Shaw, James B. (ca. 1818–1889)

By: Seymour V. Connor

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

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: November 17, 2021

James B. Shaw, state comptroller, was born in Ireland about 1818 to William Shaw and Martha Hamilton. He immigrated to the United States, settled temporarily in New Orleans, and moved to Texas in 1837. He served a short term as a private in the Texas army, was made chief clerk of the Treasury Department in 1838, and in 1839 was elected comptroller, a position that he held until 1859. Shaw frequently served as acting secretary of the treasury during Sam Houston's second administration. In December 1850 Shaw was sent to Washington, D.C., to collect the $5,000,000 payment of the federal government resulting from the Compromise of 1850, thus playing a major role in an event of great importance to the future of Texas. In 1853, preparatory to marrying a woman from New Orleans, Shaw established a large estate west of Austin bordered on the east by Shoal Creek. He had his house built by Abner H. Cook, who later built the Governor's Mansion. The woman in New Orleans married another man, but Shaw finished his Austin home anyway. In 1857 he again represented Texas in Washington in the final disposition of the money set aside for payment of Texas's revenue debt. He married Mary Bonnycastle of Virginia on January 15, 1857, while in Washington D.C. The couple had a daughter who died at an early age. Although Shaw moved his wife to a cooler climate, she also died soon thereafter. He then moved to Galveston and entered the banking business. He sold 300 acres of his estate to E. M. Pease in 1859, and the Pease family named it Woodlawn. Eventually, the home became known as the Pease Mansion, and beginning in the nineteen-teens the property around the house was developed as a residential subdivision called Enfield. Shaw owned five slaves in 1860 and formed the private exchange Shepard, Shaw, and Company in Galveston. He was in New Orleans in April 1862 when Union forces invaded, but he received a pass from Gen. Benjamin Butler to travel. He spent the remainder of the Civil War in New York and Europe. By 1870 he returned to Galveston, where his listed occupation was retired clerk. On April 3, 1874, he served as the secretary of the preliminary meeting of the Texas Historical Association (later known as the Texas State Historical Association) at the Supreme Court building in Austin. The 1880 Census identified Shaw as a single boarder at a house on Congress Avenue in Austin and listed his occupation as a capitalist. In April 1883, he wrote to E. M. Pease from New York, where he spent the summer to recuperate his health. Shaw died in New York on November 15, 1889, and he was buried alongside his wife at Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky.

Austin American-Statesman, April 9, 1874. Dallas Morning News, January 1, 1890. Jacob DeCordova, Texas, Her Resources and Her Public Men (Philadelphia: Crozet, 1858; rpt., Waco: Texian Press, 1969). Galveston Daily News, February 2, 1886, November 20, 1889. Samuel Gideon, Historic and Picturesque Austin (Austin: Steck, 1936). New York Daily Tribune, January 19, 1857. Richmond Whig, January 30, 1857. Texas State Gazette, July 14, 1860. Trinity Advocate, May 16, 1860. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Amelia Williams and Bernhardt Wall, Following General Sam Houston from 1793 to 1863 (Austin: Steck, 1935). Amelia W. Williams and Eugene C. Barker, eds., The Writings of Sam Houston, 1813–1863 (8 vols., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1938–43; rpt., Austin and New York: Pemberton Press, 1970).


  • Peoples
  • Irish
  • Politics and Government

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

Seymour V. Connor Revised by Randolph B. "Mike" Campbell and Brett J. Derbes, “Shaw, James B.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed December 04, 2021,

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November 17, 2021