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Wilson County, Texas celebrated its sesquicentennial in 2010. The Wilson County Historical Commission and Wilson County Historical Society created events celebrating the County’s rich history. An event honoring past Wilson County Judges and Commissioners led to a call for family histories and photographs. Families came forward with a wealth of documents and photographs for each of the leaders except one: County Judge William B. Longworth. Longworth was a controversial County Judge during Reconstruction in Texas. In the folklore of Wilson County, Longworth has been considered a rascal who did no good.
The information that follows comes from an attempt to locate surviving descendants of William B. Longworth. The last known descendant of Judge Longworth, his son Bruce, died in the mid 20th century. No photographs were ever located. However, the research revealed information that creates a better understanding of William B. Longworth’s origin and life.
WILLIAM B. LONGWORTH
William B. Longworth descended from a family of wealthy and prominent men who engaged in public service. William was born in 1829 in County Westmeath, Ireland.1 His father, Captain John Longworth, born in County Westmeath on April 7, 1790, was a decorated veteran. He served at the battles of Albuhera, Bussaco, and Talavera, during the Peninsular War and at Waterloo under Wellington.2 After the war, Captain Longworth returned to Ireland to work as a civil engineer for the government. He married Elizabeth Esther Bruce, a direct descendant of Robert the Bruce, King of Scots.3 William was the youngest of six children born to John and Elizabeth in Ireland.4
In the spring of 1830, Captain John Longworth immigrated to Canada. Arriving in Quebec in May of 1830, he joined the Canada Company as a civil engineer.5 About 1832 Captain Longworth married Ellen Maxwell. With his new wife he had two daughters, Susan and Frances.6 About 1835, Elizabeth Bruce Longworth and her children, with the exception of William, immigrated to Ontario. William remained in Ireland to complete his education. When Elizabeth discovered that her husband had married another woman, she brought civil action against Captain Longworth for bigamy. In The King v. John Longworth, Captain Longworth was found guilty of bigamy.7
About 1846 William settled in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he worked as a legal clerk studying the law and as an attorney practicing law in the state courts of Louisiana. On August 9, 1849 he married Sarah Crowley before a justice of the peace in New Orleans.8 Their children Thomas, John, and Ann were born in Louisiana.9
On December 8, 1855, William Longworth opened “Our House” boarding house in San Antonio on the south side of Commerce Street next to the San Antonio Zeitung office.10 In October of 1855, William was appointed Postmaster at Rancho in Gonzales County. He held this position until November of 1857.11 Sarah and William closed their boarding house in San Antonio and moved to Rancho in the late 1850s. Their children Esther J. and George were born in Texas. By 1866, the Longworth family had moved to Karnes County, Texas, where they lived for a number of years.12
No military record that William Longworth served during the Civil War was found. As a Quaker, he would have been a pacifist and an abolitionist, like other members of his family.13 During the Civil War, William’s oldest nephew, Richard Winsor (1839-1923), of Port Austin, Huron County, Michigan, an avowed abolitionist, was active in the Underground Railroad, proudly voting for Abe Lincoln in 1860.14
In 1865, while living in Sutherland Springs in Wilson County, William was appointed County Judge for Wilson County, presiding at the November 20, 1865 meeting of the Court.15 On December 27, 1865, William was appointed Freedmen’s Bureau subassistant commissioner without pay for Guadalupe, Wilson, Karnes, and Gonzales counties of Texas. In May of 1866, he moved his office to Seguin, Texas.
In 1867, the vicious Taylor gang was a threat to military and county officials. In November 1867, they murdered Major Thompson at Fort Mason and on the evening of February 13, 1868 members of the Taylor gang descended on the residence of Sarah and William Longworth, hoping to kill the judge in his home.16 When they discovered he wasn’t at home, it was reported that they stayed for dinner. After the horrifying visit from the Taylor gang, Sarah Longworth and her daughters Ann and Esther disappeared from records. It is possible that Sarah frightened and fearing for her life and those of her children, fled the country.
In 1870, William and his youngest son, George, were living in Floresville with their housekeeper.17 William’s oldest sons Thomas and John had left home by this time, working as cowboys on ranches near San Antonio.18
In 1873, William married Sabra Ann Nerio, a young widow from the Graytown area with two small daughters.19 Karnes and Wilson County minister John F. Hines married them. Longworth’s last appearance in Wilson County records was at a Commissioner’s Court meeting on July 31, 1873, when he resigned from his positions as County Judge and Justice of the Peace, Precinct 1.20 His disappearance from the area was emphasized when on August 17, 1874, he failed to make a court appearance in Kinney County.21 William Longworth had moved on, however, the effects of the violence of Reconstruction in Wilson County would remain with Judge Longworth the remainder of his life.22
In 1876 and 1877, William served as a Commissioner for the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court, Western Division in Athens, Henderson County, Texas.23
By 1879, William and his son George Longworth were living in Huron County, Michigan. William’s sister, Elizabeth Longworth Winsor her husband, Richard Winsor and their family lived in Huron County, Michigan. William Longworth and Richard Winsor were both serving in the capacity of notaries for Huron County.24 In 1880, William maintained a residence in London, Ontario while working as a customs agent/inspector for United States Customs.25 George remained in Port Austin in Huron County with his aunt, Elizabeth Longworth Winsor.26
On October 22, 1881 in London, Ontario, William married Elizabeth Georgina “Georgia” Weston.27 Georgia was the daughter of George and Anna Jane Adelaide Dagg Weston. According to the 1881 Canadian Census for London, Ontario, William, a widower, roomed with the Weston family prior to his marriage. The marriage record recorded William’s birthplace as Ireland, his residence as the United States (London, Ontario is about 100 miles from Detroit, MI), his occupation was barrister and solicitor. His religion was recorded as “Friends” for Society of Friends more commonly referred to as Quaker. William was fifty-three and Georgia was twenty-three years of age.
William’s brother in law, Daniel Homes Lizars, became the first County Judge of Perth County, Ontario in 1864. Before that, he had served as County Attorney. Daniel, who was from a prominent Ontarian family, was married to William’s sister, Esther Longworth. In 1880, Lizars held the offices of County Judge, as well as Master in Chancery and Deputy Registrar. In 1882, he became Judge of the High Court of Justice in Ontario.28
William’s sons moved to New Mexico. Thomas or “Pinto Tom” as he was known, was a Deputy Sheriff in Lincoln County, New Mexico during the Lincoln County War. In March of 1879, in his capacity as lawman he jailed William H. Bonney, alias Billy the Kid. In November 1880, Thomas became the constable in White Oaks in Lincoln County. His brother, John Longworth, was also in Lincoln County at this time, both men served on posses attempting to apprehend Billy the Kid.29 In 1881, a witness warrant was issued for Thomas Longworth in Lincoln County.30 After 1881, Thomas Longworth seems to disappear from American records. Lincoln County was a violent and dangerous place in the 1880s; perhaps he did not survive his service as a lawman.
The 1880 U.S. Census showed Tom’s brother, John, had returned to Frio County, Texas and worked on the Slaughter and Vickers Ranches. John moved from Texas to San Marcial, New Mexico, where in 1891 he owned a popular gambling resort.31 William’s son George moved to New Mexico from Michigan. In 1896, he called San Marcial home,32 but by 1900, he lived in Grant County, where he worked as a teamster.33 George died on February 5, 1937 in Scottsdale, Arizona.34
On 16 January 1883, Captain John Longworth died in Port Austin, Michigan at the home of his daughter, Elizabeth Winsor. Of his three sons, only William was still living. William was continuing his work as a customs agent in London, Ontario.35
William and Georgia relocated to the Denver, Colorado area in 1884, where William worked as an accountant for a mining company.36
In 1889, John Robson, William’s brother-in-law, became the Premier of British Columbia. He served as Premier until his death in 1892.37
In the late 1880s, William and Georgia Longworth moved to Illinois. On October 1, 1890, their son Bruce Earl Longworth was born in Chicago.38 The next year William and his family were living in Detroit, Michigan, where he was working as a bookkeeper.39 They lived there for several years, before returning to Colorado.
William B. Longworth died before the 1900 census.40 Before 1917, Georgia returned with Bruce to Detroit where her sisters were living. Bruce became an electrician and according to Social Security Claims Index, died on 27 November 1959. Georgia died in the 1920s.41 There are no known living descendants of William Longworth.42