James W. Carson, legislator, Confederate soldier, farmer, surveyor, and landlord, son of James W. Carson and Elvy Ann (Windrow) Carson, was born on October 18, 1840, in Williamson County, Tennessee.
In the 1850s the family moved to Oakland, Colorado County, Texas, and settled on a farm. In August 1861 Carson enlisted in the Confederate military and joined Company A of the Fifth Texas Cavalry as a private. In October 1861 he was promoted to the rank of sergeant. First he was sent to Arizona and New Mexico and fought at the battle of Glorieta Pass in March 1862. Next he was sent back to Texas and fought at the battle of Galveston in January 1863. At Galveston he was under the command of Col. Tom Green aboard the CSS Bayou City. Carson was the first person to board the USS Harriet Lane and helped capture the ship’s captain and crew. His actions in battle earned him the rank of captain. After the battle of Galveston he served for the remainder of the war in Louisiana. After the war Carson returned home to his parents and siblings in Colorado County.
On September 14, 1869, Carson married Josephine A. Fowlkes, They had three sons and one daughter: James W. Carson, Jr.; Ethelbert W. Carson; John A. Carson; and India Carson. The daughter died as a child, and the sons lived into adulthood.
By 1870 Carson had moved to Hackberry in Lavaca County and supported his family by farming. On October 8, 1889, Josephine died and was buried in Clear Creek Cemetery in Colorado County. On October 15, 1890, Carson married Julia Etta Watts; this union produced no children.
In the 1890s he joined the Populist Party, and in 1894 he defeated Democrat J. M. Kirk for state representative. He served one term and sat on three House committees in the Twenty-fourth Legislature: the Labor Committee, the Public Debt Committee, and the Stock and Stock Raising Committee. His service as a Populist legislator was uneventful, and he did not introduce a bill to the legislature. In 1896 he was a delegate in People’s Party’s Tenth Congressional District convention.
After his term in office he returned to his family, who by December of 1894 had moved to Hallettsville. He pursued a career in land surveying and was a landlord. He had spent several years, possibly during the early 1870s, in South America surveying land in Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil for those countries’ governments.
In 1902, 1904, and 1912 Carson served on several juries, including a grand jury, county jury, and petit jury, for Lavaca County. His second wife died on June 23, 1921, and was buried in Hallettsville Cemetery. In the August 1924 Carson left Hallettsville and moved to Thermal, California, to live with one of his sons. He died on January 5, 1925, at the home of Ethelbert W. Carson.
In 1936 a monument commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the battle of Galveston was erected on the Lavaca County courthouse lawn to honor the Hallettsville soldiers, including Carson, who fought in the Civil War.
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Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Texas, National Archives and Records Service, Washington, D.C. Galveston Daily News, August 5, 1896; September 17, 1912; December 22, 1913. Journal of the House of Representatives Being the Regular Session of the Twenty-Fourth Legislature (Austin: Ben C. Jones & Company, 1895). Legislative Reference Library of Texas: J. W. Carson (http://www.lrl.state.tx.us/legeLeaders/members/memberDisplay.cfm?memberID=3516&searchparams=chamber=~city=~countyID=0~RcountyID=~district=~first=~gender=~last=carson~leaderNote=~leg=~party=~roleDesc=~Committee=), accessed December 3, 2013. Shiner Gazette, August 16, 1894; October 18, 1894; November 30, 1894; December 27, 1894. Weimar Mercury, July 8, 1921; February 10, 1922; January 16, 1925.
Surveyors and Cartographers
Regimental and Staff Officers
Politics and Government
Twenty-fourth Legislature (1895)
Late Nineteenth-Century Texas
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“Carson, James W.,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 25, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
December 12, 2013
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: