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Townsend-Burford family of Texas papers

Identifier: MS 0511
Finding aid note: Stored offsite at the Library Service Center and require 24-hour notice for retrieval. Please contact the Woodson Research Center at 713-348-2586 or for more information. Boxes 2a and 4a are housed onsite at the Woodson Research Center.

Scope and Contents

Photographs, correspondence, genealogical charts and notes, newsclippings and printed materials related to the Townsend and Burford families of Texas dating back to pre-Republic of Texas era. Includes correspondence to and from Mrs. Ray Watkin Hoagland Strange regarding family history.


  • Creation: 1850-2000


Access Restrictions

This material is open for research.

Conditions Governing Access

Stored offsite at the Library Service Center and require 24-hour notice for retrieval. Please contact the Woodson Research Center at 713-348-2586 or for more information. Boxes 2a and 4a are housed onsite at the Woodson Research Center.

Use Restrictions

Permission to publish from the Townsend Burford Family papers, MS 511, must be obtained from the Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University.

Biographical Notes

Townsend family overview

The Townsend family came this country from England in or before the 1640s, and moved to Texas from Florida in 1826, acquiring land in Fayette County. Family members went on to play roles in the Battle of San Jacinto, and later to serve their communities as Texas Rangers, state representatives and senators, sheriffs, lawyers, and masons.

In the area that became known as Townsend, TX, now known as Round Top, the Stephen Townsend homestead was two miles south of Round Top and overlooked the present highway 71. John Townsend was granted one-fourth league east of Round Top. J.T. Townsend’s land was located two miles north of Fayetteville. Nathaniel Townsend’s grant of one league was situated one-half mile southwest of Warrenton. It included the present town of Oldenburg. William S. Townsend, who married Polly Burnham, daughter of Jesse Burnam, was granted land three miles east of Round Top. The fact that the Townsend family was the first to settle in the vicinity of present Round Top affixed its name to that section. Later, with the coming of the stagecoach, the name was changed to Round Top. (Excerpted from: “Early History of Fayette County” by Leonie Rummel Weyand and Houston Wade.)

Many of the Townsend men fought in the Battle of San Jacinto: Stephen, Spencer, John P., J.T. and William Townsend. Nathaniel Townsend was a member of the Harrisburg camp guard. Samuel L.Townsend was the nephew of Joel W. Robison, who was one of the three men who participated in the capture of Gen. Santa Anna. (Houston Chronicle, April 27, 1929). In Columbus on April 19, 1845, Asa Townsend served on the committee that drafted the preamble and resolution for the annexation of Texas to the United States.

Marcus Harvey Townsend (b. 1859 in Colorado County) attended the Law Department of Baylor University at Independence, passing the Bar in 1880 and becoming a lawyer. He was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1882 and authored the bill for the purchase of the Alamo building. In 1888 he was elected to the Senate. From 1886 to 1906 he was a member of the law firm of Foard, Thompson and Townsend and pursued land interests in San Antonio. He married Annie Euphemia Burford in 1883, and had four children: Robert Foard Townsend, Marcus Bradford Townsend, Annie Ray Townsend, and Florence Bell "Florabell" Townsend. Annie Ray Townsend (b. 1892 in Columbus, TX) grew up in San Antonio and in 1913 was named Duchess to the Order of the Alamo. She also took part on the Fiesta Court and the Battle of Flowers. She married William Ward Watkin in 1914, and had three children: Annie Ray Watkin, Florence Rosemary Watkin, and William Ward Watkin, Jr.

Annie Ray Watkin Strange grew up in Houston, graduated from Kinkaid, went on to Chatham Hall in Virginia, and attended Rice University, earning a B.A. in 1936 and an M.A. in 1944. Her father, William Ward Watkin, chaired the Architecture Dept. at Rice and designed many important buildings and homes in the city. She is a member of the Colonial Dames and Daughters of the American Revolutions through the Burford side of her family and the Daughters of the Republic of Texas through the Townsend side of her family.

Other Townsend family profiles:

TOWNSEND, THOMAS RODERIC (1797-1838). Thomas Roderick Townsend, participant in the Texas Revolution and member of the Texas Rangers, was born on February 7, 1797, in Marlboro District, South Carolina, one of eight sons of Thomas and Elizabeth (Stapleton) Townsend. By 1818 the family was living on a farm in McIntosh County, on the east coast of Georgia. Townsend was married to Nancy Pamelia Ann Dean, and they had seven children. Thomas and his brother Spencer came to Texas in 1826 to investigate land offered to settlers by the Mexican government. They returned to Florida, sold their holdings, and, with another brother and their families, moved to Texas in the early 1830s. By 1836 seven of the Townsend brothers were in Texas. Thomas was granted a league of land in David G. Burnet's colony and settled near what is now Crockett, on the Old Nacogdoches Road. His name, with Mustang Prairie as his stated place of residence, appears on the list of petitioners asking the Texas Congress to establish Houston County in 1837. The Townsend brothers enlisted during the Texas Revolution, and Thomas furnished beef and corn from his farm for the army. He also served in the Texas Ranger company of Capt. Elisha Clapp.qv Townsend was in La Grange, Fayette County, on jury duty when he died on August 31, 1838. His grave in La Grange City Cemetery was marked with a tall limestone marker.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Clifford B. Casey and Lewis H. Saxton, The Life of Everett Ewing Townsend (West Texas Historical and Scientific Society Publication 17, 1958). Comptroller's Records, Texas State Archives, Austin. Louis Wiltz Kemp Papers, Barker Texas History Center, University of Texas at Austin. Worth Stickley Ray, Austin Colony Pioneers (Austin: Jenkins, 1949; 2d ed., Austin: Pemberton, 1970). By Tula Townsend Wyatt. Handbook of Texas Online, "Townsend, Thomas Roderic," (accessed November 10, 2006).

TOWNSEND, EVERETT EWING (1871-1948). Everett Ewing Townsend, called the "father of the Big Bend National Park," was born on October 20, 1871, in Colorado County, the son of William Wallace and Margaret (Long) Townsend. At the age of nineteen he joined the Texas Rangers and was appointed deputy United States marshal at twenty-two. In May 1894 he was appointed a United States customs mounted inspector. While in the ranger service in 1900, he assumed charge of a 200,000-acre unimproved and unstocked ranch in Pecos County. After sixteen years it was fully improved, with 14,000 cattle. In 1918 he was elected sheriff of Brewster County, the largest county in the nation. He served three terms, but refused a fourth term. Townsend was an earnest advocate of friendly relations with Mexico. He was one of the founders of the Sul Ross College Museum, and for several years he served as its curator. In 1932 he was elected representative to the Forty-third Texas Legislature and, with Representative Robert M. Wagstaff, coauthored the first bill to make the Big Bend area a state park. As a result, 150,000 acres of land were set aside for park purposes. Townsend interested the National Park Service in the idea of a national park there, the establishment of the Big Bend Park Association, and the purchase of the land. On September 5, 1943, he witnessed a ceremony at Sul Ross State College at Alpine, where Governor Coke R. Stevenson of Texas signed the deed to the United States government, transferring 750,000 acres of the Big Bend country to the National Park Service. Townsend's first wife, Alice A. (Jones) Townsend, died on May 26, 1940; they had one daughter. He married Ada Blocker of Austin in 1942. Townsend died on November 19, 1948.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Clifford B. Casey and Lewis H. Saxton, The Life of Everett Ewing Townsend (West Texas Historical and Scientific Society Publication 17, 1958). Vertical Files, Barker Texas History Center, University of Texas at Austin. By Tula Townsend Wyatt. Handbook of Texas Online, (accessed November 10, 2006).

TOWNSEND, ASA (1795-1876). Asa Townsend, cattleman, was born on December 14, 1795, in Marlboro District, South Carolina, the oldest of eight sons of Thomas and Elizabeth (Stapleton) Townsend, all of whom eventually settled in Texas. He went to Georgia as a young man and there was married to Rebecca Harper. Some twenty years later the couple moved to Florida, and from there Townsend moved his wife and nine children to Texas; they traveled in the fall of 1837 by water to New Orleans and in the spring of 1838 by oxcart to the vicinity of Columbus. In 1840 Townsend was an enslaver who held title to 555 acres of land in Colorado County; he used the stolen labor of five enslaved people to run the land and twenty head of cattle. On October 7, 1845, he received title to an additional 640 acres near Borden. In Columbus on April 19, 1845, he served on the committee that drafted the preamble and resolution for the annexation of Texas to the United States. In 1846 Townsend served a term as Colorado County Coroner. That summer he enlisted as a private in Company E, First Regiment, Texas Mounted Riflemen, for service in the Mexican War;qv he received his discharge on September 21, 1846. He was among the ten members of the Colorado Navigation Association and a member of the board of directors when it met on October 15, 1849, in Matagorda to hear reports from F. W. Grassmeyer and A. Carter on the work of clearing the Colorado of a raft of debris to make the river navigable through Wharton and Matagorda counties. Townsend was active in the proceedings and organization of Masonic lodges in the late 1840s in Waco, La Grange, Round Rock, and Columbus. By 1860 his wealth, based on the enslavement of others, was valued at $30,000. He died at the home of his son, H. S. Townsend, on September 22 or 27, 1876, and was buried near Borden.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Colorado County Historical Commission, Colorado County Chronicles from the Beginning to 1923 (2 vols., Austin: Nortex, 1986). Columbus Citizen, October 12, 1876. Telegraph and Texas Register, May 7, 1845. Texas State Gazette, November 3, 1849. By Walker A. Lea, Jr. Handbook of Texas Online, "Townsend, Asa," (accessed November 10, 2006).

The Townsend family also goes back many generations in Texas, with members who served their communities in various ways. Many were lawyers, legislators, soldiers and doctors.

BURFORD, NATHANIEL MACON (1824-1898). Nathaniel Macon Burford, attorney, judge, and Civil War soldier, was born on June 24, 1824, in Smith County, Tennessee, to John Hawkins and Nancy (McAlister) Burford. He graduated from Irving College and the law school at Lebanon, Tennessee, and was admitted to the bar in 1845. He volunteered for service in the Mexican War, but by the time he got to Knoxville the state's quota had been filled. He then worked his way to Shreveport, Louisiana, and walked from there to Jefferson, Texas, in January 1847. There he became deputy clerk of the district court. He found, however, that the bar was too full for his career ambitions, so he pushed on to Dallas in October 1848, carrying five dollars and several letters of recommendation.

In Dallas he soon formed a law partnership with John H. Reagan and in 1850 and 1852 was elected district attorney. He drafted the charter for Dallas, which the legislature accepted in 1856, and in the same year became judge of the new Sixteenth Judicial District, a post he held until 1861, when he resigned to join, as a private, the First Texas Artillery under Capt. John Jay Good in the rebellion of the Confederate states. In 1862 he received a commission as colonel and raised a regiment from Dallas, Kaufman, Ellis, Hill, Navarro, McLennan, and Parker counties. This regiment, designated the Nineteenth Texas Cavalry, was ordered to Arkansas, where it joined a brigade forming under Col. William Henry Parsons. The Nineteenth Texas served the entire war in the Trans-Mississippi Department, generally under the command of Lt. Col. Benjamin W. Watson or Maj. John B. Williams rather than Colonel Burford. After the Red River campaign in 1864 Burford offered his resignation, admitting that he did not possess the ability to lead troops in combat. His commanding officers agreed and accepted the resignation.

After resuming his legal practice, he became president of the Soldiers' Home Association (1864) and was elected to the House of the Eleventh Legislature (1866), where he was chosen speaker. He was removed from his office along with others by Gen. Philip H. Sheridan because he was an impediment to Reconstruction. In 1868 he endorsed the organization of a racist "Conservative" party of Dallas County that condemned rights for African Americans and supported President Andrew Johnson's pro-South policy. He was elected presiding justice of Dallas County in April 1875 and judge of the Eleventh District in February 1876, only to resign in April 1877 because of bad health. He was appointed United States commissioner in 1879 and served until 1881.

Burford was a charter member of Tannehill Masonic lodge No. 52 and its first master. On January 18, 1854, he married Mary Knight, daughter of a Dallas pioneer family; they had eight children. Burford was a Democrat and a vestryman in the Episcopal Church. He died in Dallas on May 10, 1898, and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Biographical Souvenir of the State of Texas (Chicago: Battey, 1889; rpt., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978). Berry B. Cobb, A History of Dallas Lawyers, 1840 to 1890 (Bar Association of Dallas, 1934). Dallas Daily Times Herald, May 11, 1898. George Jackson, Sixty Years in Texas (Dallas: Wilkinson Printing, 1908; rpt., Quanah, Texas: Nortex, 1975). By Joan Jenkins Perez. Handbook of Texas Online, “Nathaniel Macon Burford “ (accessed November 10, 2006).


5.5 Linear Feet ( (10 boxes))

Language of Materials



Photographs, correspondence, genealogical charts and notes, newsclippings and printed materials related to the Townsend and Burford families of Texas dating back to pre-Republic of Texas era. The town now known as Round Top, TX, on Cummins Creek, was previously known as Townsend, TX. Many of the Townsend family members participated in the Battle of San Jacinto. Both the Townsends and the Burfords have been very active in civic life.

Acquisition Information

Donated by Mrs. Ray Watkin Hoagland Strange, 2003-2006.

Processing Information

This finding aid was reviewed for harmful, offensive, and aggrandizing language in July 2021. Published titles and names of organizations with this language are not edited. Legacy finding aids are available by request. If you have suggestions, please email

Guide to the Townsend-Burford family of Texas papers, 1850-2000 (bulk 1900-1975)
Lee Pecht
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Repository Details

Part of the Woodson Research Center, Rice University, Houston, Texas Repository

Fondren Library MS-44, Rice University
6100 Main St.
Houston Texas 77005 USA