College in Cherokee County, and Chapel Hill College. He served as president of Trinity University for thirteen years. The regimen at the school was described as "strict but parental," and Dr. Beeson was almost a detective in ferreting out the clandestine sports of the boys, who often referred to him as "Jack." Beeson was described as "a short, stout man, with stubby whiskers covering his face, a gleaming eye, a firm, quick step,"and "somewhat careless in dress." People respected him as a kind-hearted, fearless, and independent administrator and teacher. Besides his duties as president he also taught mental and moral science. In 1877 he took a leave of absence and traveled in the interest of an endowment of a chair in theology. He returned to the presidency in 1878 and also taught theology. He continued as president at Trinity until his death.
On August 18, 1882, while at the dinner table of Dr. William Craig, Beeson was stricken with paralysis in the left arm, which then spread to the entire left half of his body. On August 20, his wife was telegraphed with news of his condition. Margaret Beeson arrived in Hillsboro the next day and remained at Dr. Beeson's side until his death on September 5, 1882. His body was brought to Tehuacana, Texas, and buried with Masonic honors. Dr. Beeson’s former students at Trinity University and Chapel Hill College raised funds to place a monument over his grave on September 5, 1884, only two years after his death.
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Henry Hart Beeson, A Genealogy of the Beeson-Beason Family (Houston: H.H. Beeson, 1968). Thomas H. Campbell, History of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Texas (Nashville: Cumberland Presbyterian Publishing House, 1936). Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Texas, National Archives and Records Service, Washington. Cumberland Presbyterian Selected Records of the War Department Relating to Confederate Prisoners of War,1861–1865, National Archives and Records Service, Washington. Stewart Sifakis, Compendium of the Confederate Armies: Texas (New York: Facts on File, 1995). Ray A Walter, A History of Limestone County (Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1959).
University Presidents and School Administrators
Regimental and Staff Officers
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Brett J. Derbes,
“Beeson, William Edward,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 21, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
March 12, 2011
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: