David Robert Wingate, early Texas planter and industrialist, son of Robert Potter and Pherobee (Kelly) Wingate, was born in Darlington County, South Carolina, on February 20, 1819. At an early age he moved with his family to Hancock County, Mississippi, where he secured only a rudimentary education. He worked in logging camps and sawmills and, on September 19, 1839, married Caroline Morgan. He and his wife had seven children. Although Wingate visited Texas in 1844, his first industrial venture came in Mississippi, where by 1849 he owned a sawmill. In 1852 he and his family moved to Newton County, Texas, where he established a large plantation on Cow Creek near Belgrade. By 1859 seventy-three slaves worked the plantation; the 350 bales of cotton produced there that year made Wingate the largest antebellum cotton planter in Southeast Texas. He had by that time purchased sawmill facilities at Sabine Pass, which he built into the largest steam sawmill in the state. He also constructed a small fleet of lumber schooners that plied the Gulf of Mexico. In 1860 Wingate, living at Sabine in Jefferson County, had an estate of $108,000, the largest in the county. On April 20, 1861, Wingate and a son enlisted in the Sabine Pass Guard. Elected colonel of the Second Regiment, First Brigade, Texas Militia, Wingate remained in Southeast Texas, having been appointed Confederate States marshal by Gen. Paul O. Hebert. Wingate also served as chairman of safety for Sabine Pass and as commissioner of defense for Jefferson County. In 1862 he and his family returned to Newton County to escape the ravages of a yellow fever epidemic. Later that year Union troops burned his Sabine Pass sawmill and home. Wingate was elected chief justice of Newton County in 1864 and appointed to the same position by Provisional Governor A. J. Hamilton the following year. Although hurt financially by the emancipation of over 100 slaves and a series of fires that destroyed his mills, Wingate recovered strongly from each of his economic setbacks, which one scholar has estimated to have totaled over $500,000. Wingate transferred his operations to Orange and helped to change that city into one of the most important sawmill centers in Texas. He also served as Orange county judge from 1879 to 1884 and was one of the earliest large-scale rice planters in the county in 1892. Wingate died at Orange on February 15, 1899, after a long bout with pneumonia. He was buried in that city's Evergreen Cemetery. A Texas historical marker was placed at his gravesite in 1979.
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W. T. Block, "An Early East Texas Captain of Commerce: David Robert Wingate," Texas Gulf Historical and Biographical Record 13 (1977).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“Wingate, David Robert,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 16, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
September 1, 1995