John Sayles, lawyer, legal scholar, and public official, son of Welcome and Harriett Elizabeth (Sergeant) Sayles, was born in Ithaca, New York, on March 9, 1825. In 1840 he began to teach in New York. He later taught in Georgia, attended college between school terms, and secured a B.A. degree from Hamilton College, New York, in 1845. Shortly thereafter Sayles moved to Brenham, Texas, where he taught school, read law, and was admitted to the bar in 1846. He acquired a plantation near Brenham and a number of slaves. In 1849 he married Mary Elizabeth Gillespie; they had six children. In 1855–56 Sayles represented Washington County in the House of the Sixth Texas Legislature. He taught law at Baylor University from 1857 to 1860 and was connected with the institution again after its reorganization in 1867. During the Civil War he attained the rank of brigadier general of the militia. As a writer on Texas law, Sayles turned out more than fifteen works, usually of several volumes each. A Treatise on the Practice of the District and Supreme Courts of the State of Texas appeared in 1858 and was the forerunner of special studies on probate law, justice of the peace jurisdiction, business transactions, and Masonic jurisprudence. Particularly well known were his Constitution of the State of Texas (1872), Rules of Pleading and Practice in the Courts of Record in the State of Texas (1882), and Sayles' Annotated Civil Statutes of the State of Texas, edited with his son Henry in 1897. After 1886 Sayles moved to Abilene, where he practiced with his son in the firm of Sayles and Sayles. He died on May 22, 1897.
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Dictionary of American Biography. W. O. Dietrich, The Blazing Story of Washington County (Brenham, Texas: Banner Press, 1950; rev. ed., Wichita Falls: Nortex, 1973).
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed July 05, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
June 1, 1995
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