McKinney, Williams and Company

By: Curtis Bishop

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: May 28, 2020

McKinney, Williams and Company, a mercantile establishment known as the "Barings of Texas," was founded by Thomas F. McKinney and Samuel M. Williams in 1834 at Quintana and moved to Galveston in 1838. As the largest commission-merchant firm in early Texas, it controlled much of the cotton trade at Houston and Galveston. The company held interests in lands, banking, and industrial and town promotion and helped institute maritime commerce in Texas. It aided the government of Texas during the Texas Revolution by issuing notes to circulate as money. Although neither McKinney nor Williams was wealthy in his own right, each had good credit and wealthy connections in the United States. On their private credit the two were able to advance to the Republic of Texas more than $150,000. At one time McKinney, Williams and Company owned more than one-fifth of the city of Galveston. The firm was one of the first to open up internal navigation in the republic, and before the revolution their steamers, the Laura and the Yellow Stone, were in operation on the Brazos, Colorado, and Trinity rivers and on Buffalo Bayou, linking Brazos plantations and the New Orleans export trade. The Lafitte was added to the fleet in 1835. During the revolution the provisional government used the vessels for conveying troops and supplies. In 1837 at Quintana the company began banking functions. On February 3, 1841, the Texas Congress authorized the firm to issue its notes for circulation as money, using for security mortgages on real estate, slaves, and a sawmill. The Commercial and Agricultural Bank, finally organized in 1847, was the first legal bank established in Texas.

In addition to its other projects the company owned the Tremont House at Galveston in 1840. McKinney, Williams and Company continued as a private banking business after its mercantile interests were sold in 1842 to Williams's brother, Henry Howell Williams. Under Arthur Lynn, British consul in Galveston, and H. H. Williams's son, John H. Williams, the firm was subsequently known as Lynn and Williams, and eventually passed to the firm of Wolston, Wells and Vidor, which finally closed. McKinney, Williams and Company remained a partnership business until Williams's death in 1858, although all active partnership ceased about 1853, when McKinney moved to Travis County and settled about six miles from Austin.

Brazoria County Federation of Women's Clubs, History of Brazoria County (1940). Joe B. Frantz, "Mercantile House of McKinney and Williams, Underwriters for the Texas Revolution," Bulletin of the Business History Society, March 1952. William R. Hogan, The Texas Republic: A Social and Economic History (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1946; rpt. 1969). Abigail Curlee Holbrook, "Cotton Marketing in Antebellum Texas," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 73 (April 1970). Duane Howard, Historical Studies in the Life of Samuel May Williams, a Builder of Texas, 1795–1858 (M.A. thesis, Texas Christian University, 1946). Ruth G. Nichols, "Samuel May Williams," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 56 (October 1952). Ralph W. Steen, "Analysis of the Work of the General Council of Texas, 1835–1836," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 41 (January 1938).

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

Curtis Bishop, “McKinney, Williams and Company,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 11, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 28, 2020