Denman, Washington Lafayette (1830–1891)

By: Aragorn Storm Miller

Type: Biography

Published: May 8, 2008

Updated: November 19, 2014

Washington Lafayette Denman, attorney, businessman, and state representative, was born in Franklin County, Georgia, on November 23, 1830, the son of Felix Gilbert and Nancy (Hutchinson) Denman. Some sources suggest that the Denman family may have immigrated to Texas during the early republic period and that Denman himself returned to Georgia with relatives in the late 1840s. Washington Denman married Algeline Swaggerty in Georgia on May 5, 1849. This couple had four sons and three daughters. The Denman family immigrated to Texas in 1853. They resided in Cass County until 1863, at which time the family relocated to Homer, Angelina County. During this time Denman had engaged as an attorney and businessman and bought and sold several large tracts of land in eastern Texas. In 1858 he received a state appointment as an examiner for potential Cass County schoolteachers and served for approximately three years as county commissioner. By 1860 he claimed $23,270 in personal and real estate property. Following the outbreak of the Civil War Washington Denman volunteered for service in the Confederate Army. He joined Company E of Anderson's Regiment of Texas Cavalry as a first lieutenant. He received a medical discharge at Shreveport, Louisiana, on August 29, 1864, and it is unclear whether he ever saw action with this unit.

Denman returned to Angelina County and established himself as one of the leading politicians of the area. In 1873 he won election on the Democratic ticket as representative for District Three—comprised of Cherokee, Houston, Trinity, and Angelina counties—to the Fourteenth Texas Legislature. He returned to state office in 1876 representing District Six—comprised of Angelina and Nacogdoches counties—to the Fifteenth Texas Legislature. Washington Denman was one of the primary promoters of the Houston East and West Texas Railway which was built through Homer and Lufkin in 1882. His final turn at state office came during the Seventeenth Texas Legislature from 1881 through 1882 when he once again represented Angelina and Nacogdoches counties. A charismatic and influential politician by contemporary accounts, he was nevertheless implicated in several scandals. Following his campaign for the Fourteenth Legislature Denman was at least peripherally involved in a shooting in Homer in which a political rival and the fiancé of one of Denman's daughters were killed. In 1881 during the Seventeenth Legislature the Houston Post reported that Denman was drunk while addressing the assembly. During an 1885 election to vote on the relocation of the Angelina county seat from Homer to Lufkin, Denman was accused of misplacing several ballot boxes when the vote tally appeared to be in favor of sustaining Homer as the county seat.

Washington Lafayette Denman died in Lufkin on December 18, 1891.

Lufkin Genealogical and Historical Society, History of Angelina County, Texas, 1846–1991 (Dallas: Curtis, 1992). Frank W. Johnson, A History of Texas and Texans (5 vols., ed. E. C. Barker and E. W. Winkler [Chicago and New York: American Historical Society, 1914; rpt. 1916]). Angelina County Historical Survey Committee, Land of the Little Angel: A History of Angelina County, Texas, ed. Bob Bowman (Lufkin, Texas: 1976). Members of the Legislature of the State of Texas from 1846 to 1939 (Austin: Texas Legislature, 1939).

  • Fourteenth Legislature (1874-1875)
  • Fifteenth Legislature (1876)
  • House
  • Seventeenth Legislature (1881-1882)

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

Aragorn Storm Miller, “Denman, Washington Lafayette,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 05, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 8, 2008
November 19, 2014