Since its original printing in 1952, the publication of the Handbook of Texas has been made possible through the support of its users. As an independent nonprofit, TSHA relies on your contributions to close the funding gap for the online Handbook and keep it a freely accessible resource for users worldwide. Please make a donation today to preserve the most comprehensive encyclopedic resource on Texas history. Donate Today »

TILSON, WILLIAM HARRISON

Aragorn Storm Miller

TILSON, WILLIAM HARRISON (1837–1909). William Harrison Tilson, educator, Confederate soldier, attorney, and state representative, was born in Washington County, Virginia, on March 26, 1837, to David and Elizabeth (Cole) Tilson. He was raised in Washington County and received a basic education there. He later attended Mossy Creek Baptist College (now Carson-Newman University) in Jefferson City, Tennessee, and graduated on June 20, 1859. In September of that year Tilson immigrated to Texas and settled at DeKalb in Bowie County. In 1862, following the outbreak of the Civil War, Tilson volunteered for service in the Confederate Army. He joined Crump’s Battalion and ultimately became part of the Thirty-second Texas Cavalry. Tilson saw action with this unit during the 1862 battles of Corinth, Mississippi. During this time, however, he became so ill that he was ultimately discharged.

He returned to Texas and taught school in the vicinities of Bowie and Cass counties. On December 15, 1862, Tilson married Eunice Walker Read in Bowie County. This couple had two sons and two daughters. In addition to teaching, Tilson undertook the study of law and in 1866 gained admission to the bar at Jefferson in Marion County. At this time Tilson relocated to Boston, Bowie County, and began a law practice with partner Benjamin T. Estes. He also served as county attorney and justice of the peace for Bowie County. In 1872 Tilson won election as representative for District 8—comprised of Bowie, Davis, and Marion counties—to the Thirteenth Texas Legislature and served from January 1873 to January 1874. He was a Democrat. Tilson relocated again in October 1876, this time to Texarkana in Bowie County, where he continued his practice. He was a founding member of the First Baptist Church of Texarkana in 1877, and he was chosen as the first church clerk and was a church deacon for twenty-five years. He returned to state politics in 1879 and won election as senator for District 5—comprised of Cass, Bowie, Marion, and Morris counties—to the Sixteenth Texas Legislature. He remained in this office through the conclusion of the Seventeenth Texas Legislature in January 1883 and served as chair of the committees on Private Land Claims and Counties and County Boundaries. Tilson’s wife died in the 1872, and he subsequently married two of her sisters, Rebecca W. Read and Carrie W. Read, on June 18, 1873, and June 23, 1884, respectively. Tilson died at his home in Texarkana on October 6, 1909. He was buried in Read Hill Cemetery in New Boston in Bowie County.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Biographical Souvenir of the State of Texas (Chicago: Battey, 1889; rpt., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978). E. W. Swindells, A Legislative Manual for the State of Texas (2 vols., Austin: 1879–83). Members of the Legislature of the State of Texas from 1846 to 1939 (Austin: Texas Legislature, 1939). Patsy McDonald Spaw, ed., The Texas Senate, Volume II: Civil War to the Eve of Reform, 1861–1889 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1999).

Aragorn Storm Miller

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.

Citation

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, "TILSON, WILLIAM HARRISON," accessed December 14, 2019, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fti24.

Uploaded on November 4, 2014. 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...