Britton, Francis L. [Frank] (1847–1880)

Revised by: Katherine Kuehler Walters

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: February 21, 2022

Francis “Frank” L. Britton, attorney and adjutant general of Texas under Edmund J. Davis from November 15, 1872, to January 15, 1874, was born to Thomas Pindall Britton and Eveline (Bayless or Baylis) Britton in Spencer County, Indiana. During the Civil War he enlisted in the United States Army in March 1864 and served with the Indiana Tenth Cavalry. He mustered out on August 31, 1865, in Vicksburg, Mississippi, then returned to Indiana. In December 1868 he moved to Texas, where the family of his uncle Forbes N. Britton, lived. When E. J. Davis, the husband of Frank's first cousin Anne Britton Davis, was elected governor, Frank served as Davis's private secretary, then served as adjutant general. Following this, he served as city attorney of Austin. A Texas legal directory listed him as a member of the Davis and Britton law firm in Austin in 1876–77. During the tumultuous Reconstruction era, newspapers noted that Britton got into numerous fights over personal and political issues. He and E. J. Davis had a series of conflicts with U.S. Marshall Thomas Purnell and his sons, Thomas, Jr., and deputy marshal Henry Purnell that as early as 1875. In January 1876 Henry Purnell and Davis crossed paths and had words on an Austin street. Purnell proceeded to beat “over the head and shoulders of the ex-Governor” with his cane, which led to another confrontation that involved the Purnells, Britton, Davis, Jacob C. DeGress, and John L. Haynes at a federal courthouse. On August 9, 1877, he and Marshal Thomas F. Purnell met in front of the Metz building in Austin and after a few words, resulted in a shoot-out that left Purnell seriously but not fatally wounded. Britton was arrested and jailed but released without bail by August 20. Conflicting testimony in court as to whether both men pulled guns made a case for self-defense. Britton was found no guilty but discharged from his position as city attorney. In the following three years, he sued the city of Austin for salary not paid.

During this time Britton had also been ill with tuberculosis, which had become significantly worse by 1876. H married Marie Rose LeClere in Galveston on January 3, 1877. He died October 28, 1880, in Silver Cliff, Colorado, a state where many tubercular people on the advice of doctors who recommended the dry climate. Frank L. Britton was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, in Evansville, Indiana.

Austin Daily Democratic Statesman, September 11, 1873; January 25, 1876; , October 19, 1876; August 10, 20, 1877; June 5, 1878; October 6, 1880. H. L. Bentley and Thomas Pilgrim, Texas Legal Directory for 1876–77 (Austin: Democratic Statesman Office, 1877). Erin Blackemore, “The Disease that Helped Put Colorado on the Map, October 4, 2017, updated April 24, 2020, (, accessed February 20, 2022. Dallas Weekly Herald, August 8, 1874. Clarence P. Denman, "The Office of Adjutant General in Texas, 1835–1881," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 28 (April 1925). Evansville Daily Journal, December 1, 1868; January 11, 1877; August 11, 1877. Galveston Daily News, January 4, 1877. Marshall Messenger, August 18, 1877.

  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Lawyers
  • General Law
  • Feuds
  • Military
  • Confederate Military
  • Union Military
  • Politics and Government
  • Government Officials
Time Periods:
  • Reconstruction
  • Central Texas
  • Austin

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

Revised by Katherine Kuehler Walters, “Britton, Francis L. [Frank],” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 28, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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February 21, 2022