sidebar menu icon


LEE, JOSEPH (1810–1891). Joseph Lee, lawyer, jurist, and legislator, was born in Butler County, Ohio, on April 14, 1810, the son of George and Mary (Morse) Lee. In 1818 the family moved to Cincinnati, where Lee attended Johnson and Coleman's Institute. For a time he worked as a clerk and a carpenter and with his father as a carriage maker. In 1834 he began to read law and in 1838 was admitted to the bar. He immigrated to Texas in 1840 with his brother J. C., who followed their father's carriage-making business in Burleson County, and their two sisters. Lee established a legal practice in the newly surveyed capital, Austin, and when Indians killed Travis County chief justice James W. Smith, President Mirabeau B. Lamar appointed Lee to fill Smith's unexpired term. Lee served in 1841 and 1842. On September 17, 1841, he was one of the hosts of a party in Austin to honor the visiting leaders of the separatist movement in the Yucatán. In response to Mexican general Rafael Vásquez's invasion of Texas in the spring of 1842, Lee volunteered as a private under Col. Mathew Caldwell but arrived in San Antonio only after the raiding party had withdrawn. He was also a leader in the so-called Archives War, the efforts of the citizens of Austin in the winter of 1842–43 to prevent President Sam Houston from removing the national archives to Houston during Mexican threats to the frontier. On October 4, 1846, Lee married Sarah Grooms, who died in 1850 at the birth of their second child. In 1850 Lee's Travis County property was assessed at $4,000. On January 5, 1852, he married Sarah Ogle of Austin, and the couple had seven children. Lee continued to practice law in Austin until 1857, when he was elected to the Texas House of Representatives. In 1858 or 1859 he was appointed commissioner of claims by Governor Hardin Runnels. Lee served as a delegate to the state Democratic convention every year from 1857 to 1860 and ardently supported secession. He was granted a captain's commission in 1861 but never held a regular Confederate command. In the early 1880s Governor Oran M. Roberts appointed him a member of the commission that planned the construction of the present Capitol. Lee died in Austin on February 25, 1891.


Biographical Encyclopedia of Texas (New York: Southern, 1880). Biographical Souvenir of the State of Texas (Chicago: Battey, 1889; rpt., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978). Compiled Index to Elected and Appointed Officials of the Republic of Texas, 1835–1846 (Austin: State Archives, Texas State Library, 1981). Lewis E. Daniell, Personnel of the Texas State Government, with Sketches of Representative Men of Texas (Austin: City Printing, 1887; 3d ed., San Antonio: Maverick, 1892). Michael R. Green, comp. and ed., Calendar of the Papers of Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar (Austin: Texas State Library, 1982). E. H. Loughery, Personnel of the Texas State Government for 1885 (Austin: Snyder, 1885). William S. Speer and John H. Brown, eds., Encyclopedia of the New West (Marshall, Texas: United States Biographical Publishing, 1881; rpt., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978). Texas State Gazette, January 10, 1852.

Thomas W. Cutrer

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:

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, Thomas W. Cutrer, "Lee, Joseph," accessed October 19, 2017,

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on May 1, 2017. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.