Scott, William Thomas (1811–1887)

By: Tom Scott III

Revised by: Randolph B. "Mike" Campbell and Brett J. Derbes

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: November 16, 2021

William Thomas (Colonel Buck) Scott, legislator and planter, son of Thomas and Mary (Keller) Scott, was born in Wilkinson County, Mississippi, on December 14, 1811. His father had arrived with his widowed mother and other family members in Louisiana about 1808. After his marriage to Mary Keller, the family moved first to Wilkinson County and then to Copiah County, Mississippi. Thomas Scott never fully recovered from wounds he received at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815, and he died in 1823, leaving his widow and several small children. William Thomas Scott was forced to go to work at an early age at the store owned by Judge Buckner Harris in Gallatin, Mississippi. Hard work and perseverance resulted in his gaining a lucrative partnership with Harris. Profits from the business also enabled him to acquire land and additional capital. On March 8, 1834, he married Mary Washington Rose, daughter of William Pinckney Rose. Scott and his brothers were accused of the murder of Robert Potter by the state of Mississippi in July 1839, but the charges were not proven. William and Mary Rose Scott had three children while living in Mississippi. The Scott family, along with several members of the Rose and Scott families, immigrated to Texas in June 1840 and settled in Harrison County. He built the first wood frame plantation style home in Harrison County, which was maintained by the Bettie Scott Youree Foundation. Scott reserved nine acres for the Rock Spring Methodist Church, a community cemetery, and a slave cemetery. He later provided an additional three acres for a Methodist tabernacle to host the annual Methodist Holiness Camp Meeting. Scott quickly acquired several large parcels of land totally nearing 25,000 acres and established five cotton plantations, including Scottsville Plantation, near Scottsville, a town he founded. He was the largest slave owner in the county and his family grew to include nine more children. His production in 1859 of 356 bales of cotton was the largest in Harrison County. In addition to his agricultural pursuits Scott was a partner in a New Orleans cotton-brokerage firm. For several years before the Civil War he maintained a home on Apollo Street during the winter as he worked with the firm. This also enabled his children to take advantage of the schools in the city.

Scott was elected to the House of Representatives of the last Congress of the Republic of Texas and was a member of the Senate of the First Texas Legislature in 1846. He declined reelection the next term because of an eye affliction, but he was elected to the state Senate in 1851 and served until 1856. He was a member of the Secession Convention of 1861. After his disfranchisement was lifted by President Andrew Johnson he again entered political life. He served in the Texas House of Representatives from 1879 to 1883.

During his legislative career Scott championed the cause of railroad construction. In 1852 he introduced the bill chartering the Vicksburg and El Paso Railroad. He, along with eight other men, was listed as an incorporator of the company. A charter amendment in 1856, achieved over the veto of Governor E. M. Pease, renamed the company the Southern Pacific Railroad Company (no connection with the modern company of the same name). Scott served on the board of directors of the company and as vice president from 1859 to 1861. Only about twenty-seven miles of track were actually laid before the onset of the Civil War, but the railroad survived the war and by 1872 extended from the Louisiana state line to Longview in Gregg County. In the early 1870s, however, most of the incorporators, including Scott, lost most of their assets. Stock and control of the line were sold to other investors, who then began construction under the reorganized company called the Texas and Pacific Railway. Scott died at Scottsville Plantation on November 1, 1887, and he was buried in the Scottsville Cemetery next to his wife.

Jacques D. Bagur, ed., Captain W. W. Withenbury’s 1838-1842, Red River Reminiscences (Denton: University of North Texas Press, 2014). Randolph B. Campbell, A Southern Community in Crisis:  Harrison County, Texas, 1850-1880 (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1983). Houston Telegraph and Register, July 10, 1839. Carol Morris Little, Historic Harrison County (Longview, Texas, 1984). Longview News Journal, May 3, 1970, September 20, 1970, March 13, 1988. Marshall News Messenger, May 21, 1972, January 27, 1980, April 1, 1990. Panola Watchman, June 15, 2013. Texas House of Representatives, Biographical Directory of the Texan Conventions and Congresses, 1832–1845 (Austin: Book Exchange, 1941). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

  • First Legislature (1846)
  • Senate
Time Periods:
  • Antebellum Texas
  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas
  • Reconstruction

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

Tom Scott III Revised by Randolph B. "Mike" Campbell and Brett J. Derbes, “Scott, William Thomas,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 14, 2022,

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November 16, 2021