Swain, William Jesse (1839–1904)

By: Claudia Hazlewood

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: July 1, 1995

William Jesse Swain, soldier and legislator, son of Dr. Charles and Martha (Burnett) Swain, was born in Estell County, Kentucky, on February 19, 1839. He moved in 1855 to Mississippi and in 1859 to Clarksville, Texas, where he worked in a store and attended McKenzie College. In December 1861 he married Mary Frances Bohannan; they had four children. Immediately after his marriage Swain enlisted in Company F, Whitfield's Legion, in which he served as second lieutenant and then as first lieutenant. He was captured at Carter's Creek and was held for a time at Fortress Monroe. He was among Confederate prisoners being conveyed to Fort Delaware on the steamer Maple Leaf when the prisoners overpowered the guard and escaped to rejoin the regiment at Richmond. Swain returned to Clarksville in 1864 to farm and raise livestock. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1872, the same year that he began the publication of the Clarksville Times. He was secretary of the Texas Editorial and Press Association in 1873, when he was elected to the House of the Fourteenth Legislature, in which he served as chairman of the penitentiary committee. He was elected to the Senate of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth legislatures (1879, 1881), and in 1882 was elected state comptroller, an office he held from January 16, 1883, to January 18, 1887. He died in Houston on December 20, 1904, and was buried in the State Cemetery in Austin.

F. B. Baillio, History of the Texas Press Association (Dallas: Southwestern Printing, 1916). Pat B. Clark, The History of Clarksville and Old Red River County (Dallas: Mathis, Van Nort, 1937). "Compt. Swain's Administration," Texas Review 1 (April 1886). William S. Speer and John H. Brown, eds., Encyclopedia of the New West (Marshall, Texas: United States Biographical Publishing, 1881; rpt., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978).

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

Claudia Hazlewood, “Swain, William Jesse,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed December 03, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/swain-william-jesse.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 1, 1995