RHEA, WILLIAM ALEXANDER
RHEA, WILLIAM ALEXANDER (1833–1906). William Alexander Rhea, businessman, Confederate officer, and state legislator, was born in Sullivan County, Tennessee, on February 24, 1833, the son of Joseph R. and Emaline M. (Alexander) Rhea. Rhea was raised on a farm in Tennessee, and in 1852 he enrolled in Blount Academy (known as L. and S. Institute) in Blount County, Tennessee. Upon completion of his studies, Rhea worked in a country store in 1853. In 1855 he immigrated with his father to Texas, and in 1857 William Rhea and his brother J. C. Rhea started their own firm that included a flour and corn mill and a machine-stamping plant. The location of their enterprise northwest of McKinney in Collin County became known as Rhea’s Mills.
At the beginning of the Civil War in 1861 Rhea enlisted as a private in Company D of the Sixth Texas Cavalry Regiment. In the spring of 1862 he was promoted to captain. Later that year, during the battle of Corinth, Rhea suffered wounds that led to the amputation of one of his feet. After returning to Texas, he was appointed assistant adjutant general for the organization of state militia. In 1863 he won election as a Democrat to represent Collin County in the House of the Tenth Texas Legislature. He served from November 2, 1863, until August 6, 1866, and was on the Land Office and Military Affairs committees.
Following the war Rhea remained in Collin County. He resumed his milling business, W. A. & J. C. Rhea. The business suffered losses by fire in 1868, but the brothers brought in new machinery and also opened a mercantile. The first postwar tax records indicate that Rhea maintained a homestead consisting of approximately 1,000 acres of land. On July 16, 1868, he married Ella Foote in Collin County. This couple had four sons and two daughters. An active Presbyterian, Rhea worshipped at Union Congregation in Walnut Grove in Collin County. In the 1870s and 1880s he expanded his business pursuits to include farming and cattle-raising. In 1888 he served as chairman on the Capitol Furnishing Board which was responsible for the beautification of the state Capitol and its grounds. In 1890 Rhea relocated to McKinney, Collin County. Following the death of his wife in 1893, he married Florence Perkins on November 21, 1894. William Rhea was on the board of directors of Collin County National Bank in McKinney. He also served as president of Ross’ Brigade Association of Ex-Confederates, and he was a Mason. Rhea died on March 26, 1906, in Collin County and was buried there at Pecan Grove Cemetery.
Biographical Souvenir of the State of Texas (Chicago: Battey, 1889; rpt., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978). Fort Worth Gazette, March 10, 1892. Roy F. Hall and Helen G. Hall, Collin County: Pioneering in North Texas (Quanah, Texas: Nortex, 1975). Legislative Reference Library of Texas: William Rhea (http://www.lrl.state.tx.us/legeLeaders/members/memberDisplay.cfm?memberID=4873&searchparams=chamber=~city=~countyID=0~RcountyID=~district=~first=~gender=~last=rhea~leaderNote=~leg=~party=~roleDesc=~Committee=), accessed June 24, 2014. Jeanette Bickley Bland and Rita Bickley Roose, Records of Reconstruction Days in Collin County (McKinney, Texas: Spring Hill Press, 1981). J. Lee and Lillian J. Stambaugh, A History of Collin County (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1958).
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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, Aragorn Storm Miller, "Rhea, William Alexander," accessed February 22, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/frh06.
Uploaded on June 25, 2014. Modified on September 16, 2014. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.