Rose, William Pinckney (1787–1850)

By: Margaret Stoner McLean

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: June 1, 1995

William Pinckney Rose, participant in the Regulator-Moderator War, son of Frederick and Mary (Washington) Rose, was born on April 24, 1787, in Granville County, North Carolina. In 1790 the family moved to Greene County, Georgia, and later to Putnam County, Georgia, to land on Rooty Creek. Rose grew to manhood in Georgia, but he was listed as owning land in Louisiana in 1810, when he would have been only twenty-three years old. He was said to have been the "captain" of a group of Louisiana militia who marched to New Orleans to enlist in the service under Gen. Andrew Jackson in the War of 1812. He fought as a private with Jackson's unit in the battle of New Orleans, on January 8, 1815. On January 16, 1817, Rose married Mary Vardaman Smith of St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, a widow with one son. The Roses eventually had nine additional children. The family moved in 1823 from Louisiana to Copiah County, Mississippi, where Rose became a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1832, which framed the second Constitution of Mississippi. He later served as a legislator from Copiah County but may have moved to Hinds County, Mississippi, about 1837, as land transfers suggest. In May 1839 Rose moved to the area now known as Harrison County, Texas. He brought a large group with him, including his wife, their children, including married children with their spouses and children, and many in-laws. They arrived, unfortunately, just at the time that the Regulator-Moderator War was about to reach the shooting stage, and it was inevitable that Rose and his group would become involved. Rose soon became the acknowledged leader of the Regulators in Harrison County, a role that not only cost him his quite considerable fortune but also caused the death of a son-in-law, George W. Rembert, and of Isaac Hughes, the brother of another son-in-law, both killed by Moderators, whose leader was Robert Potter.

The enmity between Rose and Potter was caused not only by the war but stemmed from Rose's strong support for John B. Denton's candidacy against Potter for a seat in the Texas Congress. According to family tradition, Potter's unsuccessful attempts to pay court to the attractive daughters of the Rose family also caused some conflict. Whatever the cause, Potter was able to get a warrant for the arrest of Rose, dead or alive. The Moderators attempted to take him in his home on March 1, 1842, but failed because Rose, according to family tradition, slipped out of the house and hid under a brush pile that a slave was raking up nearby. A curious rooster almost gave his hiding place away, and, as soon as Potter and his men had left, Rose had the rooster's neck wrung. That night "Hell-roarin' Rose," or the "Lion of the Lakes," two names by which Rose's enemies called him, took his men and surrounded the home of Robert Potter on Caddo Lake. On the morning of which March 2, 1842, when Potter found that his home was surrounded, he tried to escape by jumping into Caddo Lake in an attempt to swim to a brush-covered island for refuge. He was shot and killed by one of the men of the Rose party. Rose and nine of his men were arrested, but some were later released, while Rose and his son-in-law, John W. Scott, among others, were taken to Clarksville, Red River County, arraigned before the district judge, and charged with the murder of Robert Potter. The news was reported in both Texas and United States newspapers, and Charles Dickens, who was then on his American tour, commented on it in his American Notes. Because feelings were running so high, the case was removed to Nacogdoches on a change of venue. Gen. Thomas J. Rusk came from Austin to defend his friend Rose, and the case was dismissed for lack of evidence. Rose died on January 22, 1850. By his own request he was buried on the Dee Baldwin place northeast of Marshall, beside George W. Rembert and Isaac Hughes. Over fifty years later, his body was removed to the cemetery at Scottsville, Texas.

Anne Rose Scott Bowen's Royal Descent from Charlemagne and Genealogies of the Corker, Fisher, Rose, Scott, Tuck (Toake), Washington and White Families (MS, Anne Rose Scott Bowen Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin). Clarksville Northern Standard, October 22, 1842. Ernest G. Fischer, Robert Potter: Founder of the Texas Navy (Gretna, Louisiana: Pelican, 1976). Louis Wiltz Kemp, The Signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence (Salado, Texas: Anson Jones, 1944; rpt. 1959). John H. McLean, "Bob Potter and Old Rose," Texas Methodist Historical Quarterly 2, July 1910. John H. McLean, Reminiscences (Nashville: Smith and Lamar, Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 1918). Telegraph and Texas Register, July 13, 1842.
  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Outlaws, Criminals, Prostitutes, Gamblers, and Rebels

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

Margaret Stoner McLean, “Rose, William Pinckney,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 07, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

June 1, 1995