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Pettus, William Albert (1787–1844)

Biography Entry

William Albert Pettus, Old Three Hundred member and public official, son of Jane (Freeman) and Samuel Overton Pettus, was born in Mecklenburg County, Virginia, in 1787. In 1815 he settled near Huntsville, Alabama. Sometime before coming to Texas he married Elizabeth Patrick. With his brother, Freeman Pettus, the James L. Bailey family, and others, he sailed to Texas on the Revenge in 1822. He received title to two leagues and a labor of land now in Wharton, Fort Bend, and Waller counties on July 10, 1824. In August 1824 he accompanied Austin on a campaign against the Karankawa Indians. While the expedition was camped near the site of present Victoria, Pettus, known as Uncle Buck, and Gustavus E. Edwards entertained the company by running foot races. The census of 1826 listed Pettus as a farmer and stock raiser with a wife, two sons, one servant, and eight slaves. For about a year he lived on Oyster Creek. From 1824 to 1832 he lived at San Felipe, where he was síndico procurador from 1828 to 1830. In December 1830 the ayuntamiento at San Felipe made a favorable report on Pettus's petition for land in what is now DeWitt County. In 1832 he moved to the Mill Creek community in what is now Austin County, where he opened a house of entertainment in January 1836.

Pettus and William H. Jack were sent to stir up the colonists against the tyranny of John Davis Bradburn in the spring of 1832. Later Pettus was appointed a member of the central standing committee established by the Convention of 1832. In September 1835 he became a member of the San Felipe committee of vigilance and safety. He was a contractor to supply beef for the revolutionary army in November and December 1835. At the time of the battle of San Jacinto he was stationed at the camp opposite Harrisburg to guard the baggage. In 1840 he was a director of the Houston and Brazos Railroad Company. Sam Houston sent him to Austin in an unsuccessful attempt to move the archives from Austin to Washington-on-the-Brazos, known as the Archives War. The 1841 Austin County tax roll described Pettus as the holder of real property worth $8,550, including 8,000 acres of farmland and four town lots. He died in Washington-on-the-Brazos on July 27, 1844.

Eugene C. Barker, ed., The Austin Papers (3 vols., Washington: GPO, 1924–28). Lester G. Bugbee, "The Old Three Hundred: A List of Settlers in Austin's First Colony," Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 1 (October 1897). Charles Adams Gulick, Jr., Harriet Smither, et al., eds., The Papers of Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar (6 vols., Austin: Texas State Library, 1920–27; rpt., Austin: Pemberton Press, 1968). Louis Wiltz Kemp, The Signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence (Salado, Texas: Anson Jones, 1944; rpt. 1959). J. H. Kuykendall, "Reminiscences of Early Texans," Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 6–7 (January, April, July 1903). Amelia W. Williams and Eugene C. Barker, eds., The Writings of Sam Houston, 1813–1863 (8 vols., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1938–43; rpt., Austin and New York: Pemberton Press, 1970).

Time Periods:

  • Mexican Texas
  • Texas Revolution

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

Anonymous, “Pettus, William Albert,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 13, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

April 25, 2017

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: