William Prissick, state representative, surveyor, and county official, was born in Shropshire County, England, in 1805. He was the son of James Prissick and Mary (Weaver) Prissick and was baptized on October 22, 1805, in Pontesbury, Shropshire, England. His parents later moved to Seacombe in Cheshire County. According to a biographical article in an 1882 edition of the Galveston Weekly News, Prissick, at the age of twenty-one, worked as an apprentice at a mercantile in Liverpool. During his third year of apprenticeship, he served on a ship on Africa’s Gold Coast. At some point, he married and had a son, but he later abandoned his family and left for America around 1831. Prissick lived in Ohio until 1834, and, after a trip back to England to settle family affairs, moved to Texas.
In 1835 he received a league of land (4,428.4 acres) in present-day Houston County in East Texas. He reportedly worked as a surveyor for land speculator Thomas J. Chambers. Records of the Texas General Land Office indicate that Prissick served in the Army of the Republic from October 1836 until April 1837, and for his service he received 640 acres of bounty land (in present-day Newton County) but transferred his grant to Isaac McMahan in 1849. He also received 320 acres in Montague County but transferred that patent to D. E. E. Braman in 1857.
By 1841 Prissick was living in Matagorda County, where he served as tax collector about 1845. Apparently he owned land and had cattle in the area; he recorded his own cattle brand in 1857 but had sold his Houston County league to pay a tax debt. In 1847 he was a subscriber and donator to the Matagorda County “Social Library,” a body devoted to the promotion of culture and the arts. In 1849 he was hired to survey the site of the county seat. During this time he engaged as a butcher and by 1860 was worth $3,800 in personal and real estate property. Prissick was an abolitionist and openly supported the Union during the Civil War. He briefly served as chief justice of Matagorda County in early 1870 before winning election as a Radical Republican to represent Brazoria, Galveston, and Matagorda counties (District 12) in the House of the Twelfth Texas Legislature.
Serving from February 9, 1870, into 1871, Prissick was on the Judiciary, Immigration, Indian Affairs, and Public Buildings and Grounds committees. According to Flake’s Daily Bulletin (May 14, 1870) out of Galveston, he introduced a bill to regulate the formation of an organization for the protection of live stock. Prissick, however, did not return to the legislature after its adjournment in the summer of 1871. Stating that he was “tired of politics” and that he was “out of his place while a member of the Legislature,” Prissick vowed that he would not return because the legislative body was “composed of the grandest scoundrels and thieves he ever heard of in his life.” He left Matagorda County for a lengthy time and reportedly traveled throughout Northwest Texas and possibly beyond. Newspaper commentaries characterized Prissick as an eccentric enigma who maintained a number of intellectual interests while conducting various manual labor tasks with little regard for his own appearance and frequent indifference to the opinions of others. He lived out his last years in poverty in a shack on Tres Palacios Bay in Matagorda County and died there in 1881.
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Colorado Citizen (Columbus, Texas), December 14, 1871. Galveston Weekly News, January 12, 1882. Legislative Reference Library of Texas: William Prissick (http://www.lrl.state.tx.us/legeLeaders/members/memberDisplay.cfm?memberID=4463&searchparams=chamber=~city=~countyID=0~RcountyID=~district=~first=~gender=~last=prissick~leaderNote=~leg=~party=~roleDesc=~Committee=), accessed May 28, 2014. Matagorda County Historical Commission, Historic Matagorda County (3 vols., 1986–88). Sacramento (California) Daily Union, April 19, 1870. Robert Shook, “Toward a List of Reconstruction Loyalists,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly 76 (January 1973). Shropshire Family History Society: William PRISSICK (http://www.sfhs.org.uk/forum/william-prissick), accessed May 28, 2014. William Prissick (http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~txmatago/family_prissick.htm), accessed May 28, 2014.
Twelfth Legislature (1870-1871)
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Laurie E. Jasinski,
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed August 14, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
May 28, 2014