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Williamson, Robert McAlpin  ( 1806  -  1859 Dec 22 )

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WILLIAMSON, ROBERT McALPIN -- Born in Washington, Wilkes County Georgia in 1806, and died in Wharton, Texas, December 2, 1859, was the grandson of Micajah Williamson who was a Colonel in General Elijah Clark's Georgia Division of the American Army in the Revolutionary War. He was the son of Peter B. and Rebeca McAlpin Williamson. Rebeca Williamson died when Robert was a baby and left her children, Micajah, Nancy, and Robert McAlpin, to be reared by their grandmother, Sarah Gilliam Williamson. They enjoyed the best educational advantages existing in the south at that period of the Nation's development. The school career of young Robert McAlpin was unfortunately terminated in his fifteenth year. A baffling illness confined him to his home for two years, and left him a cripple for life. His right leg was drawn back at the knee, so he was compelled to wear a wooden leg from his knee to the ground. From this infirmity, later in life, a name was coined, and the crippled boy of Georgia became the distinguished "Three-legged Willie" of Texas History. During his illness and long confinement, under the wise direction of his uncles, Dr. Thompson Bird and Judge Duncan G. Campbell, he read wisely, perfected himself in mathematics, acquired a fundamental knowledge of modern languages, and begun the study of law. He was admitted to the bar before he was nineteen years of age, and practiced law in Judge Campbell's office in Milledgeville, Georgia, for a year before coming to Texas.

An unnumbered Headright Certificate issued to Judge Williamson in 1838 by the Board of Land Commissioners for Bastrop County it is stated that he came to Texas in 1826. On the assumption that he had received one-fourth of a league of land, the amount usually granted to single male under the Mexican law, the headright was for three-fourths of one league and labor of land, married men being entitled to receive a total of one league of land and labor of land under the laws of the Republic, including that previously secured from the Mexican Government. Major Williamson, however, altho single at that time received title to a league of land situated in what is now Austin County, April 23, 1831, it being a special grant.

Judge Williamson first located in San Felipe de Austin, mastered the Spanish language, acquired a thorough knowledge of the Spanish land laws, and entered upon the practice of his profession. He became so proficient in the use of several languages that he was excelled by but few of his contemporaries.

On January 23, 1830, R. M. Williamson became associated with Godwin B. Cotton in the publication of "The Texas Gazette", which was the first American newspaper published in Austin's colony. The Texas Gazette has been erroneously referred to as "The Cotton Plant" by several writers. On January 15, 1831, Cotton disposed of his interest in the paper to R. M. Williamson and John Aitkin and the name was changed to "The Mexican Citizen". After a few numbers, however, the name was changed to "The Mexican Nation," presumably at the suggestion of Father Michael Muldoon, a representative of the Mexican government. The publication of this paper was suspended sometime during the year 1831.

On June 4, 1832, R.M. Williamson appealed to the colonies to proceed to Anahuac to free William B. Travis, Patrick Jack, Monroe Edwards, and other prominent Texans, who had been arrested and imprisoned by orders of the despotic agent of the Mexican government, John Davis Bradburn. And from this time, with the exception of the short lived political peace of 1834, when he served as Alcalde at San Felipe de Austin, so active and energetic were the efforts of Williamson in endeavoring to combat the several Mexican dictators' usurpation of power, he was prescribed and his arrest ordered.

On July 4, 1835 he presided over the meeting held at San Felipe, and issued his famous "Liberty or Death Address", urging the colonists to fight for liberty. However, to relieve the anxiety of his friends he returned to Mina (Bastrop) and from there continued his activities in arousing the colonists to a sense of their wrongs.

On October 1, 1835, he was at Gonzales with John A. Wharton, W. H. Jack, Francis W. Johnson, and other patriotic leaders raising the "Old Cannon Flag" and defying the Mexican soldiers. On November 3, he was at the San Felipe Consultation as a representative of the Municipality of Bastrop. He was commissioned Major on November 25, and given command of a corpse of Rangers to be stationed at Bastrop.

In February 1836 Major Williamson's Rangers were stationed at Gonzales, and engaged in gathering supplies for the Texans besieged in the Alamo. From Gonzales on February 5, he issued an appeal to "Fellow Citizens of Texas", urging the people to come to the rescue of Travis, Bowie and the 150 Texans in the Alamo surrounded by the Mexican army.

About March 1 he was ordered to Bastrop to take command of Captain Tumlinson's Rangers and to protect the assembled settlers' families. On the retirement of the Texas Army his Rangers guarded the retreat of the fugative families as they followed the army, but the desire of Major Williamson for active service was so great he turned over the command to Lieutenant George M. Petty, and hurried on to join General Houston. At Washington on the Brazos he took command of Captain Chance's volunteers and reached the army in time to fight in the Battle of San Jacinto April 2l, 1836.

On March 20, 1848, R.M. Williamson was issued Donation Certificate No. 99 for 640 acres of land in Navarro County, in consideration of having fought at San Jacinto, April 21, 1836. On the same date he was issued Bounty Certificate No. 360 for 640 acres of land for having served in the Texas army from November 28, 1835 to June 10, 1836. His Headright Certificate for a league and labor of land from the Washington County Board of Land Commissioners is dated May 2, 1839. He received many grants of land from the Republic of Texas and the State of Texas for services in various capacities.

After the organization of the new Government of the Republic, Congress on December 16, 1836, elected him Judge of the Third Judicial District, which automatically made him a member of the First Supreme Court, of which James Collinsworth was Chief Justice. He then removed his place of residence to Washington, Texas.

In 1839 Judge Williamson resigned from the Judicial Bench to resume his practice at the bar, but at the solicitation of Washington County friends, who desired him to represent that county in Congress, he became a candidate, and was elected Representative at the ensuing election. His entry into the political arena, lost the Texas Bar a brilliant mind.

On November 13, 1840, Judge Williamson took his seat in the House of Representatives of the Fifth Congress as a Representative of Washington County. He was re-elected to the Sixth and Seventh Congresses. He was defeated for Senator to the Eight Congress by Judge Jesse Grimes. In the Ninth and last Congress he was returned to the Lower House by Washington County. After Texas entered the Union he was a Senator of the 16th District, composed of Washington and Milam Counties, in the First and Second Legislature, February 16, 1846.

Judge Williamson's last appearance before the public was as a candidate for Congress, when he was defeated by a few votes by Volney E. Howard. About 1851, he retired to his farm at Independence. Washington County, Texas, and devoted his life to the education of his children. On November 17, 1856 his wife died in Independence. In 1857 a severe attack of illness arrested his mental brilliancy, He died at Wharton, Texas December 22, 1859.

In 1930 his remains were removed by the State of Texas from Wharton to Austin, and reinterred in the State Cemetery. On March 13, 1930, after impressive ceremonies were held in the Senate Chamber of the Capitol, by a Joint Session of the State Legislature, his remains were laid to rest beside his fellow patriots in "Army of Texas". A monument has been erected to his memory, appropriately inscribed.

On April 27, 1837, Robert McAlpin Williamson was married to Mary, the only child of Gustavus E. Edwards, of Austin County, Texas. Of this union were born seven children: Harry Collinsworth, who died in infancy; Peter B., wounded in the Battle of Gettysburg on July 3, 1863, and died in a Federal hospital; Julia Rebecca, married William T. Rice, of Lowndes County, Alabama, and died near Prattville, Alabama in 1867; Patrick Jack, served in Hood's Texas Brigade in the Civil War, and died in Millican, Texas during the yellow fever epidemic of 1867; and Willie Annexus, who married Minna Mott.

Grandchildren of Judge and Mrs. Robert M. Williamson included Thaddeus B. Rice of Greensboro, Georgia; James D. Williamson of Waco; and Rufus Nott Williamson who also lived in Waco, Texas.

Williamson County, Texas was named in honor of Robert M. Williamson.

General Houston at the camp opposite Groce's sent the following order to Major Williamson: To Major R.M. Williamson-You are ordered to report yourself at Headquarters. My Aide de Camp, Major Jas. Collinsworth will assume command at Washington.- He has my orders to keep out spies, and to adopt such measures as he may deem proper for the safety of the place. I disapprove the killing of those two Mexicans-- they should have been sent to me for examination- I have no idea but that they were deserters from the enemy, and important information might have been obtained from them. I order, without exception the destruction of all ardent spirits at Washington, and whereever it may be found- I have not delagated any power to any persons to arrest or try persons for offenses. - I wish Col. Pettus to repair camp and report to me."

( Houston to R.M. Williamson, A.J. Houston, INDEPENDENCE of TEXAS page 197)

Note: Feb. 14, 1834 Robert M. Williamson, Alcalde Austin Municipality page 52 Book B Lewisville Lafayette County Thomas Dillard sold land in L. County

Book A pages 21 to 24 inclusive, contains the minutes of the District Court of the County of Nacogdoches, Republic of Texas, and embodies the report of the first grand jury organized in Texas. In this report the names of the officers of the court and the attending attorneys at law were inserted in the docket: R. M. Williamson, Presiding Judge; James G. Hyde, District Attorney Pro Tem; W. R. D. Speght, Clerk District Court; David Rusk, Sheriff; Thomas T. McTiver, Constable. The attorneys listed were General Thomas J. Rusk, C. M. Gould, Charlton Thompson, Richardson Skurry, James Taylor, James Reilly, and Samuel Dexter. This report was dated September 9, 1837, and signed: John Forbes, Foreman of the Grand Jury, B. C. Walters, John Rusel, George Allen, George W. Ritter, Jos. Carrier, Robert Walters, Jesse Gibson, Joshua Fulcher, Wm. Barnhill, James McWilliams, F.J. Anthony, Thos. K. Beauford, Robert McCombs, and Benjamin A. Vansickle.

Written by Louis W. Kemp, between 1930 and 1952. Please note that typographical and factual errors have not been corrected from the original sketches. The biographies have been scanned from the original typescripts, a process that sometimes allows for mistakes in the new text. Researchers should verify the accuracy of the texts' contents through other sources before quoting in publications. Additional information on the veteran may be available in the Herzstein Library.

Battle Statistics

  • Died in Battle: No
  • Rank: Private
  • Company: Capt. William H. Smith

Personal Statistics

  • Alternate Names: Three Legged Willie
  • Date of Birth: 1806
  • Birthplace: Georgia, Wilkes County, Washington
  • Came to Texas: 1826
  • Date of Death: 1859 Dec 22
  • Burial Place: Texas State Cemetery, Austin, Texas
  • Bounty Certificate: 360
  • Donation Certificate: 99
  • Profession: Lawyer, publisher, judge, farmer
  • Wife: Mary Edwards
  • Children: Henry Collinsworth Williamson, Peter B. Williamson, Julia Rebecca Williamson Rice, Patrick Jack Williamson, Willie Annexus Williamson, James Bennett Williamson, Susan Bruce Williamson

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