Wilmeth, Joseph Brice (1807–1892)

By: Jennifer Eckel

Type: Biography

Published: April 29, 2011

Joseph Brice Wilmeth, pioneer, Confederate officer, and religious leader, was born in Rutherford, North Carolina, on September 11, 1807, to William and Mary Ann (Crawford) Wilmeth. Joseph and the family soon moved to McNairy County, where he met and, on December 26, 1826, married Nancy (Ferguson) Wilmeth. Over time, the couple had thirteen children. In 1831 the couple and several of Joseph's brothers, moved to Smithville, Arkansas, in Lawrence County. Two of Joseph's brothers were already practicing as Christian ministers, and during his time in Smithville, Joseph began to preach from his own home. After reading of a colony along the Trinity River near what is now Dallas, Joseph and much of his family struck out for Texas in October 1845.

Late in 1845 J. B. Wilmeth and his family established a settlement in western Dallas County near what is now Grand Prairie, but "the Indians were so troublesome" that the Wilmeths were forced to retreat north and east to present-day McKinney. Wilmeth purchased land in the McKinney area, began farming, and set up a blacksmith shop. In September 1846 he organized the Old Liberty Church of Christ, the first evangelical church in the area. For the next two decades, Wilmeth's congregation grew and emerged as the First Christian Church of McKinney. Wilmeth also served as a member of the town planning commission for McKinney as well as a district judge. For a number of years, Wilmeth's farm prospered; he purchased large tracts of land and slaves to help bring in his wheat and barley harvests.

During the Civil War, Wilmeth's farm was important for the provisioning of the Confederate Army, and Wilmeth himself served as a colonel in the Third Texas State Troops and drilled and helped to equip regiments in Collin County. Several of his sons also served in the Confederate Army; two did not return.

Joseph Wilmeth remained on his farm in McKinney after the war until his death on January 15, 1892, one day after the passing of Nancy Wilmeth on January 14. Both are buried in one grave in McLarry Cemetery north of McKinney. In 1993 a Texas Historical Marker was erected to honor the site of the Wilmeth-McKinney homestead and acknowledge the importance of the Wilmeth family in the early development of Collin County.

Elizabeth Mary Bonner, A Study of the Church of Christ in Texas (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1941). Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Texas, National Archives and Records Service, Washington. Historical Marker Files, Texas Historical Commission, Austin (Wilmeth-McKinney Homestead, Site of). Clara McKinney Reddell, "Wilmeth-McKinney Homestead & Family" (http://www.therestorationmovement.com/wilmeth2.htm), accessed April 14, 2011. Jesse Guy Smith, Heroes of the Saddle Bags: A History of Christian Denominations in the Republic of Texas (SanAntonio: Naylor, 1951).

Time Periods:
  • Civil War
  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region

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

Jennifer Eckel, “Wilmeth, Joseph Brice,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 28, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/wilmeth-joseph-brice.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

April 29, 2011

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: