Thomas F. McKinney

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Thomas F. McKinney
Thomas mckinney portrait.jpg
Born Thomas Freeman McKinney
(1801-11-01)November 1, 1801
Lincoln County, Kentucky
Died October 2, 1873(1873-10-02) (aged 71)
Travis County, Texas
Citizenship American, Mexican, Texan
Occupation Trader, merchant, rancher
Spouse(s) Nancy Watts (divorced in 1843), Anna Gibbs (from 1843)

Thomas Freeman McKinney (1801–1873) was a trader, merchant, and a co-founder of Galveston, Texas. Living with his family in the western states of Kentucky, Illinois, and Missouri, he started trading in Mexico in 1823. The next year he settled in Stephen F. Austin's Colony, claiming a headright to Texas land while continuing his trading activities. He established a partnership with Samuel May Williams in 1834, and they operated a warehouse at the mouth of the Brazos River. The McKinney & Williams partnership loaned money and vessels to the cause of Texas independence. After Texas gained independence from Mexico, McKinney co-founded Galveston, Texas, and the McKinney & Williams company set up a warehouse and dock in the new town. McKinney later sold his share of the McKinney & Williams partnership and retired to Travis County, Texas.

Early life[edit]

Thomas Freeman McKinney was born on November 1, 1801, in Lincoln County, Kentucky, to Abraham and Eleanor Prather McKinney. His family lived in Christian County, Kentucky from 1811 to 1818. Around 1822, he moved with his family first to southern Illinois, then to Randolph County, Missouri.[1]

Mexican Texas[edit]

In 1823, McKinney struck out on his own to Mexico, including stops at Chihuahua City, Durango City, Saltillo, and San Antonio. He received a land grant of a league on the Brazos River in the Austin Colony in 1824. However, he left this area to follow his uncle, Stephen Prather, who operated a trading post near Nacogdoches, Texas. In 1827, McKinney married Nancy Watts, settling in Nacogdoches and operating a store through 1830.[1] She moved to San Felipe de Austin that year while McKinney continued dispatching loads of cotton overland and by water.[2] McKinney first formed his partnership of McKinney & Williams in 1834, operating a warehouse with Samuel May Williams at the mouth of the Brazos River.[3] First located at Velasco, then Quintana, they sold groceries, supplies, and equipment. By 1835, they had acquired three steamships and ran packets between their warehouse at Quintana and New Orleans.[4]

Texas independence and the Republic[edit]

The McKinney & Williams partnership lent $99,000 to the cause for Texas independence. In September 1835, McKinney used his own schooner San Felipe to capture the Correo de Mexico. He borrowed against the credit of the partnership to buy the schooner Liberty in support of the rebellion.[1] McKinney, with Williams and Michel Menard, were the original investors in the Galveston City Company.[5] Acting for the McKinney & Williams partnership, McKinney supervised construction of the new facilities at Galveston in 1838. They established a warehouse in the new city at the northwest corner of 24th Street and the Strand. Their wharf stood at the foot of 24th Street. McKinney and Williams financed the construction of the original Tremont Hotel building at the corner of Post Office and Tremont Streets.[6] In 1839, McKinney supervised the construction of a house for his family, and an identical house for the Samuel May Williams family a few blocks away.[7] 1842 McKinney split from the partnership of McKinney and Williams.[1] Thomas and Nancy Watts McKinney had separated prior to 1840 and divorced in 1843. He married twenty-one-year-old Anna Gibbs the same year.[8]

After Texas annexation[edit]

In 1850, he established a ranch in Travis County, which is currently within the limits of Austin, Texas. He raised livestock and set up a horse track on the property. This property later became McKinney Falls State Park. Before the Civil War, McKinney had been an avowed Union supporter while maintaining membership in the Democratic Party. However, he supported the Confederacy when Texas seceded from the United States. The Confederate government appointed him as a cotton agent, and he incurred personal debts while performing this duty, leaving him with an estate diminished to $5,000.[1]


McKinney died October 2, 1873, of kidney disease.[1] He is buried at Oakwood Cemetery in Austin, Texas.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Margaret Swett Henson (June 15, 2010). "MCKINNEY, THOMAS FREEMAN". Texas Handbook Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved November 13, 2014. 
  2. ^ Margaret Swett (1992). The Samuel May Williams Home. Austin: Texas State Historical Association. p. 5. ISBN 0-87611-125-8. 
  3. ^ Henson (1992), p. 4.
  4. ^ Frantz, Joe B. (1 January 1952). "The Mercantile House of McKinney & Williams, Underwriters of the Texas Revolution". Bulletin of the Business Historical Society. 26 (1): 1–18. doi:10.2307/3111339. JSTOR 3111339. 
  5. ^ Margaret Swett Henson (June 15, 2010). "MENARD, MICHEL BRANAMOUR". Texas Handbook Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved November 13, 2014. 
  6. ^ Ruth G. Nichols (1 January 1952). "Samuel May Williams". The Southwestern Historical Quarterly. 56 (2): 189–210. JSTOR 30235125. 
  7. ^ Henson (1992), p.12–13.
  8. ^ Henson (1992), p. 13.
  9. ^ "Thomas Freeman McKinney". Find A Grave. Retrieved November 14, 2014.