Cone, Horace (1820–1885)

By: Mark Dallas Loeffler

Type: Biography

Published: December 1, 1994

Updated: July 29, 2016

Horace Cone, lawyer, editor, legislator, and railroad pioneer, was born in Virginia in 1820, the son of a Baptist minister and nephew of Spencer Cone, a famous New York clergyman. He received his early education in Baltimore before moving to Pennsylvania. He left college in 1837 and set out for Montgomery, Alabama, ran out of cash by the time he reached Augusta, Georgia, and walked the remaining distance to Montgomery, carrying only a knapsack made from his cloak. He walked twenty-eight miles a day through the dangerous Creek Indian Nation, where the Creek Indian War had just ended and tensions remained high. After less than a year in Montgomery, Cone pressed on to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and studied law under prominent lawyer Harvey W. Ellis. Three years later, having relocated to Marion, Alabama, he opened his own law practice. He later entered a law partnership with Col. George W. Gale in Cahaba, Alabama. In this venture Cone received much recognition before the bar. While in Cahaba during the early 1840s, he met and married Amarantha E. Roberts. They moved to Brazoria, Texas, in 1850. In 1853 he was elected to the Texas House of Representatives.

In 1857 Cone resettled in Houston. Three years later, as attorney of the Texas and New Orleans Railroad, he was called to New York, where he remained until January 1861. There he observed Northern sentiments and wrote a series of letters home to Texas discussing his observations. By the time the Civil War began, Cone had returned to Houston and reopened his law practice with partner George Goldthwaite. He was reelected to the Texas House in 1861 and spoke publicly of his experiences in the North. He shared the House leadership with M. M. Potter of Galveston. When Speaker of the House Constantine W. Buckley resigned, Cone was offered the speakership, but refused. He was appointed chairman of the finance committee, and the House of Representatives needed his experience to endure the bickering and hostile financial battles that erupted during the Ninth Legislature. In a time of hardship for the entire state, Cone had to preside over an unpopular tax bill and a furor over legislators' compensation that fractured the government. During the session he lobbied unsuccessfully for a Houston-New Orleans railroad as a "military necessity." He also took a bold stand and presented a petition to the House for a special act to allow Peter Allen, a free black barber who had fought for the Confederate Army at Shiloh, to reside in the state. Cone was defeated, and Allen was not allowed to remain free. During the war Cone served as a colonel on the staff of Gen. John Bankhead Magruder. He was also judge advocate-general of the military district of Texas, with duties "arduous and fraught with great responsibility."

After the war Cone took his family to New York for several years. He returned to Texas in October 1874 to become editor of the Daily Telegraph. He assumed the editorship in May 1875 but resigned the next year due to ill health. The Dallas Weekly Herald bemoaned that the "vigorous, terse, incisive style of putting fact, fancies or argument which was so characteristic of Mr. Cone's writing is now wanting." By the summer of 1876 Cone was employed as the right-of-way agent for the Houston and Texas Central Railway line to Shreveport. During the early 1880s he was also associated with the Houston East and West Texas Railway. At this time he became involved with an ambitious plan to build a track from Columbia, Texas, to the Pacific via San Antonio. He and others traveled to France and secured a multimillion-dollar loan for the project before returning. But upon his return in October 1885, Cone died suddenly and the plan collapsed. He was survived by at least one daughter.

Biographical Encyclopedia of Texas (New York: Southern, 1880). James A. Creighton, A Narrative History of Brazoria County (Angleton, Texas: Brazoria County Historical Commission, 1975). Dallas Weekly Herald, May 29, 1875, June 17, 1876, September 12, 1888. House Journal of the Ninth Legislature, First Called Session, February 2, 1863-March 7, 1863 (Austin: Texas State Library, 1963).

  • Journalism
  • Newspapers
  • Editors and Reporters
  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Lawyers
  • Railroad and Transportation Law
  • Fifth Legislature (1853-1854)
  • Ninth Legislature (1861-1863)
  • House
Time Periods:
  • Civil War
  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas
  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

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

Mark Dallas Loeffler, “Cone, Horace,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 19, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1994
July 29, 2016

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: