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DeShields, James Thomas (1861–1948)

Wayne Gard Biography Entry

James Thomas DeShields, Texas historian, son of James Calvin and Drucilla (Chandler) DeShields, was born in Louisiana on May 3, 1861. About the end of the Civil War his parents moved to Texas and settled on a farm in Bell County. Between crops, young DeShields attended public schools, read avidly, and absorbed tales of frontier adventure. He attended Salado College and Baylor University. While working as a house-to-house book agent, he began, as a hobby, to collect manuscripts, books, and pictures relating to Texas history. This interest led him to write articles on frontier history, which he contributed to the Fort Worth Gazette and other newspapers and magazines. A collection, Frontier Sketches, appeared in 1883, and Cynthia Ann Parker was published in 1886. In 1886 DeShields married Ennola Lee Huddleston in Bell County. They had three daughters.

Over a long period, DeShields set down the stories of frontiersmen he knew and dug historical material from newspaper files and other sources. His Border Wars of Texas (1912) recounted many Indian engagements. In 1914 he moved to Dallas, set up a dry-goods business, and continued to write in his spare time. He wrote many articles on such subjects as Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston, John Coffee (Jack) Hays, the battle of the Alamo, the story of the Texas Revolution, Texas border tales, riding and fighting with the Texas Rangers, and the lure of the frontier. His longer works were The Fergusons: "Jim and Ma" (1932), Tall Men with Long Rifles (1935), and They Sat in High Places (1940). He retired from business in 1935 but continued to write. He died in Dallas on February 8, 1948.

Dallas Morning News, February 9, 1948.

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

Wayne Gard, “DeShields, James Thomas,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed November 27, 2020,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.