Jones, William Jefferson (1810–1897)

By: Amelia W. Williams

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: January 21, 2016

William Jefferson Jones, state Supreme Court judge, newspaperman, and railroad promoter, the son of Stanfield and Narcissa Burdette (Philips) Jones, was born in Caroline County, Virginia, on September 27, 1810. At the age of fifteen he was recorder of deeds in the county clerk's office of Caroline County, where his brother was the clerk. He studied law, was licensed in 1829, and began practice in Loudoun County, where he became a friend of James Monroe. Monroe advised him to travel for a time and then go to the West or Southwest to begin his career. Accordingly, Jones went to Charleston, South Carolina, where he served as private secretary to the harbor commander, to Baltimore, Maryland, and then to Washington, D.C., where he met William Wirt, who helped him obtain a permit to practice before the United States Supreme Court. While visiting in Georgia he met Mirabeau B. Lamar, in whose newspaper office he became an assistant for a short time. In Mobile, Alabama, Jones founded the Mobile Morning Chronicle and ran it in 1836–37.

He arrived at Galveston, Texas, on November 9, 1837. There he acted as Lamar's campaign manager, though he lacked the official title, and maintained correspondence with Nicholas Biddle, former president of the Bank of the United States, and Governor James Hamilton of South Carolina. During 1838 and 1839 he held a commission from Lamar to raise a battalion of three companies for the protection of the frontier. In June 1839 he was ordered to join Col. Edward Burleson for the Cherokee War. After the Indian campaign he was appointed judge of the Second Judicial District, a position he held for several years. He also served for a time as editor of the Houston National Banner.

As early as February 1839 Jones wrote Lamar urging a Texas expedition to open trade with Santa Fe. Doubtless his suggestion contributed to the organization of the Texan Santa Fe expedition of 1841. From 1840 to 1846 he served as a judge in the Texas Supreme Court. Jones married Elizabeth Giberson, and they had eleven children. They moved to Columbus, where in addition to his law practice Jones became a farmer and stockman. He developed cottonseed oil for culinary and household use, raised Sea Island cotton, and promoted the development of the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe and Galveston, Houston and Henderson railroads. After the annexation of Texas he formed a law partnership with Robert Jones Rivers and in 1852 moved to Virginia Point, his estate. At the close of the Civil War Jones set aside 320 acres of land, divided it into tracts, and sold it to emancipated slaves, from whom he required payment only ten years later. The new farms gave rise to Highland Station, a black community. Jones died at his home on May 10, 1897, and was buried at Lakeview Cemetery in Galveston.

Joe B. Frantz, Newspapers of the Republic of Texas (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1940). S. W. Geiser, "A Century of Scientific Exploration in Texas," Field and Laboratory 7 (January 1939). Charles Adams Gulick, Jr., Harriet Smither, et al., eds., The Papers of Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar (6 vols., Austin: Texas State Library, 1920–27; rpt., Austin: Pemberton Press, 1968). History of Texas, Together with a Biographical History of the Cities of Houston and Galveston (Chicago: Lewis, 1895). Marilyn M. Sibley, Lone Stars and State Gazettes: Texas Newspapers before the Civil War (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1983). Lelia Clark Wynn, "History of the Civil Courts in Texas," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 60 (July 1956).

  • Journalism
  • Newspapers
  • Editors and Reporters
  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Politics and Government
  • Judges

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

Amelia W. Williams, “Jones, William Jefferson,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 26, 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.

January 21, 2016