William “Choctaw Bill” Robinson, a Baptist preacher, came to Texas in 1848 and preached with his gun beside his Bible until his death at the age of eighty-nine. By the time Robinson came to Texas his first wife was dead after giving birth to eight children. He and his second wife had another six children, and all the family accompanied Robinson to Texas where he became licensed as a Baptist minister. The tall, dark, longhaired and bearded preacher believed so strongly in his gospel message that he did not hesitate to exhort those beliefs in four-hour sermons. He became known as “Choctaw Bill” after word spread that a group of Choctaws departed during one of his sermons saying, “White man lie. Him talk too long.”
Part of Choctaw Bill’s enthusiasm included his certainty that only members of the Baptist faith knew the “true religion.” Since Methodists made up the largest number of non-Baptists on the frontier, Choctaw Bill carried a Methodist Discipline and used every Bible text at his command to prove his Methodist brothers wrong.
Over the years Robinson organized or served as pastor of at least twenty Baptist Churches. Since ministers of that day did not receive a salary, Robinson supported his wife and large family by farming and raising cattle. Some report that he carried his branding iron regularly and was rather “free” in its use. On weekends he rode a horse (some say a mule) to preach in settlements that did not have organized congregations. At one village, it is reported that ruffians had broken up earlier attempts to hold services. Robinson leaned his rifle against the pulpit and placed a pistol on each side of his Bible. He looked intently at the congregation for a few minutes and then announced that he was there to preach the gospel by the grace of God and his trusty rifle. There were no disturbances.
In later years Choctaw Bill operated a sawmill and gristmill at Hazel Dell, one of the roughest towns in Texas, located between present Waco and Abilene. Some claim that of the first ten settlers in the community, Choctaw Bill is the only one who escaped a violent death. He held services under the shade of an oak tree across the road from a store and saloon and preached to the patrons who came from the saloon. The tree became known as “Choctaw Robinson Oak.”
Despite arriving in Texas with considerable wealth, Robinson at the age of eighty, wrote to the State Baptist paper: “I have preached on the Texas frontier from the Red River to the Rio Grande. Now I am old and feeble with no finances and no home. Help me what you can.” Choctaw Bill died a poor man in 1898.
This was my Great, Great, Greatgrandfather, so proud to be able to read about him!
It’s terrific that you found the blog post. He was an amazing character. Thanks for letting me know.
All those kids combined with being a preacher offered a sure way to the poorhouse.
I suppose raising fourteen children could put you in the poorhouse. Great story.