Townes, Robert J. (1806–1865)

By: Llerena Friend

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: December 13, 2019

Robert J. Townes, judge and Texas secretary of state, was born in Amelia County, Virginia, in1806, the son of Allen and Judith (Jones) Townes. He became a lawyer and was living in Brazoria in September 1839, when he attended a local meeting called to memorialize the Texas Congress to pass a law quieting Mexican land titles. He attended a Brazoria mass meeting on annexation in January 1845. He was elected district judge in the First (Brazoria) District in the fall of 1852 and rode the circuit for a few years, sometimes exchanging districts with Judge John Hancock. Townes moved from Brazoria to Austin, where about 1855 he built Edgemont, a 100-acre plantation. He married Martha “Patty” Eggleston, and by 1860 they were the parents of six children. He was elected president of the Austin Library Association in 1857. In 1859 he was elected to represent Travis County in the House of the Eighth Legislature (1859–61), and in December 1860 he signed the address calling for the meeting of the Secession Convention. On September 8, 1862, Townes succeeded Charles S. West as secretary of state under Governor Francis R. Lubbock; he continued to hold the office under Pendleton Murrah and resigned on May 2, 1865. Townes died near Mount Bonnell on October 3, 1865, and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Austin. In 1953 the University of Texas at Austin named Townes Hall at the law school in his honor. The main house at Edgemont burned in 1956.

Austin American, October 7, 1953, April, 13, 1958. Dallas Herald, May 11, 1865. Southern Intelligencer, May 4, 1859. Telegraph and Texas Register, November 6, 1839, January 8, 1845. Texas State Gazette, September 4, October 16, 1852, May 28, 1853.


  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Politics and Government
  • Judges

Time Periods:

  • Antebellum Texas

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

Llerena Friend, “Townes, Robert J.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 17, 2022,

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December 13, 2019