Namesake of Oglesby, Texas Suspension Bridge Tollkeeper Early McGregor Businessman Church Guard Against Horse Thieves Civil War Veteran
William Oglesby was born March 28, 1843 in Louisiana. When he was eight years old, the family moved to Texas and ultimately settled in the Gatesville and Waco areas. As a teenager, he worked on his father’s farm until October 1861 when the elder Oglesby and both of his sons joined the Confederate Army.
William was still quite young when he enlisted but his youth did not prevent him from seeing more battles than most. In January of 1863, young William was made a prisoner of war at the Battle of Arkansas Post. Three months later, he was released in a prisoner exchange at City Point, Virginia. His health was poor and he was diagnosed with acute hepatitis so missed action for a month until he finally returned to the battlefront in July. He was wounded at the Battle of Chickamouga in September but refused to leave the fight. William continued fighting and assisting his father in battle for the next year.
In September of 1864, William’s luck ran out. At the Battle of Jonesborough, his father was
shot in the head but did not die immediately. William took hold of his father and was carrying him from the field when a bullet struck the boy in his right hip. His father died several days later and it took two years for William to recover from his own wound. This ended Oglesby’s life as a soldier and he returned home to central Texas with a shattered hip and two dollars to his name, but his new life was not entirely without excitement.
During the years of Reconstruction, Waco and the surrounding areas were very much a part of the legendary “Wild West.” There were a series of famous shootouts and many outlaws often passed through. Things were so unpredictable that it was necessary to have guardsmen at church. Perhaps due to his storied career on the battlefield, William Oglesby found himself guarding a church service in a town called Station Creek which was about four miles southwest of McGregor. Only a cemetery remains of the town today but back then, it was a quickly growing community of farmers which is just how Oglesby became involved as he continued farming after arriving home at his ranch a few miles north. One day, he and an old war buddy, Overton Davenport, were sitting on the porch of the local church with their rifles. The parishioners had left their horses tied to some nearby trees and the two old battle buddies were watching over them. Suddenly, a man came riding through on a horse over to the group of tethered steeds when Oglesby recognized the man as a well-known thief. As Davenport raised his rifle, Brother Oglesby said, “hit him by God!” Davenport did just that and wounded the ruffian who then fled on his horse into the trees. Though this story survives time, it is likely to be one of many such events to have colored the years of Bill Oglesby’s life during the 1870s and 1880s.
In 1878, Oglesby relocated to McLennan County. For four years, he collected tolls on the Suspension Bridge just as other 92 men had done before him. They did so by sitting atop one of the brick towers(now covered in stucco) and lowering a bucket down for travelers to place their toll money inside. This prevented robbery. In 1882, the railroad arrived and he donated some of his Coryell County farmland for the purpose of growing a community. The area was previously known as Hilltop but in honor of his land donation, the town was renamed Oglesby(click to see it on a map).
Bill Oglesby left Waco and returned to his farm near the town now bearing his name. He farmed there for five more years until 1887 when he moved to McGregor but maintained his Coryell County farm. In 1890, he opened the first saddle and leather shop in McGregor. Business thrived until his death in 1916. Bill Oglesby had come home to Texas with only two dollars to work with after the Civil War but he grew that two dollars to the ownership of hundreds of acres in McLennan and Coryell Counties while overseeing one of the most popular stores on the road heading west out of Waco. He had enjoyed many years of success producing wheat and oats from his farms and generally was considered to be a kingpin of business in Coryell County. He spent his final days in Stephenville and it was there in 1916 that his horse kicked him in the stomach so hard that he died from the injuries. His family buried him in Davidson Cemetery in between Gatesville and Oglesby.
Bill Oglesby also happens to be the third cousin twice removed of Waco Lodge past master Robert Marshall.