Pease, Elisha Marshall (1812–1883)

By: Roger A. Griffin

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: February 28, 2020

Elisha Marshall Pease, governor of Texas, son of Lorrain Thompson and Sarah (Marshall) Pease, was born on January 3, 1812, at Enfield, Connecticut. After study at Westfield Academy in Massachusetts he held several minor positions, including a clerkship in the post office at Hartford, Connecticut. In 1834 he sought new opportunity in the West. By early 1835 he had made his way to Texas, where he settled in the Municipality of Mina and continued the law studies he had begun in Connecticut. Almost immediately Pease became embroiled in the developing Texas Revolution. In the spring of 1835 he became secretary of a committee of safety at Mina. Though at first he hoped for conciliation with Mexico, Pease soon changed his position and fought in the battle of Gonzales, the first battle of the revolution, on October 2. He then served as secretary to the General Council of the Provisional Government and, as a member of that body, attended the convention that met at Washington-on-the-Brazos in March 1836. At that meeting he wrote part of the Constitution of the Republic of Texas. He then served the ad interim government as chief clerk, successively, of the navy and treasury departments. During the early months of the republic Pease served as clerk to the judiciary committee of the House of Representatives and took a major part in writing the new nation's criminal code. In the fall of 1836 he served as acting secretary of the treasury but declined President Sam Houston's offer of the postmaster generalship in order to return to Brazoria to continue his legal studies. After his admittance to the bar in April 1837 Pease became the republic's first comptroller of public accounts. He then took up the practice of law at Brazoria and soon became successful and respected in his profession.

After annexation Pease represented Brazoria County in the first three legislatures and authored the Probate Code of 1846. In 1851 he made an unsuccessful run for the governorship. Two years later he won the office and was reelected in 1855. Pease was an outstanding governor. Among his important achievements was his pioneering effort to persuade the legislature to establish a system of public education and a state university. Though this effort proved largely premature, Pease's administration did establish the permanent school fund, and his vision laid the groundwork for future achievement. He also worked to encourage railroad construction in Texas, to put the state penitentiary on a self-supporting basis, and to establish reservations to civilize and educate the state's Indian population. In addition, he supervised the building campaign that led to the completion of the Governor's Mansion, the General Land Office building, the State Orphan's Home (now the Corsicana State Home), and a new Capitol. Perhaps his most significant accomplishment was the settlement of the public debt of the state, by which he made available funds for the establishment of a hospital for the mentally ill and schools for the deaf and blind (see AUSTIN STATE HOSPITAL, TEXAS SCHOOL FOR THE DEAF, TEXAS SCHOOL FOR THE BLIND), all of which he had recommended to the legislature. Upon his retirement from office in 1857, the state was in excellent financial condition.

In 1859 Pease aligned himself with the Unionist faction in Texas politics. He remained active in this movement into the early months of the Civil War, after which he quietly maintained his loyalty to the Union until the end of the conflict. In 1866 he lost a bid to become governor again in the first election of the Reconstruction era. Early in 1867 he helped organize the Republican party in Texas. Later that year Gen. Philip H. Sheridan removed Governor James W. Throckmorton from office and appointed Pease in his place. Pease's subsequent efforts to reorganize the state government and bring accountability to its actions were met by conflict within the Republican ranks and bitterness toward the chief executive by the former Confederate majority in the state. Pease resigned from the governorship in 1869 because of differences with Gen. Joseph J. Reynolds over Reconstruction policies that Pease considered radical and despotic. Throughout the remainder of his life Pease remained actively interested in political affairs in the state. He was president of the non-partisan Tax-payers' Convention of 1871, which opposed many of the measures of Governor Edmund J. Davis's administration. In 1872 he was chairman of the Texas delegation to the national Liberal Republican convention. In 1879 President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed Pease to the collectorship of customs at Galveston. In the closing years of his life Pease practiced law in Austin, engaged in various business ventures, and lived a quiet life with his wife, the former Lucadia Christiana Niles, of Poquonock, Connecticut, whom he had married in 1850, and their two daughters. A third daughter had died in childhood. Pease died on August 26, 1883, after an attack of apoplexy and was buried in Austin.

James T. DeShields, They Sat in High Places: The Presidents and Governors of Texas (San Antonio: Naylor, 1940). Roger Allen Griffin, Connecticut Yankee in Texas: A Biography of Elisha Marshall Pease (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas at Austin, 1973). B. H. Miller, Elisha Marshall Pease: A Biography (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1927). Pease-Graham-Niles Family Papers, Austin Public Library.

  • First Legislature (1846)
  • Second Legislature (1847-1848)
  • Third Legislature (1849-1850)
  • House
  • Senate
Time Periods:
  • Antebellum Texas
  • Reconstruction
  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas

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

Roger A. Griffin, “Pease, Elisha Marshall,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 25, 2022,

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February 28, 2020