Southwestern Historical Quarterly
THE POLITICAL CAREER OF WILLIAMSON SIMPSON
ALMS DEXTA KING
The life of Williamson Simpson Oldham illustrates a phase of
the western movement of settlers from Virginia to Texas. He was
born in Franklin County, Tennessee, on June 19, 1813, and he
was the fourth child of Elias Oldham. His mother, before her
marriage, was a Miss Bratton. According to family tradition,
Oldham belonged to the Oldham family of Oldham, England.'
Elias came to Tennessee from Virginia at an uncertain date. He
was a farmer; and from all accounts, he was honest and indus-
trious, but was not financially successful. There were fourteen
children, and since their father did not have the means to send
them to college, they worked on the farm and went to the neigh-
borhood school in the winter when the crops were gathered.2
Williamson Simpson was an ambitious boy, however, and studied
at night by the light of a brushwood fire. By the time he was
eighteen he had acquired some knowledge of the common textbooks,
and he soon opened a school in the Cumberland Mountains. He
taught school for several years, but he made little money with
which to continue his education. He quit teaching and obtained
a position in the district clerk's office in Winchester, Franklin
County, Tennessee. While he was serving as deputy clerk, his
earnest ambition and interest attracted the attention of Judge
Nathan Green, afterwards Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of
Oldham studied law in Judge Green's office, and by the fall of
1836 he had finished the usual course and was admitted to the bar
*This paper is a condensation of a master's thesis prepared at the Uni-
versity of Texas.
'Miss Mary Oldham, a niece of W. S. Oldham, lives in Dripping Springs,
Texas. She has given the facts of Oldham's personal life found in this
paper. Little information is available elsewhere.
'Arkansas Banner (Little Rock) December 25, 1844, Archives of the
Library of the University of Texas; Edward Fontaine, "Williamson S.
Oldham," De Bow's Review, XXXVII, 873; J. D. Lynch, The Bench and
Bar of Texas, 254 (St. Louis, 1885).
'De Bow's Review, XXXVII, 873, 874.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 33, July 1929 - April, 1930. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101090/. Accessed July 29, 2015.