Bonner, William (1783–1877)

By: Christopher Long

Type: Biography

Published: November 1, 1994

William Bonner, early settler and planter, was born in Abbeville District, South Carolina, on April 16, 1783, the son of James and Mary (Laird) Bonner. As a young man he worked as a wagoner hauling goods between Abbeville and Charleston. During the War of 1812 he served in the South Carolina militia and rose to the rank of lieutenant. On March 27, 1816, he married Ann Lee Joel of Charleston, with whom he had eleven children. In 1818 Bonner and his family moved to Monroe County, Alabama, and later to Wilcox County. During this period he began accumulating considerable wealth and put his younger siblings through school. In the early 1850s he moved to Texas and settled on Tehuacana Creek in Freestone County. Between 1854 and 1858 he and his brother, Dr. John Bonner, acquired large tracts of land in the area. By 1860 he owned 112 slaves and $104,920 in real property and was reportedly the wealthiest man in Freestone County. That year his plantation produced 900 bushels of corn and ninety-eight bales of cotton. Bonner was a devout Presbyterian who played an important role in the affairs of the church and was one of the organizers of the Harmony Hill Church at Steward's Mill in October 1876. He and his large extended family were also prominent in local affairs and helped build many of Freestone County's early roads. Bonner died at his home in Freestone County on July 1, 1877, and was buried in the Bonner family cemetery near Steward's Mill. In 1970 a Texas historical marker was placed at the gravesite.

Randolph B. Campbell, An Empire for Slavery: The Peculiar Institution in Texas, 1821–1865 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989). Marker Files, Texas Historical Commission, Austin.

  • Agriculture
  • Plantation Owners
Time Periods:
  • Antebellum Texas

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

Christopher Long, “Bonner, William,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 21, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 1, 1994