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 »


Barbara A. Neal Ledbetter

WOOLFOLK, JOSEPH ALFRED (1836–1919). Joseph Alfred Woolfolk, lawyer, was born on April 19, 1836, in Meade County, Kentucky, the son of John F. and Mahala A. (Harris) Woolfolk. He attended St. Mary's College near Lebanon, Kentucky, and graduated from the University of Missouri and in 1858 from the law school of the University of Louisville; the same year he came to Texas and settled in the frontier town of Belknap, where he practiced law. He was subsequently elected Young county clerk and served until December 1861. He resigned to join a ranger company with headquarters at Belknap, and during the Civil War he served the Confederacy as a colonel in Tennessee, where he was wounded and later captured. After the war he returned to Louisville, where he worked in the law office of his uncle. There he married Elizabeth J. Lewis on February 9, 1865; they were the parents of nine children, one of whom was named after the pioneer cowman Charles Goodnight, a friend of Woolfolk's. Woolfolk returned to Texas in 1867, went into the cattle business in Weatherford, and also maintained his law practice. His family joined him the following year. Their home was the first brick residence in Weatherford. In 1871 Woolfolk was one of the two lawyers appointed to defend the Kiowa chiefs Satanta and Big Tree, who were charged with murder in connection with the Warren Wagontrain Raid; the case was one of the most sensational cases tried in Texas. Although Woolfolk was commended for his effort, the Indian defendants were convicted. Woolfolk returned to Young County and practiced law; he held several positions in the county before he retired to his farm near Newcastle. He died on May 23, 1919, and was buried in the Woolfolk Cemetery one mile northwest of Fort Belknap.

James Cox, Historical and Biographical Record of the Cattle Industry (2 vols., St. Louis: Woodward and Tiernan Printing, 1894, 1895; rpt., with an introduction by J. Frank Dobie, New York: Antiquarian, 1959). Carrie J. Crouch, Young County: History and Biography (Dallas: Dealey and Love, 1937; rev. ed., A History of Young County, Texas, Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1956). Carl Coke Rister, "The Significance of the Jacksboro Indian Affair of 1871," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 29 (January 1926). Young County Historical Commission, Roots in Young County (Dallas: Taylor, 1978).

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, Barbara A. Neal Ledbetter, "WOOLFOLK, JOSEPH ALFRED," accessed June 04, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fwo20.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. 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...