William Patton Saufley, merchant, mayor, and Confederate officer, was born in Kentucky in 1823. He was the son of Harold P. Saufley and was raised in Cumberland County, Kentucky, until he moved to Clarksville, Texas, in 1849. By 1850 he was residing as a renter in the home of Mary Donahoo in Red River County, Texas. There he met and married Eliza Jane Crittenden on December 25, 1849. The couple's first daughter, Battie, was born in 1854 but died a year later. Shortly following the birth of their second daughter, Eliza Spire, in 1859, William's wife passed away, followed by the newborn baby soon thereafter. The two Elizas are buried in the same grave, next to Battie, in Oakwood Cemetery, Jefferson, Texas. By 1860 Saufley was working as a successful dry goods merchant in Jefferson and had five slaves. Saufley was a member of the Constitutional Union Convention that year, which convened at Tyler on April 27, to discuss alternatives to a potential secession from the Union.
Despite his aversion to war, Saufley served as a Brigadier General of the Eighth District, Texas State Troops, a militia rank. In the fall of 1862, Saufley was commissioned as a major in the First Texas Partisan Rangers, a unit recruited from Jefferson and under the command of Col. Walter P. Lane. He was put in charge of a contingent that fought in several engagements and would come to be known as "Saufley's Scouting Battalion." At the battle of Prairie Grove in Arkansas in December of 1862, Saufley received distinction in the official reports. Saufley's unit fought in Arkansas, Texas, and Louisiana and distinguished itself during the Red River Campaign of 1864. In 1863 troops under Saufley’s command executed Martin D. Hart, a confederate deserter turned Union army guerilla, after Hart’s surrender. The First Partisan Rangers were surrendered on May 26, 1865. In August 1865 Saufley was arrested by Union military authorities and charged with the execution of certain Union prisoners, most notably Martin D. Hart, in Arkansas. Before Saufley could be transferred to Fort Smith for trial, however, he escaped and returned to Jefferson, Texas, where he resumed his life as a merchant.
After the war Saufley became both a state senator and a staunch opponent of Federal Reconstruction. In 1865 he was elected as senator for District Seven, which consisted of Bowie, Davis, and Marion counties, and served in the Eleventh State Legislature from August 6 to November 13, 1866. He was a signer of the Texas State Constitution of 1866. In 1868 he was involved in the "Stockade Trial Case." This incident occurred on October 4, 1868, when a group of citizens—led by a former member of the First Texas Partisan Rangers named Richard P. Crump—killed George W. Smith, a local unionist leader who was being held in jail. On December 5, 1868, Reconstruction military authorities began making arrests in the case. Because Saufley was the grand commander in the White supremacist group, the Knights of the Rising Sun, which was thought responsible for the slayings, he was an obvious suspect. However, before authorities could arrest him, he left town on a business trip to the Cherokee Indian Nation and then to New York. He did not return until after the trial concluded and Federal troops had stopped looking for him. On July 14, 1877, William Saufley died at Town House, Smyth County, Virginia.