William Daniel Wood, lawyer, judge, Confederate officer, state senator and representative, was born in Edgecombe County, North Carolina, on March 11, 1828. He was the son of Isaac F. and Peninah (Horn) Wood. Wood was raised in Randolph County, Indiana, and, prior to leaving that state for Alabama in 1850, received a license to practice law from the Indiana Supreme Court. In Choctaw County, Alabama, Wood worked briefly as a school teacher. On November 14, 1851, he immigrated to Texas and settled in Centerville in Leon County. Wood and his brother established the region’s first newspaper, the Leon Pioneer, which ran from 1852 to 1856.
Wood was also active in politics and community affairs and joined the Masons and Odd Fellows. He worked as a lawyer and judge and won election as a state representative for Leon County in the Seventh Texas Legislature. He served from November 2, 1857, to November 7, 1859. In 1860 Wood married Jane S. Lamberth in Leon County. This couple had no children.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, Wood volunteered as a sergeant in a cavalry company organized by Robert S. Gould. Later he received promotion to captain and commanded Company D, of the Sixth Texas Cavalry Battalion, in action along the Texas-Arkansas border. In the winter of 1862 Wood, suffering from chronic rheumatism, returned to Leon County and served for the remainder of the war as a Confederate revenue collector for the region. Following the war he resumed politics and the practice of law. In 1872 he won election as state representative for Leon, Robertson, and Freestone counties to the Thirteenth Texas Legislature; he chaired the Towns and City Corporations Committee. He was subsequently elected state senator for Leon, Robertson, and Brazos counties to the Fourteenth Texas Legislature and served from January 13, 1874, to April 18, 1876. During this term, Wood chaired three committees—Comptroller’s and Treasurer’s Accounts, Internal Improvements, and Retrenchment and Reform. In 1876 he won election as Fourth Judicial District Judge, overseeing Leon, Madison, Grimes, Walker, Trinity, and Angelina counties. He served in this capacity through 1880.
In 1883 Wood relocated to Hays County, where he was a banker, lawyer, and judge in San Marcos. In 1885 he co-founded the San Marcos Chautauqua, a seasonal adult education program held on his property at a site called Wood’s Hill. This site, later known as Chautauqua Hill, was donated to the state for the construction of Southwest Texas State Normal School (now Texas State University) in 1899. When construction of the school began in 1901, Wood was appointed president of the board of trustees, a position he filled until 1905. Wood’s property also served as the site of the first federal fish hatchery in Texas, established in 1893.
Beginning in 1886, he served on the board of directors of Glover National Bank and the Seguin Ice & Water Company. He eventually became president of the bank, which was later renamed Wood National Bank. Wood also occasionally served as a city alderman and was appointed mayor pro-tem of San Marcos in 1900. In retirement, he became an active member of the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA). He published a number of articles and books concerning the history of Leon County as well as his experiences during the Civil War and Reconstruction. In 1905 he was elected vice president of the TSHA. Wood died in San Marcos, Texas, on May 11, 1906. He was given a Masonic funeral and buried at San Marcos Cemetery. Speakers at the funeral included Governor Samuel W.T. Lanham and former governor Joseph D. Sayers.