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Frank Wagner
John Williamson Moses
Photograph, Portrait of John Williamson Moses. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

MOSES, JOHN WILLIAMSON (1825–1893). John Williamson Moses, lawyer, judge, and writer, was born on September 1, 1825, at Hopewell, York County, South Carolina, the youngest son in the large family of Isaac Clifton and Hannah (Lazarus) Moses. He was educated at Charleston, South Carolina, and later at Philadelphia. He traveled to Texas in 1841 and worked with a surveying party west of San Antonio for a time. He undertook a call to the bar at Rockport, became justice of the peace at Banquete in 1852, and in 1856 was made postmaster. He divorced his first wife, Pilara, for adultery in September 1855, and on November 14, 1857, he was married to Victoriana Cuellar, daughter of Damascio Cuellar, by justice of the peace John Fusselman. Moses purchased land from Dionisio O'Farrell on the north side of Banquete Creek and began breeding donkeys and mules. He imported several Maltese jacks to improve the local strains and provide service for mules. He was a lieutenant in Capt. John Rabb's militia company during the Civil War. Deep personal animosity arose, possibly owing to his being suspected of being a Jew or on account of his advocacy of open range; during the French intervention in Mexico he took his family to Alto de Vivanco, a village near Saltillo, Coahuila, where he operated a steam engine. After the overthrow of the French regime he returned to Texas. He was admitted to the bar in 1870 and served as justice of the peace for Precinct Three of Refugio County in 1870–71, as postmaster of Rockport during the same period, and for a period as treasurer of the Refugio County school fund. On the separation of Aransas County from Refugio County, he was made the first chief justice of the new county in 1871. After being charged with forgery, he resigned his office to fight the case. The prosecution was dropped after a year of wrangling, but he and his son-in-law, James M. Doughty, found it expedient to take leave of Aransas County.

James O. Luby
Photogrpah, Portrait of James O. Luby. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

When Duval County was organized, Moses moved to San Diego. He contested the election of James O. Luby as county judge in 1888. His quo warranto was affirmed by the district court in Corpus Christi and on appeal to the Texas Supreme Court, which declared him county judge; he held the post from 1888 to 1890. Most of the elective offices in Duval County were overturned: John Buckley was elected sheriff, William H. Tinney displaced Rufus B. Glover as district clerk, and Vidal García displaced W. B. Houston as county clerk. Moses was reelected, but was unable to complete the term because he suffered a stroke of paralysis; F. García Tovar was appointed to finish the term. Moses is known as the author of a series of articles in the Sunday issues of the San Antonio Express during 1887–88, signed with the pseudonym Sesom (his name reversed). These reminiscences, a literary, social, and historic monument of the times, give accounts of both important and obscure individuals in concise, accurate terms. He continued writing them after his stroke had left him without speech or the use of his legs. Moses died at San Diego, Texas, on April 28, 1893.


Corpus Christi Caller, April 28, May 5, 1893. Mrs. Frank DeGarmo, Pathfinders of Texas, 1836–1846 (Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1951). Hobart Huson, Refugio: A Comprehensive History of Refugio County from Aboriginal Times to 1953 (2 vols., Woodsboro, Texas: Rooke Foundation, 1953, 1955).

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

Handbook of Texas Online, Frank Wagner, "MOSES, JOHN WILLIAMSON," accessed June 03, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fmo73.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on June 7, 2016. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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