Ogden, Wesley B. (1818–1896)

By: Randolph B. "Mike" Campbell

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: April 24, 2019

Wesley B. Ogden, lawyer and Texas Supreme Court justice, was born on December 16, 1818, in Monroe County, New York, the son of Benjamin and Lucy (Johnson) Ogden. After attending a local academy and spending one year at Brockport College, he became a teacher in Summit County, Ohio. He read law while teaching and was admitted to the bar in Akron, Ohio, in 1845. He returned to New York, opened a law office in Rochester in 1847, and two years later, in need of a warmer climate for his incipient tuberculosis, moved to Port Lavaca, Texas. Ogden practiced law at Port Lavaca from 1849 until 1863. His wife, Jane (Church), whom he had married in 1845, died in 1853, leaving three children. In 1858 he married Elizabeth H. Chichester, and they had five more children.

Because he was a strong Unionist and opponent of the Civil War Ogden had to leave Texas in 1863. He returned to Port Lavaca and soon became involved in Reconstruction politics. Provisional governor Andrew J. Hamilton appointed him district attorney for the Tenth Judicial District in 1865, and Gen. Charles C. Griffin appointed him judge of the same district in September 1867. In 1870 Governor Edmund J. Davis appointed him an associate justice on the three-man Supreme Court established by the Constitution of 1869. When Chief Justice Lemuel D. Evans left the court in September 1873, Ogden succeeded him in that position. He was the presiding justice when the court ruled in the famed "Semicolon Case" (Ex parte Rodriguez) that the election of 1873 was invalid (see SEMICOLON COURT). That decision, however, was not sustained by the public or the federal government, and Richard Coke, whose election to the governorship had been in question, became governor. The election of 1873 in effect removed Ogden from the bench because voters approved a constitutional amendment reorganizing the court and raising the number of justices from three to five. Governor Coke appointed a new court in January 1874, and the "Semicolon Court" became an object of ridicule for generations of Texas jurists. Upon leaving the bench, Ogden moved to San Antonio. He served as a Republican presidential elector in 1876. He retired from his law practice in 1888 and continued to live in San Antonio until his death on June 15, 1896. One of his sons, Charles W. Ogden, also practiced law in San Antonio and became a noted Republican politician.

H. L. Bentley and Thomas Pilgrim, Texas Legal Directory for 1876–77 (Austin: Democratic Statesman Office, 1877). Biographical Encyclopedia of Texas (New York: Southern, 1880). John Henry Brown, Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas (Austin: Daniell, 1880; reprod., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978). Harbert Davenport, History of the Supreme Court of the State of Texas (Austin: Southern Law Book Publishers, 1917). Hobart Huson, District Judges of Refugio County (Refugio, Texas: Refugio Timely Remarks, 1941). Memorial and Genealogical Record of Southwest Texas (Chicago: Goodspeed, 1894; rpt., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978). James R. Norvell, "The Reconstruction Courts of Texas, 1867–1873," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 62 (1958). San Antonio Express, June 16, 1896. Lester Fields Sheffy, "Old Mobeetie-The Capital of the Panhandle," West Texas Historical Association Year Book 6 (1930). Ocie Speer, Texas Jurists (Austin, 1936). E. W. Winkler, Platforms of Political Parties in Texas (Austin: University of Texas, 1916).


  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Lawyers
  • General Law

Time Periods:

  • Reconstruction

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

Randolph B. "Mike" Campbell, “Ogden, Wesley B.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 17, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/ogden-wesley-b.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

April 24, 2019