Fontaine, William Winston (1834–1917)

By: Bruce Allardice

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: July 14, 2011

William Winston Fontaine, school administrator and founder, son of William Spotswood and Sarah (Aylett) Fontaine, was born at Montville, Virginia, on November 27, 1834. He was the great-grandson of Patrick Henry. He attended Rumford Male Academy and the University of Virginia, where he graduated in 1859, and then taught mathematics and Latin at Pegram School in Richmond. He married Mary Burroughs on April 2, 1861; they had six children.

At the start of the Civil War Fontaine Fontaine enlisted in the Henrico Artillery. In 1862 he was commissioned colonel to raise a regiment of a state unit, the Virginia State Line. Unsuccessful at this, he returned to the army as captain and drillmaster of the Forty-sixth Battalion Virginia Cavalry. On September 15, 1864, he was captured scouting behind enemy lines and was not released on parole until June 1865.

The Fontaine plantation, Fontainebleau, was destroyed during the war, and Fontaine moved to Fredericksburg, Virginia, where he established Spotswood Female Institute. In 1870 he moved to Texas to teach at Port Sullivan College in Milam County. He was president of Baylor Female Institute from 1871 to 1875, when he organized the Texas Female Institute at Austin. He was in charge of a boarding school for girls in Louisville, Kentucky, from 1880 to 1886, when he helped organize William Carey Crane College, at Independence, Texas; he taught there until 1889. By 1917 Fontaine resided in Jackson, Mississippi, where he died on November 2, 1917. He is buried in Cedar Lawn Cemetery, Jackson.

Biographical Souvenir of the State of Texas (Chicago: Battey, 1889; rpt., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978). 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).

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

Bruce Allardice, “Fontaine, William Winston,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 20, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 14, 2011