Samuel J. Richardson, farmer, businessman, Confederate officer, state legislator, and police chief, was born in Virginia in 1826. He was the son of William Stuart and Lavinia Richardson. Richardson married Edwina Frances Buchanan on February 27, 1849. He immigrated with his family to Texas prior to 1855 and established himself as a farmer and sawmill owner. During the late 1850s he joined the Knights of the Golden Circle (KGC), an organization devoted to the preservation of slavery and Southern culture within the United States and advocating the expansion of these institutions into Central and South America. In the spring of 1860 Richardson led the Harrison County “castle” of the Texas KGC as the broader KGC involved itself in political intrigues within Mexico and prepared an invasion of that nation by way of New Orleans and southern Texas. Richardson himself advocated launching such action “at an early date” in March 1860. By the end of April, however, confusion and infighting within the KGC leadership, which Richardson himself attempted to mediate, robbed the organization of its filibustering energy and precluded an invasion of Mexico.
Despite these setbacks, Richardson remained a staunch advocate for Southern empowerment. At the end of February 1861, following the secession of Texas from the Union, Federal troops ceased defending northeastern Texas from Indian attacks and moved into Kansas. The following month Richardson organized a company of cavalry for service in frontier defense. This unit, part of the W. P. Lane Rangers (see FIRST TEXAS PARTISAN RANGERS), was mustered on April 19, with Richardson elected as captain. By this time he had developed a flair for the dramatic. According to contemporary accounts, he led his company in a crisp parade through the main street of Marshall and halted in front of a gathering of Harrison County notables. With his troops at attention, Richardson—dressed in his trademark leopard-skin pants and brandishing a double-barreled shotgun—accepted a silk flag from a young woman and delivered a speech about Texan valor which caused the ladies present to weep. Following a two-week expedition against Comanches to the west of Harrison County, Richardson and his company arrived in Austin, where they and other companies from around the state were feted by the Austin City Light Infantry Company and reviewed by Governor Edward Clark. Later in 1861, the W. P. Lane Rangers were mustered into Confederate service, first as Company F of the Second Regiment, Texas Mounted Rifles, and later as Company F of the Second Texas Cavalry Regiment. Richardson was captain for this unit and served in this capacity throughout the war. Following his discharge from service on May 20, 1865, Richardson returned to Harrison County where he resumed farming and engaged as a merchant.
With the arrival of Federal military authorities in Harrison County, Richardson assumed a leading role in the efforts to resist Reconstruction. On June 25, 1866, he won election—firmly within the Democrat and ex-Confederate bloc—as representative for Harrison and Panola counties to the Eleventh Texas Legislature. He served from August 6, 1866, to February 7, 1870. At the conclusion of his term, Richardson served as chief of police for Marshall. In late December 1867 he broke up a meeting of several hundred freedmen and military-appointed officials at the county courthouse by firing shots into the ceiling. In the ensuing chaos, known as the Marshall Riot, Richardson and several others were arrested by military authorities. No charges were filed, however, as Richardson and the others were released a week later by a sympathetic judge. Richardson kept a low profile through the spring of 1868 but, following the formation of a Union League in Harrison County and a series of victories for the black electorate, reemerged as a leader in precinct “conservative clubs,” designed to roll back the tide of Congressional Reconstruction. The 1870 census listed Richardson living in Marshall with his wife, two sons, and a daughter. Richardson died on December 19, 1876, and was buried at Marshall City Cemetery, Harrison County.