While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


Marie Giles

BLACKSHEAR, THOMAS EDWARD (1809–1867). Thomas Edward Blackshear, planter, soldier, and politician, was born in Montgomery County, Georgia, on August 18, 1809, the son of Edward and Emily (Mitchell) Blackshear. During the 1820s he moved with his parents to the vicinity of Thomasville in Thomas County, Georgia, then on the southwestern Georgia frontier. He graduated from the University of Georgia at Athens in 1828 and married Thomas County native Emily Goodwyn Raines (1814–1866) on December 8, 1831; they became the parents of nine children. As a planter of some means and scion of a distinguished Georgia family, Blackshear became a civic leader in the Thomasville area and served in the Georgia House of Representatives during the 1830s and in the Senate during the 1840s. He took time out from his political career to participate in the Creek campaign of 1836, serving as colonel of the Sixty-ninth Regiment, Second Brigade, Georgia Militia. He remained in the service during subsequent Indian wars and eventually attained the rank of major general. On January 9, 1839, he was appointed secretary of the board of directors of the Brunswick and Florida Railway Company, of which he was a stockholder.

During the 1850s, as Thomas County's population increased rapidly, Blackshear grew restless and decided to migrate westward. He sold his property and moved to Texas with a large retinue of slaves in 1858. He took up cotton planting on a tract of bottomland near the Navasota River just east of Navasota in southwestern Grimes County. He soon purchased additional land along the Brazos River south of Navasota. By 1860 he had amassed property valued at $150,000 and was thus one of the two wealthiest men in the county; his estate then included 123 slaves, a number that grew to 152 by 1865. A notable aspect of his plantation management was his utilization of blacks as "drivers" and in other positions of trust. Although Blackshear himself did not serve in the military during the Civil War, four of his sons fought in the armies of the Confederacy.

Like many other planters Blackshear experienced great difficulties adjusting to the harsh realities of agriculture in Reconstruction Texas. Dismayed at what he considered the unreliable work habits of freedmen, he resolved to cultivate his property exclusively with white sharecroppers, each farming tracts of from forty to sixty acres. In an effort to recruit the necessary labor, he corresponded with newspaper editors in his native state, including Lucius C. Bryan of the Thomasville Southern Enterprise, to enlist their cooperation in advertising the advantages of Texas agriculture to poor white farmers struggling for subsistence on the exhausted soils of Georgia. Blackshear was planning a trip to Georgia to engage tenants when he contracted yellow fever and died on October 20, 1867. His correspondence, diary, memorandum book, and account book are in the Barker Texas History Center, University of Texas at Austin.


Randolph B. Campbell, An Empire for Slavery: The Peculiar Institution in Texas, 1821–1865 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989). Maurine Chinski, The Navasota Bluebonnet: Commemorating One Hundred Years of City Growth and Development, 1854–1954 (Navasota, Texas: Grimes County Chamber of Commerce, 1954). Grimes County Historical Commission, History of Grimes County, Land of Heritage and Progress (Dallas: Taylor, 1982). Members of the Legislature of the State of Texas from 1846 to 1939 (Austin: Texas Legislature, 1939). William Warren Rogers, ed., "From Planter to Farmer: A Georgia Man in Reconstruction Texas," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 72 (April 1969).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


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

Handbook of Texas Online, Marie Giles, "BLACKSHEAR, THOMAS EDWARD," accessed July 02, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fbl08.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on October 24, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...