The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003 Page: 576
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
A number of wealthy families of planters from across the Deep South
settled in the Chappell Hill area in the period before the Civil War. The
bottoms of the Brazos floodplain produced high yields of cotton and the
town soon became a center of wealth and privilege. Chappell Hill evolved
a decidedly Southern character with its Greek Revival mansions. Large
numbers of slaves toiled in the fields to plant, raise, and cultivate the cash
crop. The establishment of Soule University enhanced Chappell Hill's po-
sition as an aristocratic center of the state. Soule University, under the
control of the Texas Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church,
South, had the finest faculty and library of any college in Texas before the
war. Judge Gabriel Felder, scion of the Texas Felders and one of the
largest slaveholders in the state, served as president of the board of
trustees of the university and endowed a chair of ancient and modern
While the majority of Texans were not plantation owners or slavehold-
ers, the high cotton yield in the extensive floodplains of the Brazos and
Colorado Rivers resulted in planters of substantial wealth being concen-
trated in these stretches. This planter elite held considerable influence in
Texas politics and they saw the conflict between North and South as a
fight to preserve their livelihood and way of life. As a result, Texas seced-
ed from the Union and Texans enlisted to fight in the Confederate Army.3
Rufus King Felder was twenty-one years old when the Civil War broke
out in 1861. He was a student at Soule University at the time. The First,
Fourth, and Fifth Texas Infantry Regiments, which would become the
Texas Brigade, formed on Buffalo Bayou near Houston in the summer of
1861. Washington County men made up the majority of two companies
of the Fifth Texas Infantry. Capt. Jerome Bonaparte Robertson formed
Company I, the Texas Aids, and Capt.John Rogers raised Company E, the
Dixie Blues. Rufus King and his twenty-nine-year-old cousin, Miers, were
among the Chappell Hill men in Company E, both enlisting at Washing-
ton, Texas, on July 11.'
Rufus King Felder wrote his mother from Houston:
The camp is all in a stir. No one knows what we will do. We have not been mus-
tered into the service yet. . . . If you have a chance I wish you would send me
Handbook of Texas Online (accessed Mar. 15, i999), L. E. Daniell, Personnel of the Texas State Govern-
ment, with sketches of dstinguished Texans (Austin: Smith, Hicks &Jones, 1889), 338.
s Carole E. Christian, "Soule University," Handbook of Texas Online (accessed Feb. 2o, 1999);
Ralph A. Wooster, "Notes on Texas' Largest Slaveholders, 186o," Southwestern Hzstoncal Quarterly,
65 (July, 1961), 79.
" Randolph B. Campbell, An Empire for Slavery: The Peculiar Instztution in Texas, z82 z-865 (Ba-
ton Rouge Louisiana State University Press, 1989), 68, 194; Ehzabeth Silverthorne, Plantatzon Life
in Texas (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1986), 192.
SJohnson, A Hstory of Texas and Texans, 1618; Rufus King Felder military service record,
Records of Confederate Military Organization, RG 1o9.9 (National Archives, Washington, D.C.)
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003, periodical, 2003; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/m1/654/: accessed August 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.