William Bluford DeWees, pioneer settler and public official, was born in Virginia on September 8, 1799. He first visited Texas on a keelboat excursion up the Red River in 1819. In late 1821 he accompanied a group of four families from Arkansas to the Austin colony; the party arrived on the lower Brazos River on January 1, 1822. On August 3, 1824, DeWees and his partner, James Cook, who constituted one of the Austin colony's Old Three Hundred households, received title to a league of land on the Colorado River in the southern part of what is now Colorado County, about ten miles below Columbus. DeWees then obtained title to a second half league on the west bank of the river at the site of the Columbus township, on April 28, 1831. As property owner, developer, and early settler of the site he became known as a founder of Columbus. The census of 1825 listed him as a gunsmith, and he appears as a blacksmith in the census of 1826. In 1840 he held title to 1,207 acres, claimed another 887 acres under survey, and possessed a personal estate that included eleven slaves, thirty cattle, nine horses, and a carriage.
DeWees traveled in Mexico in 1826 and 1827, then took up residence in San Antonio, where he lived for almost two years before returning to his home on the Colorado. Beginning in 1837 he held a series of public offices in Colorado County, including justice of the peace, associate land commissioner, and associate justice of the county court. In 1865 he was again elected justice of the peace for Precinct 1 of Colorado County. Later that year he was appointed to a term as county treasurer by provisional governor A. J. Hamilton. But DeWees's political career and reputation were ruined in 1866 when he was charged by his successor with misappropriating $1,200 in county funds and was successfully sued for that amount in district court. His appeal of the decision was denied in 1870.
DeWees married a daughter of Austin colonist Benjamin Beeson, probably named Lydia, in 1823 and eventually became the father of two children. His wife apparently died before 1850, and DeWees probably married a German immigrant named Angelica. In the early 1850s he covertly collaborated with writer Emmaretta Cara Kimball Crawford in producing a journal of his pioneering experiences that purported to be a compilation of his letters to a Kentucky resident named Cara Cardelle; this volume of dictated reminiscences, actually written by Emmaretta Kimball, was published in 1852 under the title Letters from an Early Settler of Texas to a Friend. DeWees died in Colorado County on April 14, 1878.
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Colorado County Historical Commission, Colorado County Chronicles from the Beginning to 1923 (2 vols., Austin: Nortex, 1986).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Charles Christopher Jackson,
“DeWees, William Bluford,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 28, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
December 1, 1994
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