Wealthy Texans, 1860
RALPH A. WOOSTER*
THE MANUSCRIPT RETURNS OF THE EIGHTH CENSUS OF THE UNITED
States reveal that some 263 Texans held over $1oo,ooo in total
property in the year 186o.1 These wealthy Texans, fifteen of whom
were women, were the great economic leaders of the state. Plantation
owners, highly successful lawyers, merchant capitalists, and railroad
developers, these 263 Texans played a far more influential role in
state affairs than their number would indicate. A study of their
personal characteristics, apart from the standpoint of simple curiosity,
furnishes some insight into the composition of this highly influential
group on the eve of the Civil War. It also provides additional
material for a better understanding of economic developments in
the growth of the state.
Geographically, these wealthy Texans represented every area of the
state, although there were higher concentrations of such individuals in
some parts of the state than in others. Eighty-one wealthy Texans, for
example, resided in the nine county complex (Brazoria, Ft. Bend,
Colorado, Matagorda, Wharton, Calhoun, Jackson, Victoria, and
Lavaca) along the lower Brazos, Colorado, and Lavaca rivers. Here in
the rich sugar and cotton counties of the middle Texas Gulf region
was the greatest concentration of individual wealth in ante-bellum
Texas. One of these counties, Brazoria, had one-tenth of the 263
wealthiest Texans residing within its boundaries.
Seventy-five Texans with $100oo,ooo or more in property lived in the
counties of south central Texas. Fifty-seven lived in southeast Texas,
twenty-five in northeast Texas, and eighteen in north central Texas.
Seven wealthy Texans lived in Cameron and El Paso, the extremities
of the Texas Rio Grande counties. In all, fifty-eight counties had at
*Mr. Wooster is chairman of the history department at Lamar State College. The
research for this article was made possible by a grant from the Lamar Tech Research
1U. S. Eighth Census, 186o (Returns of Schedule No. 1, Free Inhabitants, Schedule
No. 2, Slave Inhabitants, microfilm, Lamar State College Library, Beaumont, Texas).
The original manuscript returns are in Record Group No. ag, National Archives, Wash-
ington. These returns are fully described in Barnes F. Lathrop, "History from the
Census Returns," Southwestern Historical Quarterly, LI (April, 1948), 293-312.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 71, July 1967 - April, 1968. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117145/. Accessed November 29, 2015.