Crain, William Henry (1848–1896)

By: Craig H. Roell

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: August 11, 2020

William Henry Crain, Texas senator and United States congressman, was born in Galveston, Texas, on November 25, 1848, the son of William Davis and Emily Matilda (Blake) Crain. His parents, while still youths, emigrated separately from New York City to Texas before 1836. Young Emily Blake narrowly escaped death in the Linnville Raid of 1840, when Comanche Indians sacked and burned Linnville. She and William Davis Crain were married in Matagorda in 1844; after he died in 1854 their son was sent to New York City under the care of Peter F. Harrington, who educated him. Young Crain attended the Christian Brothers' School and received both the A.B. and the M.A. degrees from St. Francis Xavier College. He began the study of law at Indianola, Texas, in the firm of Stockdale and Proctor in 1869 and was admitted to the bar in 1871.

Crain was elected district attorney for the Twenty-third Judicial District in 1872 and served until 1876, when he was elected to the Texas Senate as a Democrat; he resigned in 1878, when he moved to Cuero. He canvassed the state for the Democratic party during several presidential elections. He served as a member of the national Democratic convention in 1880 and that same year was an elector for the unsuccessful Winfield Scott Hancock. In 1884, with the support of James B. Wells, Crain was elected as a Democrat from the Seventh District to the Forty-ninth United States Congress. He served in the five succeeding congresses, where he opposed prohibition and, unlike most Texas Democratic congressmen, opposed the free coinage of silver in the 1890s and supported President Grover Cleveland's fiscal policies.

He was known as a "beautiful and fluent speaker." He was married to Angeline G. Mitchell, the granddaughter of James Kerr, in the Catholic church at Indianola in July 1873. The couple's six children married into prominent Texas ranching families, including those of Gustav Schleicher, James A. McFaddin, John Dunn, and W. R. Rathbone. Crain died in Washington, D.C., on February 10, 1896, and was buried in Cuero.

Biographical Directory of the American Congress. Lewis E. Daniell, Personnel of the Texas State Government, with Sketches of Representative Men of Texas (Austin: City Printing, 1887; 3d ed., San Antonio: Maverick, 1892). William S. Speer and John H. Brown, eds., Encyclopedia of the New West (Marshall, Texas: United States Biographical Publishing, 1881; rpt., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978). Clarence R. Wharton, ed., Texas under Many Flags (5 vols., Chicago: American Historical Society, 1930).

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

Craig H. Roell, “Crain, William Henry,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 22, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

August 11, 2020