Gillette, Henry Flavel (1816–1896)

By: Arthur A. Grusendorff

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: February 15, 2017

Henry Flavel (Falvel) Gillette, teacher and superintendent of Bayland Orphan's Home, was born in Grandby County, Connecticut, on July 16, 1816, the third child of Laura (Adams) and Almon Gillette. At about the age of twenty-one he entered Trinity College at Hartford. Because of ill health he left school in 1839 and probably moved immediately to Texas to join his cousin, Ashbel Smith. As early as 1840 he taught a school in Houston. Sometime during the summer of 1841 he went to Washington County to take charge of Union Academy, where he taught until early in 1843, when he became interested in farming and moved to the Trinity River. At Union Academy Gillette met Lucinda Maxey, whom he married on March 3, 1842. They had ten children.

In 1844 he moved to Houston, where he again taught school until he moved to Independence early in 1846 to teach in the preparatory department of Baylor University. After only two years at Baylor, Gillette decided to leave Independence. Difficulty in collecting tuition, upon which his salary depended, and other problems confronting the infant institution discouraged him greatly. He moved to Fireman's Hill, later called Cold Springs, in Polk County. There he taught school and farmed. In 1860 he moved his family to his Galveston Bay estate, Bell Prairie. Although Gillette did not join the army he supported the Confederacy during the Civil War.

In 1866 he was one of a group of men who met in Houston and laid plans for establishing an orphans' home. When, on January 15, 1867, the board of trustees was organized, he was elected superintendent of Bayland Orphans' Home, which he served as manager for fifteen years. After severing his connection with the institution, Gillette spent his declining days at Bell Prairie, where he died on April 25, 1896.

Elizabeth Silverthorne, Ashbel Smith of Texas (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1982). Ashbel Smith Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Telegraph and Texas Register, March 9, 1842, January 28, 1846.


  • Education
  • Educators
  • General Education
  • Founders and Pioneers
  • School Founders

Time Periods:

  • Republic of Texas
  • Antebellum Texas
  • Reconstruction
  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas


  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

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

Arthur A. Grusendorff, “Gillette, Henry Flavel,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 17, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to:

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

February 15, 2017

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: