James G. Bourland, soldier and state senator, was born in South Carolina on August 11, 1801, to Benjamin and Nancy Bourland. He was married twice, to Catherine Wells and Nancy Salina, and had seven children. He lived in Kentucky and Tennessee, where he traded in slaves and horses, before he moved to what is now Lamar County, Texas, in 1837. He led a volunteer company against Indians in 1841. Later that year he served as second-in-command to William C. Young in another campaign and stayed when Young organized the Third Regiment, Texas Mounted Rifles, for the Mexican War. After serving as a deputy surveyor, he became the collector of customs for the Red River District in 1842 and was elected to the Senate of the First and Second state legislatures. A clash over customs duties with the crew of a United States ship in 1843 led to his being awarded a substantial sum of money by a United States court five years later. After his father, who had also settled in Texas, died in 1851, Bourland invested in a mercantile enterprise and founded a plantation on land now in Cooke County. During the late 1850s he again led a volunteer company against Indians. When the Civil War began, he served as provost marshal for the region in which he resided and in that role directed the investigation that climaxed with the Great Hanging at Gainesville in 1862. Afterward, he was authorized to organize and lead the "Border Regiment," which remained in North Texas although it was in Confederate service, and was later given control of all troops on the northwestern frontier. He was accused of atrocities, in addition to the Great Hanging, but Confederate officials ignored the accusations. After the war ended he received a presidential pardon and was acquitted by a civil court. He subsequently lived in seclusion until his death, on August 20, 1879.
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Bourland Family File, Sherman Municipal Library, Sherman, Texas. Richard B. McCaslin, Tainted Breeze: The Great Hanging at Gainesville, Texas (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas at Austin, 1988). William S. Speer and John H. Brown, eds., Encyclopedia of the New West (Marshall, Texas: United States Biographical Publishing, 1881; rpt., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978). Rex Wallace Strickland, "History of Fannin County, Texas, 1836–1843," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 33, 34 (April, July 1930).
First Legislature (1846)
Second Legislature (1847-1848)
Regimental and Staff Officers
Surveyors and Cartographers
Republic of Texas
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Richard B. McCaslin,
“Bourland, James G.,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 25, 2022,
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