The Handbook of Texas is free-to-use thanks to the support of readers like you. Support the Handbook today.

Font size: A / A reset

Support Texas History Now


Join TSHA to support quality Texas history programs and receive exclusive benefits.

Become a TSHA Member Today »

Scarborough, Edwin C. (ca. 1821–1862)

Emily Blakley Biography Entry

Edwin C. Scarborough, state senator, printer, and newspaper publisher, was born about 1821 in Georgia and immigrated to Texas from Florida in 1846. Little historical record exists of his life before he came to Texas, but once he moved to Brownsville, he went into business as a printer. He bought the Brownsville American Flag in 1849, after the death of its founder, and owned the newspaper for the next decade. He garnered some controversy in 1850 when he used the paper to advocate an independent government in the Nueces Strip. He was involved in local politics and helped establish a local faction of the Democratic party called the Blues to counter the influence of an opposing faction called the Reds. Although the issues that divided the two factions are not entirely clear, the Reds apparently represented the interests of large merchants and ranchers, including Richard King and Mifflin Kenedy, while Scarborough’s Blues seem to have gained the support of smaller businessmen.

The two groups ran against each other in the 1853 state senatorial election in which Scarborough was declared the winner. His opponent contested the results on the grounds of election tampering and intimidation of Red voters, while the Blues alleged that many Red voters were non-resident Mexicans. The Texas Senate found the election flawed but not flawed enough to invalidate the results. Scarborough thus took his seat representing District 28 (Cameron and Hidalgo counties) in the Senate in 1853 during the Fifth Texas Legislature. He served on the state executive committee of the Democratic party in 1859, and in 1861 he was a delegate to the Texas secession convention.

     Scarborough served in the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth legislatures (representing District 32 [consisting of Cameron, Duval, Hidalgo, Starr, Webb, Zapata, and Encinal counties] in the Ninth legislature). He was extremely active and sponsored many bills and served on a diverse range of committees. His position on the Printing and Contingent Expenses Committee is a constant; he was appointed during his first legislative session and served as chairman during the Sixth, Eighth, and Ninth legislatures. This likely sprang from his experience as a printer by trade. As part of the Education Committee, he helped establish Franklin College in Anderson County during the Eighth legislature.

His sponsored bills also demonstrate interest in a wide range of subjects. He proposed reforms to the penal code, though exactly what these reforms were is not recorded. During the Seventh legislature, he was appointed to a special committee to look into “Indian Depredations” in San Saba County and the surrounding area. As part of this committee, he co-published a report which stated that these attacks were problematic in Texas, and he recommended mustering troops to send to those areas. This report takes a hostile tone in its assessment of the Comanche Indians and declared, “there is a great mistake in endeavoring to make an impression that the Comanches are at peace and amity with us. There never were more than one fifth of these Indians who have made any proposition for peace and settlement.” During the Seventh legislature, he also sponsored a bill which authorized and required the governor to appoint a delegate to the Alabama and Coushatta Indians. This was passed into law. Scarborough’s deep concern with, in this case, the Comanches and his attitudes toward them might be understood by reading another line in the previously-mentioned report, which described them as “treacherous by nature, suspicious and superstitious in the greatest degree.” His sentiments, common for the time, reflected the ongoing conflicts between the nomadic Comanches and encroaching settlement on the frontier.  

On February 7, 1856, Scarborough married Martha K. Rowe in Travis County. The next year, their son, identified only as E. R. Scarborough in records, was born.

As a leader of the state Democratic party on the eve of the Civil War, Scarborough supported the party’s militant stance in favor of slavery and in opposition to any perceived Northern attempts to interfere with it. The party’s platform at the time included the belief that no power of any legislature could “defeat the rights of property in slaves” and that slavery was “entitled to adequate protection from the general government.” It also affirmed the U. S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dred Scott and advocated the acquisition of Cuba as a territory of the United States. On February 1, 1861, as a delegate to the Texas secession convention, Scarborough and 165 others voted to secede.

On October 7, 1862, Edwin B. Scarborough was found shot in the back near his home in Brownsville. He had been travelling to a neighbor’s house and had evidently been shot in his carriage. The frightened horse veered off the road and into the woods, and when the carriage came to a stop, Scarborough apparently got out and walked approximately 500 yards before he collapsed dead. A local Mexican man named Luis Garcia was arrested on the grounds that he and Scarborough had some sort of dispute about land and crops on it, but the historical record is silent on his fate. Scarborough was buried in Cameron County.

Legislative Reference Library of Texas: Edwin B. Scarborough (https://lrl.texas.gov/legeLeaders/members/memberDisplay.cfm?memberID=4854&searchparams=chamber=~city=~countyID=0~RcountyID=~district=~first=~gender=~last=scarborough~leaderNote=~leg=~party=~roleDesc=~Committee=), accessed September 7, 2020. San Antonio Semi-Weekly News, October 20, 1862. Jerry D. Thompson, Cortina: Defending the Mexican Name in Texas (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2007). Ernest William Winkler, Journal of the Secession Convention of Texas, 1861 (Austin: Austin Printing Company, 1912). Ernest William Winkler, Platforms of Political Parties in Texas (Austin: University of Texas, 1916).

Categories:

  • Journalism
  • Newspapers
  • Publishers and Executives
  • Politics and Government
  • Government Officials
  • Senate
  • State Legislators
  • Eighth Legislature (1859-1861)
  • Fifth Legislature (1853-1854)
  • Ninth Legislature (1861-1863)
  • Seventh Legislature (1857-1858)
  • Sixth Legislature (1855-1856)

Time Periods:

  • Antebellum Texas
  • Civil War

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

Emily Blakley, “Scarborough, Edwin C.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 27, 2020, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/scarborough-edwin-c.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects:

Loading