Sunday, August 13, 1972

Colonel James Wrigley 1822-1896

Colonel James Wrigley, a retired citizen of Alvarado [in Johnson County], is one of the oldest residents of Texas [as of ca. 1892]. He was born in Johnstown, Montgomery county, New York, in 1822. His father, also named James, was an Englishman, and his mother, whose name before marriage was Sarah Phelps, was of Welsh descent. Edwin Phelps, Commissioner of Agriculture for the State of Michigan, is an own cousin of Col. Wrigley's. The Phelps family is a very large and noted one.

Colonel Wrigley's father was born at Leeds, Yorkshire, England, became a weaver by trade, and emigrated from England to the United States after the Revolution, and before the broadcloth power looms were in vogue. It is recorded by the Pittsfield (Massachusetts) Sun that in 1803 the first piece of broadcloth ever made in the United States was manufactured by James Wrigley, Sr. A man named Schofield came with him from England, bringing the first carding machine, and set it up in Connecticut. Afterward he went into partnership with Mr. Wrigley, the father, in Pittsfield, and with another man named Pomeroy. The war of 1812 came on, and the company failed, after which Mr. Wrigley moved to Johnstown above mentioned.

When our subject was four years of age the family removed back to Pittsfield, where his parents died. Young James was then sent, in 1832, to Pontiac, Oakland county, Michigan; but he was kicked and cuffed about so that he left there, and came to Texas, in 1844, settling at Liberty, Liberty county, where he resided for thirty-one years, engaged most of the time in the mercantile business. At one time also he had a large cattle interest, and an interest in a steamboat line on the Trinity river. From 1852 to 1856 he was a resident of Galveston. He was the first Postmaster of Liberty, after the annexation of Texas in 1845, and in that capacity made the last settlement with the Government in 1856.

His first disaster was the loss of a $10,000 warehouse on the Trinity river in the year 1868. The next was the loss of the steamer Alice M., during a storm, in which he was a one-third owner. In 1881 his dwelling-house in Liberty was burned, without insurance upon anything, and he lost with the rest all the souvenirs of fifty years' collection. About the year 1858, he was a charter member of a company organized to locate a route for the Trinity Valley railroad, and was elected president of the company; but the war came on too soon for the execution of their enterprise.

During the last war he served four years. He commanded a battalion, which surrendered at Vicksburg in 1863. It was a part of T.N. Waul's Legion of Texas. He first enlisted as a private in a company raised in Liberty county and went to Brazos-Santiago. Afterward he raised a company for E.B. Nichols' regiment, and when that was disbanded he raised a company for Waul's Legion, intended for service in the Mississippi Department under Van Dorn. His experiences on the battle-field in that department were at Coldwater, Mississippi, then on the line of the Tallahachie, Coffeeville, Grenada, Fort Pemberton, Yazoo river, and finally at Vicksburg, under Pemberton. His command marched up as the last to report at the surrender. He and his men had been at Vicksburg forty-seven days. Waul's Legion made up the number to about 33,000 men, and they were all paroled. He and his regiment then came across the river, and he turned to his Texan home, where he remained until exchanged. Then he went to the mouth of the Brazos and re-entered the army, under Magruder, but saw no active service.

Colonel Wrigley has occupied high positions in the Masonic order, being at one time grand Junior Warden of the Grand Lodge of Texas, Grand Generalissimo of the Grand Commandery, and Deputy Grand High Priest of the Grand Chapter. He is a member of the blue lodge in Alvarado and also of the chapter there; and he also belongs to Cleburne Commandery No. 12, of which he has been Captain General. In the Odd Fellows he is now District Deputy Grand Patriarch of the Patriarchs Militant.

For his wife the Colonel married a daughter of Billups Gayle, in Liberty county, Texas. The family were from Alabama, of which State John Gale was at one time Governor, and afterward United States Judge. Mr. Billups Gayle was for seven years cashier of the Mobile State Bank, as early as 1835, etc. The Colonel has four children living.

  • The eldest [Lela, b. 1850] is now residing in San Angelo, the wife of E.L. Jones;
  • the second is John B. Wrigley [1855-1927], now in the confectionery business in Alvarado, a partner of the firm of Colston, Kelsey & Col.;
  • the third-born is Mrs. George [Ida, b. 1859] Bristley;
  • and the remaining daughter [Annie Corrine 1864-1951] married Dr. B.G. Prestridge of Alvarado.
Luke H. Wrigley, a prominent young attorney of Albion, Nobel county, Indiana, is a nephew of the Colonel; so is also Roy F. Wrigley, who has extensive mining interests in Colorado.

Original data: A Memorial and biographical history of Johnson and Hill Counties, Texas : containing the early history of this important section of the great state of Texas, together with glimpses of its future prospects, also biographical mention of many of the pioneers and prominent citizens of the present time, and full-page portraits of some of the most eminent men of this section. Chicago: Lewis Pub. Co., 1892. [database on-line]. Provo, UT: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005. Pages 572-574.

Dallas Morning News, 21 May 1896. Wrigley - Alvarado, Texas, May 19 - Col. James Wrigley died very suddenly Saturday night. Col. Wrigley was born in Montgomery County, New York, August 13, 1822. He came to Texas in 1844 and settled in Liberty County, where he resided for forty-one years. He was elected mayor of the city of Alavardo in 1894 and served two years. During the late war he commanded a battalion, it being a part of Waul's Legion. His wife is a daughter of Billups Gayle of Alabama. He leaves four children. He was buried with Masonic honors by the Cleburne commandery.

1850 Census Liberty County, Texas
  • Gayle, Billips 47 M SC
  • Gayle, Anna A. 42 F Ga
  • Gayle, Caroline A. 16 f Ala
  • Gayle, Billips E. 12 M Ala


  • Wrigley, James 28 M NY
  • Wrigley, Anne G. 21 F SC (Ala?)
  • Wrigley, Lela J. 1/12 F Tex
  • + 4 boarders

1860 Census Town of Liberty Liberty County, Texas 06 June 1860

From 1860 Census

  • James Wrigley 37 M Merchant 15,000 2000 New York
  • Ann E. Wrigley 31 F Alabama
  • Lela J. Wrigley 9 F Liberty Co.
  • John B. Wrigley 3 M Galveston
  • Ida Wrigley 1 F Liberty Co.
  • Ann P. A. Gayle 49 F Georgia
  • C. A. Bolling 27 F -- 1500 Alabama
  • James E Bolling 2 M Liberty Co
  • B. B Fathine 34 M Physician 500 Mississippi
  • Danl Cleveland 51 M Town Marshal 5000 500 Vermont
  • B. F. Rhoads 38 M Stock Driver 1550 240 Tennessee

1870 Census Liberty County, Texas 12 July 1870

  • Wrigley, James 47 M W Merchant 250 New York
  • Wrigley, Annie E. 41 F W Houskeeping 2500 Alabama
  • Wrigley, John 15 M W 50 Texas
  • Wrigley, Ida E. 11 F W Texas
  • Wrigley, Annie C. 6 F W Texas


  • Sunday May 11th 1862. Today Capt James Wrigley’s wife was delivered of a female child, slightly hair lipped. (10) I bought from Jim Rogers negro man 200 pues (11) for 7$. River still rising. weather changeable and showery.
  • Monday May 12th 1862. Today the steamer Ruthven arrived with Capt James Wrigley and Ed. Jones on board. In the evening I assisted Capt Wrigley in burying his dead infant. The boys [are] busy in the ware house. The river [is] still rising. weather changeable with occasional showers of rain.

1880 Census Liberty County, Texas Liberty Town

  • James Wrigley, 57 WM NY Eng Ma Farmer
  • Anne E. Wrigley 50 WF Al Al Ga wife (Gayle)
  • John B. Wrigley 25 WM Tx NY Al Son Oc: Depy Co Clerk
  • Annie C. Wrigley 16 WF Tx NY Al dtr at home
  • Ann J A Gayle 73 WF Ga Va Va Mother-in-law
  • 3 servants