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Tait, Charles William (1815–1878)

Jeanette H. Flachmeier Biography Entry

Charles William Tait, planter and physician, was born in Elbert County, Georgia, on June 4, 1815, the son of planter James A. Tait. He was educated at William and Mary College, Tuscaloosa College, and Pennsylvania College and received degrees in civil engineering, medicine, and surgery. He joined the United States Navy as a surgeon on the Falmouth. In the 1840s he came to Texas, where he was granted a tract of 6,000 acres on the Colorado River about ten miles south of Columbus as payment for making railroad surveys. He was a director of the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos and Colorado River Company. He was a founder of a cooperative known as the Columbus Mutual Aid Association, which conducted a general mercantile business. He helped organize a Standing Relief Committee that distributed food, clothing, and medical attention to hundreds of Colorado County families after a flood in July 1869 and during a yellow fever epidemic in 1873. In 1847 he built a log plantation house below Columbus and in 1848 married Louisa Williams. His plantation, operated by a large number of slaves, produced cotton, corn, and lime. Tait compiled a set of "Plantation Rules" that reflected relatively humane and enlightened management principles, for the use of his overseers in directing the labors of his slaves. In 1860 he was one of ten residents of Colorado County with property valued at more than $100,000, much of it in the form of a sixty-three-slave work force; by 1870, however, following emancipation, Tait's estate was appraised at less than $7,000. In 1850 Tait was elected to a term as commissioner of Colorado County. He represented the county in the House of Representatives of the Fifth Legislature, 1853–54, and the Seventh Legislature, 1857–58. During the Mexican War he was a surgeon in John C. Hays's regiment, and in 1863 he enlisted in the Confederate Army as lieutenant colonel in the Fourth Texas Cavalry. Tait was the father of nine children. He died on November 2, 1878, and was buried in the family cemetery on the Tait ranch south of Columbus.

Colorado County Historical Commission, Colorado County Chronicles from the Beginning to 1923 (2 vols., Austin: Nortex, 1986). Members of the Legislature of the State of Texas from 1846 to 1939 (Austin: Texas Legislature, 1939). Charles William Tait Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Ralph A. Wooster, "Wealthy Texans, 1860," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 71 (October 1967).


  • Agriculture
  • Plantation Owners

Time Periods:

  • Antebellum Texas
  • Civil War

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

Jeanette H. Flachmeier, “Tait, Charles William,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 26, 2020,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: