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SPENCE, JOSEPH (1826–1894). Joseph Spence, attorney and land commissioner, was born on December 3, 1826, in Philadelphia. Shortly afterwards his family moved to Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Spence graduated from Tennessee Law School on March 1, 1853, and married Margaretta Deaderick Wendel the same day. They eventually had nine children. In the fall of 1859 the whole family and their slaves moved to Texas, and Spence rented a cotton plantation at Montopolis, near Austin. In spite of being a slaveowner, Spence, a Republican, was opposed to the Civil War. His uninvolvement in pre-war politics made him an acceptable participant in the Reconstruction government. In 1866 he served as chief clerk in the office of the Texas secretary of state. He was appointed land commissioner on August 27, 1867, and served a consistent, uneventful term until January 19, 1870. He was defeated in the general election, the first since the Civil War, and then went into the real estate business. He became receiver for the Austin Water Works and Electric Light and Power Company. He died on May 14, 1894, in Austin. See also GENERAL LAND OFFICE.


Austin Daily Statesman, May 16, 1894. Austin History Center Files. Garry Mauro, Land Commissioners of Texas (Austin: Texas General Land Office, 1986).

William N. Todd IV and Gerald Knape

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William N. Todd IV and Gerald Knape, "SPENCE, JOSEPH," Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed December 01, 2015. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.