William Gambel

Born at



Co. of



Aug, 10, 1808

Died at

Corpus Christi Texas

July 13, 1877


"A Soldier of the 

Republic of Texas" 



Photo Credit:  Rosa G. Gonzales

1.  Obituary

Death of Hon. William Gamble

We are called upon to record the death of the Hon. Wm Gamble, which occurred at the residence of Mr. N. Gussett, in the city, at 5 A.M. yesterday.The subject of this notice was born in Baltimore, in the year 1810, at which place he resided until early manhood, when he removed to Cincinnati. He remained there several years Hearing of the Texas revolution an becoming interested in the struggle of the young Republic, he joined a company of volunteers in that city, by whom he was elected lieutenant. He want with his company to New ORleans to join a regiment then being organized under the then Major Thomas W. Ward of the regular army of Texas and embarked for Galveston where he landed in 1836. He remained in the army until the successful establishment of the Republic when he settled in Victoria County. A few years later he moved to Live Oak county, were he resided until within a short time of his death. After leaving the army he held several positions of honor and trust from the people and commanded the high esteem of all who knew him. We understand that he was at one time a Representative in the Congress of the Republic of Texas.He was married during his residence in Victoria, but lost his wife in 1860. During his illness ere he received every attain which his care required and which kindness could prompt.Appropriate funeral services were conducted by the Rev. E. a. Wagner. The order of procession was as follows: The brass band, a detachment of the Star Rifle company and members of the Masonic Lodge preceding the hearse, and friends in carriages following.Thus one by one of the Texas patriots disappear from the stage; and millions who never knew them will share the fruit of their patriotic devotion.

Source: Corpus Christi Weekly Gazette, July 14, 1877 p. 3. col. 2

Research: Msgr. Michael A. Howell

Transcription: Geraldine D. McGloin 


2.  Biographical information

SAN DIEGO, February 28.  — Hugh Dale, the hero of the sketch I am about to draw, was one of the boys raised in the historic and somewhat quaint town of San Patricio, situated on the north bank of the Nueces river, some 25 miles about west from Corpus Christi.  Something between 35 and 40 years ago, the time of which I write, the inhabitants of the pleasant and fertile county of San Patricio — almost all of them originally Irish, who had emigrated from the “Gem of Ocean” as members of the Power and McGloin colony — were forced by prudential motives of self-protection to settle either in the village of Refugio, built adjoining the mission of the same name, or in that of San Patricio, which, as I have just said, is located on the north side of the Nueces.

At that period, the leopard, the Mexican lion, or panther, the lobo and coyote and other wild and ferocious animals were common, and their howling and the far more dreaded yells of the merciless Comanches and other Indians would frequently disturb the midnight sleep of the the hardy pioneer and it was only in numbers closely clustered together that they might hope for safety, and even then not always be sure of their property or scalps, as evidenced by the raid of the Indians on Linnsville and other settlements or “habitaciones.”

It was amidst scenes like these — where the colonists, although owning large and productive tracts of land, had to take their lives in their hands when they undertook to cultivate them, and though their cattle were abundant and roamed on a hundred hills they were in hourly danger when riding after them, and when rifle and side arms were indispensable — that the boyhood days of Hugh Dale and his youthful companions were passed.  Being left an orphan at a very tender age, he was adopted by his grandaunt, Mrs. Gamble, and the judge, her estimable husband, and was by that honest and hind-hearted couple treated with the same consideration and love as if he had been their own won.

Hugh was not unmindful nor ungrateful to the aged pair for the generous affection and kindness which they universally displayed toward him, and particularly towards that good-hearted lady, his grand-aunt, he retained throughout his short and eventful life an absorbing and lasting affection.  But Hugh Dale was an original character, in the full sense and meaning of the term.  Bravo as a lion, and sensitive and kind-hearted as a young girl, no danger ever deterred him or caused him to swerve an inch from what he believed to be the straight path of duty and honor.  Fear was a word of which he really had no conception.  He was possessed of infatigable energy and good nature and a fund of unfailing humor.  His love for a practical joke often led him into trouble, and situations of apparently insurmountable difficulty, but from which his ready wit, good nature and generosity always extricated him.

My attention was first particularly drawn to Hugh, or Hughey, as he was generally called, when quite a lad, say 13 or 14 years of age, on account of a mad prank of his which cost him pretty dear at the time, but which failed to teach him a salutory lesson such as would have been taught to a less sanguine and inborn joker.  Judge Gamble, with Hughey’s help, had planted and harvested a pretty good crop of corn on the Papalote some five or six leagues from San Patricio, which had been gathered Mexican fashion, and stacked in the middle of the field, corn, fodder, stalks and all.  The judge had gone home to bring out a wagon the next day to commence hauling, but he didn’t have much trouble removing that crop, for Hughey, who had been left to mind it, disposed of it effectually in his absence.

There was mangy cur which had also stayed back at the field and when night came on Hugh’s slumbers were disturbed by that dog’s whining and scratching; so, to rid himself of the purp, Hugh conceived the bright idea of making a wad of shucks and old rags, saturating them pretty well with axle grease and typing them to the canine’s tail.  He then set the bundle on fire to have some fun, and had infinitely more than he bargained for.  The dog made a bee line for the corn pile, and in a few moments there was such a conflagration as can be more easily imaged than described.  Hugh nearly burnt himself to death trying to save the dog, which he did manage to accomplish minus his caudal appendage; but that corn pile created a bright blaze all night, and Hugh, having a wholesome dread of the wrath to come when the judge should return, left by the light of the conflagration and took refuge for the time being at Mr. Coragan’s, on the Aransas.

The judge, though angry, and well he might be, for the loss was considerable, was not implacable, and good old Mrs. Gamble, ever ready to shield Hughey, said, “Sure ‘twas the high spirits of the bye, and little he dhrempt that the foolish baste would run into the corn.  Didn’t he nearly burn the hands off av him whin thrying to save it all; and shure he did that same.”

The next trick that Hugh engaged in though harmless and nothing to compare with the one just mentioned, made the judge very wroth.  Though somewhat nearsighted, Judge Gamble was very fond of hunting, and was often successful in killing deer.  Hugh, riding after the cows one day, came across a buck that had been dead for a day or two.  He dragged it close to the back of the cowpen and propped it up in some bushes so that it would look like it was feeding.  Then hurrying to the house he told the judge there were some deer right near to the back of the pen, and that if he would take his gun and come quickly, he (Hugh) would show where they were.  The judge lost no time in starting, and Hugh pointed out the buck, saying he supposed the others were a little further off in the bushes.

Judge Gamble crawled carefully until near enough to get a good shot, and fired, but was much surprised to find that the game did not fall nor attempt to run.  He hurriedly reloaded, crept up a little closer and fired again with the same result.  He again loaded and attempted to get still nearer, when his foot catching in a vine he fell, making considerable noise.  Recovering himself and still seeing the buck scares 25 yards from him, he suspected a trick, and rushed up to where the animal was propped up.  Turning round, with an indignant “How dare you, sir!” he discovered that Hughey was non est; nor did he come home to supper that night.

The next prank that Hugh undertook to play upon these good old folks, and I think the last, which came very near causing a serious estrangement between him and his benefactors in spite of their forgiving disposition, was when, one warm afternoon, the old lady sent him down to the river to haul up a barrel of water on a slide, which was the way they always got their supplies of the fluid in San Patricio.  Hugh drove the oxen down to the river, and finding that the Nueces was rising and also that there was frolic going on at the Ranch Grande on the south side, he came to the conclusion that the water was much better on the Nueces county side, as the banks were sandy, and so he drove the oxen in and made them swim across, very nearly drowning them, and losing the water barrel, which floated off from the slide and down the stream.  Hugh could swim like a fish, and he saved the oxen, unyoked them, and then went down the river to where the frolic was going on.

Some three or four days afterwards, the river having fallen somewhat, Judge Gamble, who had heard of Hughey’s whereabouts, found him at Judge Love’s ranch, on the San Patricio side but about seven or eight miles below.  He determined to capture Master Hughey; but he counted without his host.  As soon as Hughey saw the judge he jumped upon a horse, bare-back, which was standing by, and broke for the Brasada, a dense thicket.  But the judge was better mounted, and was about to overtake the lad, which Hughey discovering, ran his pony under a tree, and grasping a limb abandoned the horse and concealed himself in the thick foliage.  The judge soon after overtook the riderless horse, and then turned back to hunt the fugitive.  Being nearsighted, he dismounted, and tied his steed near the tree where Hughey was hid.

No sooner had he done so and moved a little way from where his animal was fastened, than Hugh slipped from his elevated position, and quickly mounting the courser of his pursuer, sped away, leaving the old gentleman in no pleasant state of mind to walk back home, while the young scapegrace, making all speed to the house, told Mrs. Gamble a plausible story, got a change of clothing and some provisions, changed the judge’s saddle and bridle for his own, and catching his own favorite horse, struck out for other scenes and pasture new.

This was “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”  It was a long time before Judge Gamble could forgive the double escapade of the oxen and horse, and the indignity which had been put upon him.  In the meantime, Hugh, though a very fast lad (he was then about 18 years old), would go back and pay his old aunt a flying visit when the judge was from home.  He was sure of a loving reception from the ancient dame, whose earnest affection for him nothing could cool.

Capt. J. S. Ford about this time was raising a company of rangers for the frontier, and Hugh was very anxious to join.  Colonel, or (at that time) Captain Ford knew Hugh Dale well, and liked him much, and was very willing – in fact wanted him in the company, but there were so many who were anxious to enlist under that popular commander that he had more men than could be according to law mustered into the service.  So the enrolling officer determined to pick the best men, with regard to their mount, equipments and physical ability.

Now Hugh had everything requisite but age, and was not like George Washington; he could, on an emergency tell a lie; so when the enrolling officer asked his age, he boldly asserted that he was 21, and was admitted, though it was thought that a wink or sign from his friend the captain had a good deal to do with his enrollment.  He made a good soldier and was popular with the whole command.  But of his exploits on the Rio Grande I have not space here to tell, but may say more in another communication.



Source: “Reminiscences of J. William Moses.”  Published in the San Antonio Express, 1889 – 1991.  Copied for Hobart Huson, Refugio, Texas, by Freddie Mae Harrington, 1943.

Transcription by:   Rosa G. Gonzales


3.  Additional biographical information


David Gambel is mentioned in an article about him and his brother, William, written by Ruth Dodson.  The piece about them may be seen at the library of Teas A & M University- Corpus Christi.

David was a house painter and may have painted the interior of St. Patrick’s church at San Patricio, constructed in the 1850’s, although Rachel Hebert in her book, The Forgotten Colony, gives the credit to his brother.  David painted the Culver-Dodson ranch house in northern Jim Wells County when it was constructed in the 1860’s.  According to Miss Dodson’s article, David was also an artist who painted pictures for some of the owners of the area ranch houses he painted.

William Gambel, born in Ireland in 1808, died in 1877 at the Gussett home in Corpus Christi, where he was buried in the Old Bayview Cemetery.  William appears on the 1850 San Patricio County census with his wife, Ann, age 40, also born in Ireland.  According to Miss Dodson she was the widow of a man named Carroll, who live in the Irish colony at San Patricio.  William was later a stockraiser in Live Oak County.

An article about William in the “local news” section of the Nueces Valley newspaper, dated May 20, 1871, reads as follows: “We have the pleasure of a call this week from Judge William Gamble of Live Oak county.  The Judge was one of the early settlers of the country. And participated in the struggle against Mexico, during the revolution by which Texas achieved her independence.  He held an honorable position in her army and has since filled various official positions under the authority of the Republic and of the Sate.  His home is known to all who are acquainted with him as the abode of hospitality, where all, at all times, receive a hearty welcome.”



Sayer, Bill . A Live Oak Remembrancer, Part I. Privately printed.

Local History Department, Corpus Christi Public Libraries


William Gambel was a member of the first Live Oak County Commission serving from Sep. 1856 until June of 1858.  Later he served as Live Oak County Judge from Feb, 1862- July 1866.



Sellman, Colles.  From Acorns…to Live Oaks: A History of Live Oak County.  Grance Armantrout Museum Association.


Research by: Msgr. Michael A. Howell

Transcription by:  Geraldine D. McGloin, Nueces County Historical Commission


4.  News Item, 1872

We were pleased to see Judge William Gamble, of Live Oak County, in town this week looking well and hardy. This old Texas Revolutionary soldier reports everything quite in his county, and that the stock is doing well there.


Source: Nueces Valley,  January 13, 1872, p.3, col. 1

Research by: Msgr. Michael A. Howell

Transcription by: Geraldine D. McGloin, Nueces County Historical Commission 


5. News Item, 1877

Death of Hon. William Gamble

On Friday, July 13th, 1877, in Corpus Christi, at the residence of Col. N. Gusset, Hon. William Gamble, a veteran of the Texas Revolution, breathed his last, and on the same day his mortal remains were consigned to mother earth with appropriate Masonic and military ceremony. The Star Rifles, under command of Capt. S. T. Foster, the Masonic fraternity, and a numerous concourse of friends and acquaintances, preceded by a band of music, moved in procession to the cemetery, to pay the last sad tribute to a good man gone. His health had been failing for a considerable length of time: but not until a week or so previous to his death did his symptom excite unusual apprehensions. His sufferings were intense; but the fiat had gone forth and could not be recalled. His spirit took its flight to The undiscovered country, from whose born know traveler returns. Judge Gamble, as he was familiarly known, was born in Ireland about the year 1810, and was brought by his parents to Baltimore, Md., at an early age. He removed to Cincinnati when a young man and at a time when the Northwest was an almost unbroken wilderness, where he followed cabinet making, accumulating some means. The Texan War of Independence attracted his attention and enlisted his sympathy; and in 1836 he joined a company formed in Cincinnati that afterward rendezvoused at Louisville, with which, with the rank of First Lieutenant, he preceded to New Orleans in route for Texas. His company was attached to a regiment then forming in New Orleans, and which was being recruited under the personal direction of the late Col. Thomas William Ward, who was then a major of the regular army of Texas, acting under orders from the Texas War Department at Velasco. He came to Texas with this command, served under Gen. Felix Huston throughout the struggle and attained the rank of captain. At its close he settled in Victoria County and held for a time the office of Chief Justice. Then he married. We next find him a resident of San Patricio and Chief Justice of San Patricio County about the year 1847. He removed to what is now Live Oak County (then a portion of San Patricio) in 1853, where he resided until a few weeks previous to his death. He lost his wife in Live Oak long ago and never remarried. Judge Gamble was noted for his hospitable and charitable qualities. Genial and frank in his social intercourse with his fellow-men, he was honored and respected by all who were so fortunate as to enjoy his acquaintance. He was intelligent and practical; one whom the world would call self-made. Naturally dignified in his manner and address, his individuality was both marked and agreeable; yet he was possessed of much quiet good humor that found expression on proper occasions.

Source: Corpus Christi Free Press as quoted by the Victoria Advocate Aug. 4, 1877 p. 1 col. 4

Research: Michael A. Howell

Transcription: Geraldine D. McGloin 

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