Woolfolk, Joseph Alfred (1836–1919)

By: Barbara A. Neal Ledbetter

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: September 1, 1995

Joseph Alfred Woolfolk, lawyer, was born on April 19, 1836, in Meade County, Kentucky, the son of John F. and Mahala A. (Harris) Woolfolk. He attended St. Mary's College near Lebanon, Kentucky, and graduated from the University of Missouri and in 1858 from the law school of the University of Louisville; the same year he came to Texas and settled in the frontier town of Belknap, where he practiced law. He was subsequently elected Young county clerk and served until December 1861. He resigned to join a ranger company with headquarters at Belknap, and during the Civil War he served the Confederacy as a colonel in Tennessee, where he was wounded and later captured. After the war he returned to Louisville, where he worked in the law office of his uncle. There he married Elizabeth J. Lewis on February 9, 1865; they were the parents of nine children, one of whom was named after the pioneer cowman Charles Goodnight, a friend of Woolfolk's. Woolfolk returned to Texas in 1867, went into the cattle business in Weatherford, and also maintained his law practice. His family joined him the following year. Their home was the first brick residence in Weatherford. In 1871 Woolfolk was one of the two lawyers appointed to defend the Kiowa chiefs Satanta and Big Tree, who were charged with murder in connection with the Warren Wagontrain Raid; the case was one of the most sensational cases tried in Texas. Although Woolfolk was commended for his effort, the Indian defendants were convicted. Woolfolk returned to Young County and practiced law; he held several positions in the county before he retired to his farm near Newcastle. He died on May 23, 1919, and was buried in the Woolfolk Cemetery one mile northwest of Fort Belknap.

James Cox, Historical and Biographical Record of the Cattle Industry (2 vols., St. Louis: Woodward and Tiernan Printing, 1894, 1895; rpt., with an introduction by J. Frank Dobie, New York: Antiquarian, 1959). Carrie J. Crouch, Young County: History and Biography (Dallas: Dealey and Love, 1937; rev. ed., A History of Young County, Texas, Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1956). Carl Coke Rister, "The Significance of the Jacksboro Indian Affair of 1871," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 29 (January 1926). Young County Historical Commission, Roots in Young County (Dallas: Taylor, 1978).
  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Lawyers
  • Criminal Law and District Attorneys
  • Ranching and Cowboys
  • Ranchers and Cattlemen
Time Periods:
  • Civil War

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

Barbara A. Neal Ledbetter, “Woolfolk, Joseph Alfred,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 09, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/woolfolk-joseph-alfred.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 1, 1995

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