Ochiltree, Thomas Peck (1839–1902)

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: August 3, 2020

Thomas Peck Ochiltree, Texas legislator, politician, promoter, newspaperman, and soldier, was born at Livingston, Alabama, on October 26, 1839, the year his family moved to East Texas. He was reared at Nacogdoches and Marshall and fought Indians with John G. Walker's company of Texas Rangers in 1854–55. In 1856 he became assistant chief clerk and sergeant at arms of the Texas House of Representatives, and in 1857 he was admitted to the bar by a special act of the legislature. Ochiltree practiced law in partnership with his father in Marshall and Jefferson and continued in public life as secretary of the state Democratic convention in 1859 and delegate to the Democratic national convention in 1860. He edited the Star State Jeffersonian, a Jefferson newspaper, in 1860–61, then enlisted in Hood's Texas Brigade, in which he was promoted to major. Ochiltree served on the staffs of Henry Hopkins Sibley, Thomas Green, Richard Taylor, Samuel Bell Maxey, and James Longstreet in the armies of North Virginia, New Mexico, Louisiana, Indian Territory, and Arkansas. He was brevetted a colonel four days before Robert E. Lee's surrender, captured near Appomattox, sent to prison camp on Johnson's Island in Lake Erie, and released when a friend appealed on his behalf to President Andrew Johnson.

After the Civil War, Ochiltree spent a few months in Europe. He continued newspaper work by writing for the New York News and editing the Houston Daily Telegraph in 1866–67. He later wrote the "Ranger" column for the New York Sportsman. In 1867 he made another extended trip to Europe as representative of the banking and shipping firm T. H. MacMahon and Company, which wanted to establish a steamship line from Liverpool to Galveston. In 1868 he supported Grant for president and later promoted fair treatment for black citizens. A colorful figure and powerful speaker, Ochiltree returned to public service as commissioner of emigration for Texas (1870–73), United States marshal for the Eastern District of Texas (1874), and an independent representative of the Galveston district in the Forty-eighth Congress (1883–85). He played a role in lobbying for a deepwater harbor at Galveston and later was a representative and general counsel for the mining, railroad, telegraph, and cable interests of J. W. Mackay and investment counselor to the Marquis de Mores and John Thomas North. Between 1865 and 1902 he made more than sixty trips to Europe to promote Texas interests. Upon retirement from Congress, Ochiltree made his home in New York. He died at Hot Springs, Virginia, on November 25, 1902. He was buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York, but was reinterred in Mount Hope Cemetery, New York, on November 8, 1903.

Biographical Directory of the American Congress. Claude H. Hall, "The Fabulous Tom Ochiltree," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 71 (January 1968). Sidney S. Johnson, Texans Who Wore the Gray (Tyler, Texas, 1907). C. W. Raines, Year Book for Texas (2 vols., Austin: Gammel-Statesman, 1902, 1903).


  • Journalism
  • Newspapers
  • Editors and Reporters

Time Periods:

  • Civil War
  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas

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

Anonymous, “Ochiltree, Thomas Peck,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed November 28, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/ochiltree-thomas-peck.

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August 3, 2020

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