The Handbook of Texas is free-to-use thanks to the support of readers like you. Support the Handbook today.

Font size: A / A reset

Support Texas History Now

Join TSHA to support quality Texas history programs and receive exclusive benefits.

Become a TSHA Member Today »

Costley, Michael (1809–1837)

L. W. Kemp Biography Entry

Michael Costley, soldier and Texas Ranger, was born in 1809. Though he may have moved to Texas as early as 1827, his arrival was more likely in the spring of 1832. He settled first in the San Augustine area and then in Nacogdoches. He served in the Texas army from June 22 to September 22, 1836, and, under Hugh McLeod, patrolled the Bexar Road between the Angelina and Neches rivers in the summer of 1836. Costley recruited a company of mounted rangers called the First Company of Texas Rangers and served as its captain from September 11 to December 11, 1836, when Sam Houston discharged him and his company for refusing to obey orders. In 1836 or 1837 he founded the town of Douglass in Nacogdoches County. Costley had married Mahalah Mussett, daughter of William Mussett, by bond (i.e., by written agreement in the absence of a priest) on January 18, 1827, probably in Missouri, and they had a son. He eventually abandoned his first wife and had two sons with Elizabeth Reed, daughter of Jacob Reed. They later married on September 19, 1837, in Nacogdoches County. Costley never obtained a divorce from his first wife. His bigamy set the stage for years of litigation among his heirs. Costley died of a pistol wound inflicted by W. R. D. Speight, the first district clerk of Nacogdoches County, on November 16, 1837. At the time of Costley's death, he and Joseph S. Able were operating a store, Costley and Able, in Douglass.

Robert Bruce Blake Research Collection, Steen Library, Stephen F. Austin State University; Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin; Texas State Archives, Austin; Houston Public Library, Houston. Carolyn Reeves Ericson, Nacogdoches, Gateway to Texas: A Biographical Directory (2 vols., Fort Worth: Arrow-Curtis Printing, 1974, 1987). Thomas L. Miller, Bounty and Donation Land Grants of Texas, 1835–1888 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1967). Amelia W. Williams and Eugene C. Barker, eds., The Writings of Sam Houston, 1813–1863 (8 vols., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1938–43; rpt., Austin and New York: Pemberton Press, 1970).

Time Periods:

  • Texas Revolution

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

L. W. Kemp, “Costley, Michael,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 20, 2020,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.