Robertson, Joseph William (1809–1870)

By: Thomas W. Cutrer

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: January 19, 2019

Joseph William Robertson, physician, public official, and Texas Ranger, was born in South Carolina on February 9, 1809, and attended Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. He then practiced medicine for a year in Alabama, where he married Ann Philips; they had two children. He moved to Texas alone in 1836 and settled in Bastrop County before returning for his family the following year. He is said to have been the first physician in Bastrop County. From February 1 until May 10, 1838, he served in the Texas Rangers. In 1839–40 he represented Bastrop County in the House of Representatives of the Fourth Congress of the Republic of Texas. At the end of his term Robertson moved to Austin, where he established a medical practice and a pharmaceutical business on Congress Avenue. He supplied the Texan Santa Fe expedition with its medical supplies. His wife died in June 1841, followed shortly thereafter by her daughter. On September 7, 1842, Robertson married Lydia Lee, who was born in Cincinnati in 1820. She and her sister and two brothers had moved to Austin in 1840, and she is said to have provided inspiration for of one of Mirabeau B. Lamar's poems. She and Robertson had ten children. During the military build-up after the invasions of Rafael Vásquez and Adrián Woll in 1842, Robertson volunteered as a surgeon in Col. Henry Jones's regiment. He was elected the fifth mayor of Austin in 1843 and served for one year. On September 27, 1846, during the Mexican War, he was appointed acting assistant surgeon for Capt. John J. Grumbles's company of Maj. Thomas I. Smith's battalion, Texas Mounted Volunteers. In 1848 Robertson purchased the old French Legation building, the former home of Dubois de Saligny, and that area of Austin has since been known as Robertson Hill. Robertson died on August 15, 1870, and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery.

Kenneth Hafertepe, A History of the French Legation (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1989). Pat Ireland Nixon, The Medical Story of Early Texas, 1528–1853 (Lancaster, Pennsylvania: Lupe Memorial Fund, 1946). Joseph W. Robertson Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Texas House of Representatives, Biographical Directory of the Texan Conventions and Congresses, 1832–1845 (Austin: Book Exchange, 1941).

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

Thomas W. Cutrer, “Robertson, Joseph William,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed December 08, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 19, 2019