Westfall, Edward Dixon (1820–1897)

By: Irwin Sexton and Kathryn Sexton

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: August 1, 1995

Edward Dixon Westfall, early settler of Zavala County and Texas Ranger, was born on December 22, 1820, in Knox County, Indiana. His father, Abraham, moved the family to Jasper County, Illinois, in 1841. Edward Westfall left Illinois in 1843 to go to Missouri, intending to join a wagon train to Oregon. Instead he traveled and held various jobs until he came to Texas in 1845. Westfall moved from Hopkins County, Texas, to San Antonio in 1845 or 1846. The Mexican War had broken out, and he joined the company of Capt. John Conner in Col. Peter Hansbrough Bell's regiment. Later he served in Capt. William G. Crump's company. After the war in 1848 Westfall built a cabin on the Leona River, seven miles south of the site of present-day Batesville in east central Zavala County. Westfall is believed to be the first settler in the area of Zavala County. He spent the next twenty-nine years in that vicinity, farming under the constant threat of Indian raids and serving as a guide for settlers, rangers, and soldiers with his good friends William A. A. (Bigfoot) Wallace and Henry Robinson. He was a stage guard when Wallace had the contract to carry mail to El Paso. When Wallace was commissioned by Governor Bell to raise a company of rangers for frontier defense, Westfall was one of his lieutenants. Westfall returned to his cabin after his service under Wallace sometime in 1855 and was severely wounded in an Indian attack; his dog "George Washington" died of a lance wound defending his master. During the Civil War Westfall moved his livestock to the Nueces Canyon near Camp Wood; in 1874 he moved to Bexar County, where he farmed on Calaveras Creek about sixteen miles from San Antonio. Westfall moved back to San Antonio in 1877. He married Josephine Susan Dillon in 1881.

Westfall's journals, which he kept from 1886 to his death in 1897, reveal that he was a man who loved to read, although he had little formal education. When he died of fever on June 12, 1897, he left his estate to his wife and stipulated that after her death it was to be applied to the establishment of a free public library in San Antonio, or if one were already established, it was to be used for improving existing service. By the time Mrs. Westfall died, on January 4, 1940, San Antonio had a public library system, and in June 1963 the Westfall Branch Library, built partially with the proceeds from Westfall's estate and partially from city funds, was opened. Both Westfall and his wife were buried at Elmendorf. The journals of Edward Dixon Westfall were on repository in the San Antonio Public Library in 1990.

Kathryn and Irwin Sexton, "Edward Dixon Westfall," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 68 (July 1964). Andrew Jackson Sowell, Early Settlers and Indian Fighters of Southwest Texas (Austin: Ben C. Jones, 1900; rpt., Austin: State House Press, 1986). Edward Westfall, Journals, San Antonio Public Library. Zavala County Historical Commission, Now and Then in Zavala County (Crystal City, Texas, 1985).
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Irwin Sexton and Kathryn Sexton, “Westfall, Edward Dixon,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 07, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/westfall-edward-dixon.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

August 1, 1995