Wood, David L. (1820–1858)

By: Stephen L. Hardin

Revised by: Randolph B. "Mike" Campbell

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: March 31, 2021

David L. Wood, early settler and newspaperman, was born in Kentucky in 1820, the son of Dr. Peter and Ann (Long) Wood. He lived in Pennsylvania and Illinois before moving to Texas, but little else is known regarding his early life. In the late 1830s he settled in what became Fort Bend County. He founded the Richmond Telescope, which began publication on April 27, 1839.  In June 1839 Wood served on a committee chaired by Wyly Martin to discuss the routing of railroads through the county. Later that summer, however, he gave up his role in publishing the Telescope and apparently moved to Fayette County.

In February 1841 Wood married Sophronia Virginia Primm, the young mulatto daughter of William Primm and his former slave Celia, whom Primm had emancipated and married in Ohio years before coming to Texas and settling in Fayette County. Sophronia was White in appearance, but an unknown witness accused Wood of violating the Republic’s law against miscegenation and a grand jury indicted him for the crime. At some point as the matter unfolded, Sophronia’s father testified that she was born a slave and legally remained one. In November 1841, Wood petitioned the Congress of the Republic to legalize his marriage, lest he be forced by the "spirit of persecution to seek a home with his wife in a foreign land." Congress apparently took no action on Wood’s request, and he left Fayette County sometime during the 1840s. By 1850 he had moved to Robertson County, where he was recorded in the census of that year as a thirty-year-old farmer with his twenty-two-year-old wife and three children. The census enumerator gave no indication that the mother and children were considered Black or Mulatto. 

For reasons that are not explained in the historical record but likely stemmed from his having a biracial family, Wood by 1854 had moved again, this time southward to Corpus Christi in Nueces County where Sophronia gave birth to their fourth child. Then, in 1856, the family immigrated to Reynosa in Tamaulipas, Mexico. There, in February 1858, their fifth child, a boy named William Primm Wood in honor of his grandfather, was born. 

Wood’s life ended tragically in Reynosa. He accused Sophronia of having an affair with a hired servant and threatened to divorce her and take their children. She appealed to an older brother, James B. L. Primm, who lived in the border town of Brownsville, to protect her reputation. James responded by crossing the Rio Grande into Reynosa and shooting Wood fatally on the street in front of his home on September 11, 1858. Wood, a non-Catholic, was buried in a grave marked only with a stick near but not in the Reynosa Cemetery. James returned to Texas and, although Mulatto, passed for White and lived there until 1913 when he died in Montgomery County. The story of Sophronia’s life after 1858 is unknown. Some sources indicate that she returned to the United States with her brother, but others say that she remained in Mexico on the orders of her father.

Douglas C. McMurtrie, "Pioneer Printing in Texas," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 35 (January 1932). Harold Schoen, "The Free Negro in the Republic of Texas," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 39–41 (April 1936-July 1937). Telegraph and Texas Register, June 12, 1839. David L. Wood and Sophronia Virginia Wood on Ancestry.com, (https://www.ancestry.com/search/?name=David+L._Wood&birth=1820&death=1858&count=50&location=2&name_x=psi_ps&priority=usa&residence=_texas-usa_46), accessed on September 1, 2020.


  • Journalism
  • Newspapers
  • Publishers and Executives

Time Periods:

  • Texas Revolution
  • Republic of Texas
  • Antebellum Texas

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

Stephen L. Hardin Revised by Randolph B. "Mike" Campbell, “Wood, David L.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed December 03, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/wood-david-l.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

March 31, 2021