Coombes, Zachariah Ellis (1833–1895)

By: Cecil Harper, Jr.

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: December 1, 1994

Zachariah Ellis Coombes, lawyer, state legislator, and Confederate soldier, son of William and Ivy (Green) Coombes, was born in Nelson County, Kentucky, on March 30, 1833. The family moved to Dallas in 1843 as early members of the Peters colony and originally settled just west of the Trinity River. As a young man Coombes returned to Kentucky for his education. On December 10, 1856, he married Rebecca Finch Bedford in Dallas. The couple had seven children.

In June of 1858 Coombes was employed by the Brazos Agency to conduct a school on the Brazos Indian Reservation in Young County. He remained as head of the school until the federal government abandoned the reservation system in Texas the next year. Official records and written accounts of those who visited the school indicate that he was a competent teacher. On the Indian reservation he began the study of law and kept a diary that was subsequently published.

In the spring of 1862 he entered the Confederate Army as a member of Trezevant C. Hawpe's Thirty-first Regiment of Texas Cavalry. He was promoted to lieutenant in April 1863 and to captain of Company G in June of that year. He was elected county judge of Dallas County in the June 1866 election, during presidential Reconstruction. Coombes and the other Dallas County elected officials were removed in November 1867 as "impediments to Reconstruction" after repeated assertions by the local Freedmen's Bureau agent that they refused to protect black lives and property.

Shortly thereafter Coombes resumed the study of law and in 1870 began an active and successful law practice. In addition, he maintained an active interest in politics. He was an alderman of Dallas in 1871, a delegate to the state Democratic convention in May 1884, and a member of the state House of Representatives in 1885. He was a Mason, for a time grand master of the state body. He was a member of the Pioneer Association of Dallas County and of the Christian Church. He died on November 25, 1895, and was buried in Dallas.

Barbara Neal Ledbetter, comp., The Fort Belknap of Yesterday and Today (1963). Murl L. Webb, "Religious and Educational Efforts among Texas Indians in the 1850's," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 69 (July 1965).
  • Peoples
  • Native American
Time Periods:
  • Reconstruction
  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas

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

Cecil Harper, Jr., “Coombes, Zachariah Ellis,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 20, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1994

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