Williams, Robert Harris (1796–1880)

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: June 13, 2020

Robert Harris Williams, alcalde of the District of Mina and one of Stephen F. Austin's Old Three Hundred colonists, son of Marmaduke "Duke" and Ede (Harris) Williams, was born in Caswell County, North Carolina, on October 10, 1796. His siblings included Charles F. Augustus and John Williams. In 1808 he moved to Tennessee and later Mississippi; he arrived in Texas in December 1823. Enrolled as one of the Old Three Hundred settlers, he received title to a sitio of land in present Matagorda County on August 19, 1824. Williams lived for a time at Groce's Retreat but around 1825 moved to Caney Creek in present Matagorda County and established his plantation at the Caney Crossing, also known as Camp Crossing, on an early trail from Matagorda to Brazoria. Around 1827 he built a cotton gin in Austin's colony. The census of 1826 classified Williams as a farmer and stock raiser with a wife, Anna, aged between sixteen and twenty-five, four servants, and eleven slaves. That same year Williams became alcalde of the District of Mina, a position he held until 1833. In January 1827 he attended a meeting that declared loyalty to the Mexican government and protested the Fredonian Rebellion, and in 1832 he took part in the battle of Velasco, where he lost an eye. He represented Matagorda County in the Convention of 1833. That same year he and Mary Lawson White of Tennessee were married under the bond system; the couple had five children. By August 1835 he had been elected to the Committee of Safety and Correspondence for the Jurisdiction of Columbia and in September was appointed to preside at Caney Creek over the October 5, 1835, elections for delegates to the Consultation. In December 1835 Williams was among the commissioners appointed to investigate the recapture of the schooner Hannah Elizabeth and its cargo, but he did not act in the case. He secured provisions for the Texas army during the Texas Revolution. As early as 1838 and again from 1847 to 1851 he served as postmaster at Caney Crossing. Williams apparently took little interest in politics during his later years, preferring instead to concentrate on his plantation, which by 1850 had around fifty-three slaves and was very prosperous until the Civil War. In 1865 he was among those who signed a letter of recommendation for David G. Burnet. Williams died at Matagorda on September 11, 1880.

Eugene C. Barker, ed., The Austin Papers (3 vols., Washington: GPO, 1924–28). Lester G. Bugbee, "The Old Three Hundred: A List of Settlers in Austin's First Colony," Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 1 (October 1897). Daughters of the Republic of Texas, Founders and Patriots of the Republic of Texas (Austin, 1963-). John H. Jenkins, ed., The Papers of the Texas Revolution, 1835–1836 (10 vols., Austin: Presidial Press, 1973). Matagorda County Historical Commission, Historic Matagorda County (3 vols., 1986–88). Junann J. Stieghorst, Bay City and Matagorda County (Austin: Pemberton, 1965). Texas House of Representatives, Biographical Directory of the Texan Conventions and Congresses, 1832–1845 (Austin: Book Exchange, 1941).

Time Periods:
  • Mexican Texas

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

Anonymous, “Williams, Robert Harris,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 09, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/williams-robert-harris.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

June 13, 2020

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