Bolivar Jackson (B. J.) Pridgen, state senator and participant in the Sutton-Taylor Feud, was born in North Carolina in 1829, the son of Wiley and Mary (Baker) Pridgen. The family moved to Texas in 1839 and first settled in Harrison County. In the Mexican War Pridgen served under both generals Winfield Scott and Zachary Taylor. In 1850 he married Martha Ann Williams of Marshall; the couple raised eight children. After a noted divorce in 1851 Pridgen's mother, Mary Pridgen, resettled at the Price's Creek settlement in DeWitt County and gave her son and daughter-in-law 200 acres of land and twenty-two slaves as a wedding present. In 1852 on the Victoria-Gonzales road near his mother's home, B. J. Pridgen constructed a house out of Florida lumber that slaves hauled by ox-wagon from Indianola. The 1860 census lists Pridgen as owning $17,700 in personal and real estate, including seventeen slaves.
During Reconstruction he served as a Republican state senator in the Twelfth Legislature (1869–72), representing the old Twenty-fourth District; he worked to pass bills for free public schools and for the construction of the Gulf, Western Texas and Pacific Railway into DeWitt County. Pridgen was one of the most active members of the Moderate Republican faction, which opposed Governor Edmund J. Davis and the Radical Republicans. In 1889 President Benjamin Harrison appointed him postmaster at Eagle Pass, where he was later collector of customs.
During the Sutton-Taylor Feud in DeWitt County, Pridgen's brother Wiley and a nephew were murdered by the Suttons; the former senator then became an active participant in the feud. After learning from a source in Victoria that William Sutton and Gabriel Slaughter were heading to Indianola, Pridgen informed Jim and Bill Taylor, who promptly followed and killed the two men. Pridgen himself tracked another of his brother's alleged killers, John Goens, into Indian Territory and apparently shot him dead.
Pridgen, who was said to resemble Ulysses S. Grant, is the only member of the Twelfth Legislature whose portrait is hanging in the State Capitol. He died in 1903 in his home at Price's Creek near the site of present-day Thomaston.
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Nellie Murphree, A History of DeWitt County (Victoria, Texas, 1962). C. L. Sonnichsen, Ten Texas Feuds (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1957; rpt. 1971). Robert C. Sutton, Jr., The Sutton-Taylor Feud (Quanah, Texas: Nortex, 1974). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Craig H. Roell,
“Pridgen, Bolivar Jackson,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 24, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
May 1, 1995