Shaw, William Augustus (1827–1900)


By: Aragorn Storm Miller

Type: Biography

Published: September 9, 2014

Updated: August 16, 2019


William Augustus Shaw, lawyer, farmer, and state representative, was born in Green County, Alabama, on April 15, 1827. He was the son of James and Carolina (Elliot) Shaw. Shaw was raised in Mississippi and received a basic education at schools in Monroe and Chickasaw counties. Around 1846 he entered Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He studied at this school through his sophomore year but withdrew, following a dispute with an abolitionist professor over the slavery question, and enrolled at Princeton College in New Jersey, where he graduated in 1850. Shaw returned to Mississippi and entered the bar there at Aberdeen, Monroe County. In addition to practicing law, he was active in politics throughout the 1850s and argued, among other things, that Southern institutions stood a better chance of survival within the Union rather than through secession. On September 1, 1857, Shaw married May Kate Shannon in Pontotoc County, Mississippi. The 1860 federal census listed Shaw as a lawyer living in Chickasaw County, Mississippi, with his wife and son.

Shaw and his family immigrated to Texas in 1863 and stayed briefly near Chatfield Point in Navarro County, before settling in Bowie County in 1865. Shaw’s wife died soon after this relocation, and in 1867 he married the widowed Caldonia (Cornelius) Fain in Bowie County. They had one son and were living in Clarksville in Red River County at the time of the 1870 census. Around this time Shaw resumed his political activities. In 1872 he won election, on the Democratic ticket, as representative for District 9—comprised of Red River and Titus counties—to the Thirteenth Texas Legislature. During this legislature, Shaw was chairman of the Committee on Enrolled Bills and also sat on the Apportionment, Indian Affairs, Internal Improvements, and Private Land Claims committees. From 1874 through 1894 he served as a delegate to the state Democratic convention. He lived the remainder of his life on a large homestead in Red River County and invested in real estate in Clarksville, the county seat. Shaw, a Methodist, died on September 30, 1900, in Dallas at St. Paul’s sanitarium “after an illness of eight weeks.” He was buried in Clarksville.

John Henry Brown, Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas (Austin: Daniell, 1880; reprod., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978). Houston Daily Post, October 2, 1900. Legislative Reference Library of Texas: W. A. Shaw (http://www.lrl.state.tx.us/legeLeaders/members/memberDisplay.cfm?memberID=4824&searchparams=chamber=~city=~countyID=0~RcountyID=~district=~first=~gender=~last=shaw~leaderNote=~leg=~party=~roleDesc=~Committee=), accessed September 3, 2014. Members of the Legislature of the State of Texas from 1846 to 1939 (Austin: Texas Legislature, 1939).

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

Aragorn Storm Miller, “Shaw, William Augustus,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 18, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/shaw-william-augustus.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 9, 2014
August 16, 2019