Ashley Wood Spaight

b. 24 November 1821, d. 23 December 1911

Ashley Wood Spaight, 1821-1911
  • At some point during his early years, he adopted the spelling "Spaight" of his surname, although his father was John Speight.
  • Ashley Wood Spaight was born on 24 November 1821 in Wilcox County, Alabama, near Prairie Bluff.
  • He was educated at University of North Carolina, at Chapel Hill, at North Carolina graduating 1842 He received his law license three years later and became a partner of Thomas W. Watts, later attorney general of the Confederate States of America.
  • He served in the Alabama general assembly as a representative from Dallas County during 1847-1848.
  • In 1848, was defendant in a Circuit Court case involving his mother and other family members.
  • On 21 April 1849, Green Wood recorded in his travel journal: "Got to Cahauba 1/2 past 8 0clock. I left with Mr. Speight, went out to Doctor Englishes, 20 miles," and on the 22nd, "the next day at Doct Englishes."
  • Ashley Wood Spaight appeared in the US federal census of 1 June 1850 in Cahawba, Dallas County, Alabama, in the household of overseer Charles Fraser.
  • He was a lawyer, according to the 1850 census.
  • He married Victoria M. Riggs, daughter of Daniel M. Riggs and Mary Ann Hogan, on 15 November 1854.
  • In 1859, he was involved in a Circuit Court case involving his mother and the estate of her sister Letitia McNair.
  • On Friday, 17 June 1859, Green Wood recorded in his plantation daily account book: "Ashley Wood Speight from Alabama came today," and on Wednesday, the 22nd, "Ashley Wood Speight left for Huntsville."
  • Ashley Wood Spaight and Victoria M. Riggs appeared in the US federal census of 1 June 1860 in Galveston, Texas.
  • He was a merchant, according to the 1860 census.
  • On Wednesday, 27 June 1860, Green Wood recorded in his plantation daily account book: "Mrs. Wood, Mr. Powell, Ella and Wood Powell and Wm B. W. and wife and daughter all left for Sour Lake." And on Monday, 1 July, "Bob returned from Sour Lake with the Waggon and six mules, left all well." On Monday, 9 July, "Started Bob with waggon and six mules to Sour Lake to bring the Bagage." And on Sunday, 15 July, "Mrs. Wood, Mr. Powell and the rest returned from Sour Lake. Mr. A. W. Speight and Lady came also.
  • On Thursday, 2 August 1860, Green Wood recorded in his plantation daily account book: "Sallie Wood and Eliza A. [and] Campbell Wood left for Kellum Springs, also Mr. A. W. Speight and Lady."
  • He relocated to Liberty County, Texas, in 1861 with Victoria M. Riggs where he established a plantation. The next year he organized the Moss Bluff Rebels there for Confederate service.
  • He served during the Civil War as a lieutenant colonel in charge of the 11th Battalion of Texas Volunteers, and later as a colonel commanding the 21st Texan Infantry. He was placed in charge of Confederate headquarters at Houston during the final days of the war.
  • He was a staunch Democrat, was elected a delegate from Liberty to the Constitutional Convention of 1866.
  • Ashley Wood Spaight became a widower at the 18 May 1869 death of his wife Victoria M. Riggs and subsequently moved to Galveston.
  • The following appeared on 12 September 1878 in the Galveston Daily News: There is no body of men in this state now in the exercise of more important or delicate functions than the Galveston board of health. Its members stand sentry not only for the health of their own city, the largest in the state, but for the health of the state itself, any part of which might be the victim to their neglect. . . . Dr. Haden. . . . Dr. T. J. Heard. . . . Dr. Watts. . . . N. N. John. . . . Mr. Robira. . . . Mr. Masterson. . . . Capt. Fisher, Mr. Lauve. . . . Col. A. W. Spaight completes the number. He is one of the commissioners from Texas to the Paris exposition and is absent from the city. A retired lawyer of independent means, he is a bright example of a southern gentleman, who, on the Galveston board of health, or wherever found, would act as a man of lofty honor and of tried intelligence and capacity. The secretary of the board is Dr. Clark Campbell, who brought to the position the knowledge and practical facility acquired in a long professional experience in many years of faithful service in connection with the public hospital of Galveston; and of its quarantine physician, Dr. M. R. Brown, it is enough to say that he has developed qualities of vigilence, activity and unrelenting firmness and singleness of purpose above all things necessary in an officer charged with his mementous trust. . . .
  • Governor Oran M. Roberts appointed Ashley Spaight state commissioner of insurance, statistics, and history, a position he held from 1881 to 1883. In this office he oversaw the publication of The Resources, Soil, and Climate of Texas (1882), a compendium of information of state and local interest. After 1883 he returned to Galveston, where he remained politically active by, for instance, opposing referendum and recall.
  • Ashley Wood Spaight appeared in the US federal census of 1 June 1900 in Galveston, Texas, at 1824 Avenue J boarding in the household of Jennie Wakelee.
  • He was a lawyer, according to the 1900 census.
  • Ashley Wood Spaight appeared in the US federal census of 15 April 1910 in Galveston, Texas, at 1902 26th Street lodging in the household of widow Lena Saunders.
  • Ashley Wood Spaight died on 23 December 1911 at age 90 in Galveston, Texas, at 26th & Broadway . Informant was Cornelia Brand Stone.
  • He was interred at Lakeview Cemetery, Galveston, Texas.
  • The following appeared on 24 December 1911 in the Galveston Daily News: Colonel A. W. Spaight died at St. Marys Infirmary Saturday morning shortly after 2 o'clock. The funeral will take place from the Episcopal Church at 3 o'clock this afternoon. The burial will be in Lakeview Cemetery. The following members of Camp Magruder will serve as pallbearers: J. A. Robertson, C. A. Kauffman, Judge Robert G. Street, N. Weekes, E. E. Rice, Courtney Washington, J. M. O. Menard and Charles R. Reifel.
         Colonel Spaight leaves some nephews and nieces. One nephew [sic] Elerby English, who lives near San Antonio, was advised of the Colonel's critical illness.
         Col. Ashley W. Spaight was born on Nov. 24, 1821, in Wilcox County, Alabama, near Prairie Bluff, on the Alabama River, when the state was only two years old. His father, John Spaight, died before he was 5 years of age, leaving his training and early education to his mother, nee Matilda M. Wood, a woman of strong and forceful character and well fitted for such care, since schools were few and not efficient in that frontier state. The family removed to the adjoining county of Dallas, in which was located that time the capital of the state. Before he was 15 years old he volunteered and served through the Creek Indian war of 1836.
         He graduated in 1842 at the University of North Carolina, the second honor man of his class, and was licensed to practice law in 1845, and was a partner of Thomas H. Watts for several years, who was afterward attorney general of the confederate states.
         Colonel Spaight served one term in the Alabama legislature of 1846-1847, and declined a renomination for the same position. In 1850 he married Victoria M. Riggs, daughter of Daniel M. Riggs, president of the Alabama State Bank at Mobile. For the benefit of Mrs. Spaight's health Colonel Spaight removed to Galveston, Tex., in 1860, and established a plantation in Liberty County, where he moved at the beginning of the war between the states and raised a company for that service, of which he was elected captain. After two months he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and placed in command of the eastern subdivision of Texas, with headquarters at Sabine Pass. The battalion was ordered to Louisiana and served there until January, 1864.
         He was recommended for promotion by General Richard Taylor, and commissioned colonel of Spaight's regiment in 1864. He was elected and served as a member of the Texas constitutional convention of 1866. Governor Oran M. Roberts appointed him in 1881 to the position of commissioner of insurance, statistics and history, in which position he gave valuable service in the publication of a volume of 360 pages octavo on the "Resources, Climate and Soil of Texas." Twenty-five thousand copies were printed and issued by the state, and an appropriation was made by the legislature for the second edition of this work.
         Since his retirement from that office he has resided in Galveston. His wife, who was a woman of rare culture and refinement, died in 1870, and he was alone except for his circle of friends and his choice selection of books, ancient and modern literature. He was always a welcome guest in the homes of the friends he has made in the more than fifty years of his residence in this city, and his well stored mind was a rich treasury on which he could draw without fail through the years of a long life. His religious affiliation was with the Episcopal Church, in which he has served as vestryman both in Galveston and in Alabama. In politics he was a stanch democrat of the Thomas Jefferson and Grover Cleveland school, and strongly opposed to the "new nationalism," with its referendum and recall. He was a man of strict integrity and honor, and courtly and cultured in speech and manner.
  • For additional biographical information, see The Texas Handbook Online.
  • Last Edited: 8 May 2013

Family: Victoria M. Riggs b. 14 September 1833, d. 18 May 1869