January 21, 2013

James Govan Taliaferro

James Govan Taliaferro was born on September 28, 1798 in Amherst, Virginia to Zachariah Taliaferro and Sally Warwick.  From Virginia, Zachariah moved his family to Claiborne County, Mississippi before finally relocating to Catahoula Parish in 1815.

James Govan was a graduate of Transylvania College in Lexington, Kentucky.  He married Elizabeth Maria Boyd Williamson on May 1, 1819 in Woodford County, Kentucky.

Elizabeth was born on June 15, 1800 in Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky.

 (Editor's note:  sketch of James Govan Taliaferro is courtesy of ScottGraham1989 at Ancestry.com)

James and Elizabeth made their home in the small town of Harrisonburg in Catahoula Parish.

The following children were born to James Govan and Elizabeth Taliaferro:
James Govan, Jr., 1820-1848
Zacharias, 1821-1824
Samuel Butler, 1825-1837
Susanah Bryson, 1825-1888 (m. John Steele Alexander, 1818-1885)
William Williamson, 1829-1831
John Quincy Adams, 1820-1865
Robert Williamson, 1831-1884 (m. Nancy M. Routon, 1844-1914)
Daniel Webster, 1833-1837
David Williamson
Sarah Elvira, 1837-1838
Elizabeth Ann Maria, 1839-1884 (m. Richard Green Wooten, 1832-1870)
Henry Bullard, 1841-1921 (m. Mary A. Routon, 1848-1907)

On March 18, 1925, James Govan Taliaferro was appointed U.S. Postmaster at Burshley Creeks in Catahoula Parish.

From the Biographical/Historical Note section of  James G. Taliaferro Family Papers, Mss. 1001, 1047, 1565, Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge, LA:
James Govan Taliaferro, Sr., practiced law in Harrisonburg, La., served as a judge in Catahoula Parish, and was a member of the Catahoula Parish Police Jury (1859-1860).  He owned and operated the Harrisonburg Independent and represented Catahoula Parish in the constitutional convention of 1852 and the secession convention of 1861.  Taliaferro was a strong opponent of secession and refused to sign the ordinance; two of his sons served in the Union Army during the Civil War.  He later served as an associate justice on the Louisiana Supreme Court (1866-1876) and a delegate to the constitutional convention of 1868.

Secession Convention of 1861
The South realizing that Mr. Lincoln and his party were bent upon freeing all the slaves and thus destroying millions of dollars of southern property and the south's one and only industry, it appeared to be but one recourse to end this turmoil and that was for each southern state to withdraw from the Union and thus assert its original sovereignty.  
Catahoula's delegate to the Convention was James Govan Taliaferro, a native of Virginia, but a resident of Catahoula Parish, and Parish Judge 1834-1847; Recorder 1847-1849, and Delegate to the Constitution Convention of 1852.

Before voting upon the ordinance, Judge Taliaferro remarked:
"Mr. President:  Several of the gentlemen who preceded me took occasion to express their strong attachment to Louisiana, and the deep interest they feel in her prosperity and welfare, and offer these as the leading reasons which induce them to support this momentous measure." 
"Sir, I have lived in Louisiana more than fifty years, and from early childhood.  All my interest, associations and feelings are connected with her well being.  All that I have of worldly goods and worldly hopes and aspirations are centered in Louisiana.  The soil of Louisiana covers the bones of very many of those who were near and dear to me, and that soil will, at a day not far distant, envelop my own." 

"Sir, I am behind no man in attachment to Louisiana.  I am unable to see that higher and grander position which gentlemen say Louisiana is to assume by the act of secession.  Clouds and darkness rather, are before me.  The dimness of age, perhaps, prevents me from penetrating the gloom and seeing the bright skies and green fields beyond.  In the exercise of my best judgment, and under my honest convictions of the ruinous tendency of this measure, I must pronounce it an act of madness and of folly.  Sir, I vote Nay."
Editor's note:  References for the Secession Convention of 1861 include: History of Louisiana (Chambers) 1925. Vol. I, pp 623-628; History of Rapides Parish (Whittington) p. 138; History of Concordia Parish (Calhoun); and Official records, Catahoula Parish

From the Alexandria Towntalk:

James Govan Taliaferro, Sr., died on October 13, 1876 and Elizabeth Maria Boyd Williamson Taliaferro died on April 27, 1850.

Colfax Chronicle, October 28, 1876 - courtesy of Chronicling America

Both are buried in the Alexander Cemetery in Manifest, Catahoula Parish, Louisiana.  (Editor's note:  tombstone photographs are courtesy of Tommye Price at FindAGrave.com)


  1. Fix some of your dates -- he couldn't have gotten married in 1919.

  2. Thank you for pointing out my typo on the marriage date. If you see other dates or information that need to be corrected, please let me know.