Gause, William Randall (1831–1882)


By: Kate Prablek

Type: Biography

Published: June 10, 2022

Updated: June 10, 2022


William Randall Gause, Confederate officer, attorney, and Texas legislator, son of Jesse and Minerva Eliza (Bryam) Gause, was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania, on May 30, 1831. He had four half-siblings by his father’s previous marriage. In 1831 Jesse Gause, a former Quaker, moved his family to the Shaker community of North Union, Ohio. Shortly after, Jesse became a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On March 8, 1832, he was ordained by Joseph Smith as his first counselor. Minerva did not convert to Mormonism and subsequently left North Union and took her son to Franklin County, Indiana, where her brother, George Bryam, lived. On April 27, 1834, she married Elijah Davis.

William Randall Gause grew up in Brownsville, Union County, Indiana, where he was said to have obtained “a good English education.” In 1849 he left as a teenager to earn a living in the gold fields of California. He found work as a constable in Mariposa County but eventually returned to Indiana. While working as a schoolteacher, Gause studied law. He was admitted to the bar at Liberty, Indiana, and by 1857 he had moved to Gentry County, Missouri, where he established a law practice.

When the Civil War began in 1861, Gause joined the Second Infantry Regiment of the Fourth Division of the Missouri State Guard under Maj. Gen. Sterling Price. He was elected a captain and soon promoted to major. He saw some early action at Blue Mills Landing and Lexington in Missouri. On January 1, 1862, Gause entered the regular Confederate service and joined Company B of Missouri’s Third (initially designated the Second) Infantry Regiment, where he again was elected captain. By November he had been promoted to colonel. His regiment saw action at the battles of Elkhorn Tavern (or Pea Ridge), Corinth, Port Gibson, and Big Black River Bridge, among others, and participated in the defense of Vicksburg. Wounded by a shell fragment at Vicksburg, he was taken prisoner upon the Confederate surrender. He was soon paroled, only to return to the Confederate service. He was then detached from his regiment and subsequently commanded garrisons at Mobile, Alabama, and reserve militias on the Rappahannock River in Virginia. He served for the duration of the war.

After the war, Gause relocated to Jackson, Mississippi, where he opened a law office with partner James B. Clark. He also joined the First District of Hinds County’s Democratic Association, which appointed him as a delegate to the county Democratic convention. Appointed as a Democratic canvasser for the county, Gause made public speeches against Mississippi’s recently drafted “negro constitution” and debated Republican E. A. Peyton, an officer of the Loyal League and state senate candidate. In his speeches, Gause sought to persuade freedmen to vote for the Democrats and against the Radical Republicans, efforts which the Democratic press claimed were met with some success. In 1869 Gause opened a law practice in Vicksburg with Fulton Anderson, a prominent lawyer, former secessionist leader, and Confederate state legislator.

Gause moved to Fort Worth in 1870. He continued his legal practice and remained active in local Democratic politics. At the 1873 county Democratic convention, Fort Worth Mayor B. B. Paddock nominated Gause for the legislature, but the nomination went to another man. In 1874 Gause ran for district attorney for the Fourteenth Judicial District, which comprised Tarrant, Dallas, and Ellis counties. Gause won Tarrant County but finished third overall in the six-man race. In December 1875 he was chosen as one of Tarrant County’s delegates to the 1876 state Democratic convention. That year he also chaired the Democratic county convention and served on the county party’s executive committee. By the time Gause announced his candidacy for the Texas House of Representatives in July 1878, the Fort Worth Daily Democrat could editorialize that “Every citizen of Tarrant [C]ounty, knows or has heard of Col. Gause. He is one of the old war horses of Tarrant.”

In the November election, Gause won an easy victory in the five-man race and polled 2,072 votes to his nearest opponent’s 958. He represented District 53 and was sworn in on January 14, 1879, at the start of the Sixteenth legislature. He was appointed to the committees on Assessment and Collection of Taxes, Finance, Judicial Districts, Judiciary No. 1, Military Affairs (which he chaired), New Judiciary Article to the Constitution, Revised Civil Code, Room for Court of Appeals, Sale of the Public Domain of the State, and Towns and City Corporations.

During the regular session and one special session in 1879, Gause was an unusually active and effective legislator for a first-term representative, introducing seven bills, most of which could be termed “good-government” reforms. Befitting his position as a member of the Committee on the Assessment and Collection of Taxes, Gause made legislation involving tax assessment and collection something of a specialty of his and authored three bills that became law: One created a system for handling land that failed to sell at sheriffs’ sales when there was no buyer; a second created a coordinated record-keeping system for use by the General Land Office, county commissioners, and the county tax assessor to keep track of land surveys; and a third defined the duties of commissioners’ courts when sitting as a board of equalization for tax-assessment purposes. A fourth Gause bill that became law established a system validating land titles for land-certificate holders who, in good faith, had been issued titles to lands reserved for other purposes. Bills aimed at reforming how depositions were to be taken, how special elections to fill mayoral and aldermanic vacancies were to be held, and how warehouse owners could sell unclaimed property failed to pass. Gause also unsuccessfully sought to strengthen a bill regulating railroad freight rates. He also kept his hometown constituents in mind. When legislators sought to amend the general appropriation bill to include the building of quarantine houses at various points in the state, Gause fought to get Fort Worth included on the list of cities that would receive one of these facilities. Although he was named to the conference committee that ironed out differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill, the quarantine-house amendments did not make it into the bill as finally passed.

Gause played a leading role in debating one of the most important issues facing the Sixteenth legislature, the funding of public education. The Fifteenth legislature had passed a bill appropriating one-fourth of the state’s ad valorem tax for support of the public schools; the press described Gause as “an earnest advocate of the one-fourth proposition.” Governor Richard Hubbard, however, in an effort to cut spending, called for the bill’s repeal, and in the special session, the repeal passed. Despite his effectiveness as a legislator, Gause only served for one term; the nomination for his seat in 1880 went to Gause’s political ally, the popular Fort Worth newspaperman B. B. Paddock. His term ended in January 1881.

Gause was active in Fort Worth civic affairs. He was a member of the Knights of Pythias, where he was a Uniform Rank member and a past chancellor. In 1873 he was elected captain of a special volunteer police force created by citizens to preserve law and order in the aftermath of several fires in the city. In 1874 he participated in efforts to ensure that the Texas and Pacific Railroad was extended to Fort Worth. In 1876 Gause was chosen as a trustee for a proposed male high school, along with J. P. Smith and J. F. Ellis.

Gause was keenly interested in horses. He had briefly been in the horse and mule business in Missouri immediately after the Civil War, and, even as he pursued his legal career, he maintained that interest. In the 1870s he owned a “feed and sale” stable and traveled as far as St. Louis to purchase fine horses. He was also a member of the Dallas Jockey Club, where his racehorses competed, and he was reputed to be “one of finest judges of horses in the South.” Gause married Amanda Carter (Louthan) Curtis on February 15 , 1858, in Butler County, Ohio. They had a son, George Louthan, born in 1859, and a daughter, Jessie, in 1861. Amanda died on July 16, 1867, in Jackson County, Mississippi. After moving to Fort Worth, Gause met Louisa Cabanne Stevenson and married her in 1873 in Galveston, Texas. This marriage produced no children. Louisa died on June 19, 1882, in Fort Worth. Gause’s health had begun to deteriorate in the mid-1870s. William Gause died on November 26, 1882, in Fort Worth and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery.

Austin Weekly Democratic Statesman, July 3, 1879. Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Missouri, National Archives and Records Service, Washington. Daily Clarion (Jackson, Mississippi), May 25, 1868; June 8, 15, 1868. Fort Worth Daily Democrat, July 23, 1878; November 19, 1878; June 12, 1879. Fort Worth Democrat, September 6, 1873; October, 18, 1873; March 21, 28, 1874; January 1, 1876; August 24, 1876. Fort Worth Standard, November 1, 1876. History of Texas, Together with a Biographical History of Tarrant and Parker Counties (Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1895). Erin B. Jennings, “The Consequential Counselor: Restoring the Root(s) of Jesse Gause,” Journal of Mormon History 34 (2008). Legislative Reference Library of Texas: William Randall Gause (https://lrl.texas.gov/legeLeaders/members/memberDisplay.cfm?memberID=4317), accessed May 31, 2022. Texas Legislative Manual 1879–80 (Austin: E. W. Swindells, 1880). “William Randall Gause,” Find A Grave Memorial (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/13497462/william-randall-gause), accessed May 31, 2022.

Categories:
  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Lawyers
  • Military
  • Confederate Military
  • Regimental and Staff Officers
  • Soldiers
  • Politics and Government
  • Government Officials
  • House
  • State Legislators
  • Sixteenth Legislature (1879)
Time Periods:
  • Reconstruction
  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas
Places:
  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Fort Worth

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

Kate Prablek, “Gause, William Randall,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 28, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/gause-william-randall.

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June 10, 2022
June 10, 2022

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