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King, William P. (ca. 1801–1841)

Justin M. Sanders and Susanne Starling Biography Entry

William P. King, doctor and land speculator, was born about 1801. He spent his early manhood in Tennessee and moved to northern Mississippi in the 1830s, after the opening of the Chickasaw Cession. With Alexander C. McEwen, he formed a speculative bank in Holly Springs, Mississippi, in August 1837. By March of 1838 the bank had failed, leaving thousands of dollars of worthless banknotes in circulation.

King soon began speculating in Texas lands. He organized the Southern Land Company in Mississippi in the fall of 1838 and moved its headquarters to San Augustine, Texas, in the summer of 1839. By August of that year he had secretly hired Nacogdoches county surveyor Warren Angus Ferris to survey land on the Trinity River. Ferris was to lay out a city site to be called Warwick on a bluff overlooking the river and to survey ninety, later increasing to 114, league-and-labor grants for development in the area of present-day Dallas, Kaufman, Rockwall, and Hunt counties. Indian troubles delayed the surveying until the summer of 1840, when Ferris surveyed over a half million acres. The King Block, which resulted from Ferris's work, established the lines for future surveys. During that summer King constructed a fort, called Kingsborough, on the site of the present city of Kaufman. Although many of the headright certificates held by the Southern Land Company proved to be invalid, King obtained clear title to the survey including his fort. From 1840 to 1841 King's fort, which comprised four log cabins and a stockade manned by a dozen men, was the only white settlement between Fort Houston and Fort Inglish. King continued to encourage settlers to move to Kingsborough, and had managed to attract forty families to the area before his death led many of the settlers to abandon the stockade.

King was married twice: first, on January 20, 1824, to Sarah M. Edwards, by whom he had four sons; and second, on March 5, 1840, to Mrs. Frances A. Moore Clark. King died of yellow fever in mid-September 1841 in Vicksburg, Mississippi, while seeking immigrants from there to make the move to Texas. Afterward, Frances King (then named Tabor) deeded the site of Kingsborough as the county seat of Kaufman County.

Archie P. McDonald, ed., Hurrah for Texas: The Diary of Adolphus Sterne (Waco: Texian Press, 1969; rpt., Austin: Eakin Press, 1986). Ben H. Procter, Not Without Honor: The Life of John H. Reagan (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1962). A Stake in the Prairie: Mesquite, Texas (Mesquite Historical Committee, 1984).


  • Health and Medicine
  • Physicians and Surgeons
  • General Practitioners

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

Justin M. Sanders and Susanne Starling, “King, William P.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 24, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: