Locke, Matthew F. (1824–1911)

By: Stephanie P. Niemeyer and James A. Hathcock

Type: Biography

Published: April 23, 2011

Updated: August 7, 2020

Matthew F. Locke, plantation owner and Confederate cavalry officer, was born near Murfreesboro, Tennessee, on July 20, 1824, son of Margaret (Bowman) and William Locke. Locke was the oldest son and supported his family after his father's death. He and his family moved to Marshall County, Mississisppi, when he was twelve years old.

During the Mexican War, Matthew F. Locke served in the First Regiment Mississippi Volunteers. He was the personal bodyguard to Col. Jefferson Davis and tended to his injured foot during the battle of Buena Vista.

In 1849 he married Elizabeth Bui and had six children with her before her death in September 1864. He moved to Gilmer in Upshur County, Texas, after the Mexican War and started a plantation thirteen miles northeast of Gilmer. He established the town of LaFayette, Texas, named after his son of the same name born in 1850.

In 1855 he served the first of two terms as a representative in the Sixth and Seventh Texas legislatures. During the Seventh Texas Legislature Locke became speaker of the House after Speaker William S. Taylor resigned. In 1860 he was elected to the Texas Senate where he was serving during the secession crisis. Locke served as a representative to the Texas Secession Convention and was responsible for delivering the order to vacate the governor's office to his close friend Sam Houston. Houston had known Locke since Locke was an infant in Tennessee.

In 1861 Locke was elected to serve as a state senator but chose instead to raise a regiment of soldiers to join the Confederate Army. The Tenth Texas Cavalry was mustered into service in October 1861 with Locke as their colonel. Most of the recruits were from East Texas—Panola, Harrison, Upshur, and Smith counties.

By October 20, 1,000 men made up the Tenth Texas Cavalry, and after months of training and awaiting orders, on February 15, 1862, they reached Arkansas to join with the Confederate Army there. At Murfreesboro, Tennessee, on December 31, 1862, Locke and the men of the Tenth saw heavy action against Union troops. Despite capturing the flag of the Union troops, 118 soldiers from the Tenth were wounded, and twelve were killed in the eight hours of fighting.

In April 1863 Locke was interviewed by the Texas Republican, a paper from Marshall, and it reported that he was in bad health. Locke was forced to rest for a time, and the official surgeon's report stated he suffered from "affection of the spine, asitis and chronic hepatitis." He returned to fight in the entire Georgia and Atlanta campaign in 1864 and was with his men when they were paroled in Meridian, Mississippi. Out of 1,200 troops in 1861, only sixty-five remained at the time of his discharge in 1865.

In the winter of 1865–66, Locke moved to Arkansas and purchased over 1,000 acres of land that in 1872 became the town of Alma near Fort Smith. There he married Narcissa A. Montgomery, and the couple lived in Alma together until her death in 1886. He was involved in cotton, flour, and corn milling. In 1887 he was elected the first commissioner of agriculture for Arkansas. In 1890 he married his third wife Jennie Lester White. In 1909 due to his wife's poor health, Locke and his family moved to El Paso where he died on June 4, 1911.

Ralph A. Wooster, Lone Star Regiments in Gray (Austin: Eakin Press, 2002). 10th Texas Cavalry (http://www.angelfire.com/tx3/RandysTexas/TenthTexasCavalry.htm), accessed May 10, 2006.

  • Sixth Legislature (1855-1856)
  • Seventh Legislature (1857-1858)
  • House
Time Periods:
  • Civil War

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

Stephanie P. Niemeyer and James A. Hathcock, “Locke, Matthew F.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 27, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/locke-matthew-f.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

April 23, 2011
August 7, 2020

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: