James W. Byrne, early Refugio County settler and legislator, was born in County Wicklow, Ireland, about 1787. He traveled to Texas from the United States in 1835 or early 1836 and was a private in Ira J. Westover's company in the Texas army in March 1836. In 1838 Byrne acquired a tract of land on Lookout Peninsula and, in association with George Robert Hall and George Armstrong, founded the town of Lamar. Byrne built wharves and warehouses and established a salt works. He was county clerk of Refugio County from 1839 to 1841. On February 3, 1840, he was appointed commissioner to investigate the Refugio land office. He represented the Refugio district in the Senate of the Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Congresses of the republic. Before the Civil War he induced Samuel and James B. Colt, Randolph B. Marcy, and others to establish a munition works near Lamar, but the war prevented completion of their project. With Pryor Lea he planned a railroad corporation, hoping to make Lamar a railroad terminus, but the war destroyed those plans also. During the war Byrne served in Edward P. Upton's Lamar Home Guards and was member of a committee to attend to the wants of soldiers' families. A devout Catholic, Byrne gave the funds for the construction of Stella Maris Church at Lamar in 1854. His wife, Harriet (Odin), with whom he had a son, died at Lamar in 1858. Byrne died there on September 10, 1862.
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Texas House of Representatives, Biographical Directory of the Texan Conventions and Congresses, 1832–1845 (Austin: Book Exchange, 1941).
Politics and Government
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“Byrne, James W.,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 28, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
November 1, 1994