Cotton, Giles (ca. 1814–ca. 1883)

By: Paul M. Lucko

Revised by: Anthony L. Carr

Type: Biography

Published: December 1, 1994

Updated: August 1, 2014

Giles Cotton, former slave and member of the Texas legislature, was born around 1814 in South Carolina. He was most likely the slave of Ethan A. Stroud, a plantation owner who moved from Chambers County, Alabama, to Robertson County, Texas, in 1837. According to Cotton’s 1869 voter’s registration card, he arrived in the Robertson Colony in present-day Robertson County, Texas, near the area of Calvert in 1837. Apparently he was married by 1840 to a woman named Miley, and his oldest known son was born in Robertson County in 1840. After the death of Ethan Stroud, in 1847 Cotton was moved to Limestone County (near Mexia) and became the property of Ethan’s son Logan A. Stroud. He became a favored slave of Stroud and worked as a teamster transporting goods from the port of Galveston to the Limestone area. After emancipation, in 1867, he moved back to the area of Calvert in Robertson County, where he worked as a farmer.

In late 1869 voters from Robertson, Leon, and Freestone counties elected Cotton, running as a Republican, to the House of the Twelfth Texas Legislature. He served from February 10, 1870, to January 14, 1873, and was on the Agriculture and Stock Raising Committee and Privileges and Elections Committee. He supported legislation that made Calvert the Robertson County seat. The United States census for 1870 reported that Cotton and his wife, Rachel, could neither read nor write and lived with their seven children. Robertson County marriage records show that a formal marriage between the couple occurred on September 5, 1870. The 1880 census listed Cotton as a farmer with his wife Rachel and five children in the household. Cotton apparently died near Hammond in Robertson County either in 1883 or 1884. Tax records as well as legislative records have often had Cotton’s first name misspelled as Jiles or Silas.

J. Mason Brewer, Negro Legislators of Texas and Their Descendants (Dallas: Mathis, 1935; 2d ed., Austin: Jenkins, 1970). Walter F. Cotton, History of Negroes of Limestone County from 1860 to 1939 (Mexia, Texas: Chatman and Merriwether, 1939). Francis T. Ingmire, Robertson County, Texas Marriage Records, 1838–1875 (St. Louis: Frances T. Ingmire, 1980). Legislative Reference Library of Texas: Silas G. Cotton (, accessed August 6, 2014. Doris Hollis Pemberton, Juneteenth at Comanche Crossing (Austin: Eakin Press, 1983). Merline Pitre, Through Many Dangers, Toils and Snares: The Black Leadership of Texas, 1868–1900 (Austin: Eakin, 1985).

  • Agriculture
  • Farmers
  • Peoples
  • African Americans
  • Politics and Government
  • Activism and Social Reform
  • Civil Rights, Segregation, and Slavery
  • Twelfth Legislature (1870-1871)
  • House
Time Periods:
  • Antebellum Texas
  • Reconstruction

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

Paul M. Lucko Revised by Anthony L. Carr, “Cotton, Giles,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 30, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1994
August 1, 2014

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: