|William R. Buford was born March 30, 1818 in South Carolina. He died Mar. 28, 1910. His wife, Mary B. Buford, was born October 13, 1817 and died April 2, 1902.
William R. Buford's Obit.
The Autobiography of Wilburn Hill King with the 18th Texas Infantry, Ed. by L. David Norris (Hillsboro, TX: Hill College Press, 1996).
With a lineage traceable to the feudal days of France and England, Miles and Catherine Young Buford moved from South Carolina to Fayette County, Tennessee, in 1824. Their five children, Thomas Young, Christopher Young, William Ragsdale, Letitia, and Susan H, ranged in ages from ten years to only a few months. From Tennessee they emigrated to Haynesville, Louisiana, years later to Fredericksburg, Missouri, and finally to Nacogdoches, Texas, arriving on June 2, 1835.
Reaching his majority in that summer, the oldest son, Thomas Young Buford, caught the land fever and did considerable buying and selling of land around Nacogdoches. With the outbreak of the war with Mexico he joined Cavalry Company 1, 2nd Texas Volunteer guard, in which unit he participated in the battle of San Jacinto.
At the close of the war he was married to Miss Mary Simpson, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John J. Simpson, Oak Forest, the Simpson’s plantation home near San Augustine, was the visiting place for many of the patriots of the revolution. Owners of the Planters Hotel in Nacogdoches, the Simpsons made this their home when in town. The wedding of Thomas Buford and Mary Simpson was held in the grand ballroom on the third floor of this famous old hotel.
Thomas Buford died in 1839, leaving his wife and two baby daughters, Mary Thomas and Susan Jane. In 1936 the State of Texas erected a monument in the Oak Grove Cemetery honoring him as a soldier and a patriot.
In 1840, William R. Buford was married to Mary Simpson Buford and the couple went to live on his plantation near San Augustine. There two children were born in later years, John Christopher and Elizabeth Catherine.
Mr. Buford’s life was one of adventure because he accepted great challenges. In 1849, when gold was discovered in California, he loaded a covered wagon with provisions, and with only his body servant, Henry, went prospecting. Gone three years, he and the servant returned by boat, coming all the way around Cape Horn. His gold strike was successful, and in a black leather trunk he had a fortune in gold nuggets. Later in the same year he made a second trip to the gold fields. Attempting to return home by the overland route, he was intercepted by Indians and robbed of some of the gold.
Escaping with the greater part of his strike, he stopped to aid a fellow traveler who was ill to the point of death. When it was obvious that he was not going to live, the stranger produced a map showing the location of a buried treasure on the Isle of Pines. Before his death he gave it to Mr. Buford.
Returning to Nacogdoches without further interference, a group of trustworthy friends were invited to his home and told the story of the old prospector. When they had discussed the map they urged Mr. Buford to head an expedition to the Isle of Pines.
A boat was chartered at New Orleans about 1853, and the expedition headed by Mr. Buford sailed the Gulf of Mexico, through the Channel of Yucatan, and east to the Isle of Pines. Casting anchor in a small harbor thought to be near the treasure, the party went ashore. They had hardly landed on the beach when a band of natives surprised and overwhelmed them. Imprisoned in the native stronghold, they were under the constantly watchful eyes of the curious islanders. Mr. Buford, a large and active man, was an awesome sight to them. Groups would stand and watch him comb his hair and beard or wind his watch. One day he found his flint rock, and when he struck it and made fire they thought him to be a strange god. All of the prisoners were released and given shells and trinkets in appeasement.
Treasure Map Held
So much time had been spent in captivity the expedition did not remain to search for the treasure but sailed for home. Perhaps a later return was planned, when presents for the natives might win the cooperation of the natives. Today, this map, the curious old trunk, the shells and trinkets, and the land grant papers signed by the first governor of Texas are keepsakes of his descendants. *
In 1855, shortly after the return of the expedition to Nacogdoches, Mr. Buford moved his family to Sulphur Springs. His first home was built and at that time was the only home in Sulphur Springs to be made entirely of dressed lumber. His stepdaughters, Mary Thomas and Susan H., were married here.
At the beginning of the war between the States, Mr. Buford buried his gold in the smoke house, and taking his faithful body servant, Henry, enlisted in the Confederate forces. As Captain of Company E, 18th Texas Infantry, he and his men went with one of the first regiments to Tennessee. John C., his son, followed him in Captain Leftwich’s Company. John C. was brought home months later by his body servant after suffering an illness that made him too weak to continue in the fighting.
Man With Vision
Returning to Sulphur Springs after the war, Captain Buford was ready for the battle of the reconstruction. One of the far seeing men of the age, he put his hands to work wherever they were needed. Some of them were employed to open Quitman Street. A charter member of the Sulphur Springs IOOF and a church going man, his contributions to all worthwhile projects helped to found schools and build sanctuaries.
A man of great courage, he was a gentle and understanding as he was courageous. The story is told by old timers of an occasion when he was the foreman of a jury on a case in which a teenage boy was being tried for theft of stove wood. When the boy’s widowed mother testified she told how this only child had stayed by her bedside through a long illness. The weather was extremely cold and he had kept a fire day and night. She knew, she said, that their wood pile would have been exhausted and she didn’t know where he was getting the wood to keep the fire going, but thought when she was better they could straighten the whole thing out. Captain Buford was deeply moved. Receiving a nod from the jury he assured her that they were not going to send the boy to jail. Then turning to the judge he said, “Judge, I think we ought to hold the good people of the town responsible for this error. Let’s throw this case out of court”. The court was dismissed.
W.R. Buford states on the pension application for Wiley Moss:
Signed W.R. Buford
Subscribed and sworn to berfore me this the 3rd day of November, 1904.
Signed, R.B. Keasley, County Judge fo Hopkins County, TX.
Texans in the Civil War