Hamilton Washington, a cousin of George Washington, cut a wide swath through Polk
and San Jacinto counties before and after the Civil War, but finding any physical
reminder of his 28 years in East
Texas is almost impossible. |
Born in 1805 on a farm near Berryville
in Virginia, Washington moved to Vicksburg, Mississippi, in 1838 to practice law
while living with his sister, Mary Herbert Beazley and her family.
the Beazleys gave Washington money and land to invest in the Republic of Texas,
he exchanged the property for the William Logan League, now in San Jacinto County,
and took the title in his own name with the intention of giving the property to
his sister. A will in 1860 established his intent.
Settling at Drew’s Landing
on the Trinity River in the 1840s, Washington developed one of the area’s largest
plantations in a great horseshoe bend of the river.
As he was building
his home on the river, Washington also supervised the construction of a road from
Drew’s Landing to Lynchburg, a shipping point on Galveston Bay, with the recognition
that the export of cotton would stimulate East
Washington’s home was similar to the plantation
homes of the Old South. Enhancing the home’s beauty was a formal flower garden,
a favorite hobby of Washington.
As a lawyer, Washington had a large library
filled with law books and two indoor bathrooms with hot water furnished by a boiler,
a rarity on the Texas frontier.
The home also contained a room for his
Coushatta Indian friends--who lived in a village on Washington’s plantation--with
pictures of paintings of Indians and horses. The Coushattas’ customary dress of
long deerskin shirts prompted riverboat travelers to call the place “Shirt Tail
Known for his eccentricity, Washington had a personal worth of
almost $75,000 in real and personal property before the Civil War, but he was
always behind in paying his taxes.
There were rumors at Drew’s Landing
that Washington, a bachelor, buried a large cache of gold on his plantation. Another
story is that he lost his fortune in a New Orleans bank failure.
the Civil War erupted, Washington volunteered for service in 1862, and was commissioned
an aide under Major General John B. McGruder, commander of the military district
of Texas, Arizona and New Mexico.
Washington was assigned to supervise
government works in a wide area of East
Texas, to defend the lower valley of the Trinity River, and to enlist his
Indian friends in the South’s war efforts.
At the end of the war, Washington
was nearly bankrupt and in declining health. Though he held 51 slaves in 1864,
he had to take large loans after the war to keep his plantation in operation.
sold his plantation to William B. Denson, who moved into the house with Washington.
In 1868 Washington wrote a will giving all of his assets to Denson in return for
settlement of his debts.
He died on June 30, 1868, and was buried in his
flower garden. Denson disputed Washington’s first will to his sister, but in 1873
she established that the will was valid.
As the year’s passed, Washington’s
grave was lost, but his descendants placed a tombstone in the Davidson Cemetery,
near Drew’s Landing, defining his Confederate service.
The passage of
decades has left the cemetery unmarked, entangled in forest growth, and--like
Washington’s final resting place--difficult to find.
Hamilton Washington Marker
San Jacinto County, Texas
courtesy Charles Watson, August 2012
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