CAPTAIN WILLIAM H. WINN, general manager of the Western Abstract Company of El Paso, has been a resident of this city since 1881, and has been identified with various business enterprises that have contributed to general progress and prosperity as well as individual success, making him a citizen of worth and value, honored and respected throughout the community and most of all where he is best known.
He was born in Sumner County, Tennessee, April 20, 1838, his parents being William J. and Tabitha (Wilkes) Winn. His parents were natives of Tennessee and spent their entire lives in this state, both passing away in Robertson County. The Winns were of an old Virginia family, the paternal grandfather of the Captain having removed from the Old Dominion to Tennessee.
Captain Winn was reared upon the farm, and at the time of the Civil War enlisted for one year’s service with the Tennessee State Troops, being in hearty sympathy with the Confederate cause. He became a member of Company F, Eleventh Tennessee Infantry, under Colonel James T. Raines, and was made second lieutenant of his company. On the expiration of one year’s service with the state troops, he went home and attempted to raise a troop of cavalry. After enrolling thirty-one men, he was obliged to flee from that district because of the approach of the Federal army and proceeded as far as Gallatin, when he joined John Morgan’s noted organization of raiders and was with that commander in his operations all through Tennessee and Kentucky, being one of Morgan’s scouts. He was with a party of ten picked scouts sent on ahead to make preparations for the raid into Ohio, and while returning to Morgan’s headquarters to report the position of the Federal troops, he was captured within seven miles of the Confederate camp. All the party escaped, however, with the exception of Captain Winn and one other comrade, who were taken by Woolford’s Battalion of Kentucky Federals to Jimtown, Kentucky. After remaining for a time at Camp Dick Robinson, Captain Winn was removed to Lexington, thence to Cincinnati, afterward to Camp Douglas, Chicago. There he was imprisoned until February 1864, when, by a clever ruse, he escaped to Carbondale in southern Illinois, intending to return to southern lands, but finding this practically impossible he remained at Carbondale, where he found some sympathizing southern friends and finally became connected with the business interests of that town.
Following the close of the war, Captain Winn went in 1867, locating at Baxter Springs, Cherokee County, in southeastern Kansas, near the border of the Indian Nation, living there at a time when the country was a scene of many sensational events of typical western life. He resided there until 1870, when he engaged in merchandising in connection with the building of the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railway to the southwest through the Indian Nation.
In October 1872, he landed at Denison, Texas, before the road had reached that town and remained a citizen of Denison until 1881. When the railroad extended that far, it became a typical “boom” town, and within a few months its population had increased to several thousand. It enjoyed such lively growth that for years it was called the “little wonder.” It was the headquarters of many of the big cattle outfits of the earlier days and was a typical western city. Captain Winn there engaged successfully in business and was closely associated with its public interests, acting as its mayor in 1875-76.
Again he became a pioneer, when, in 1881, he took up his abode in El Paso, turning his attention to mining operations in this vicinity. In 1884 he sold his mining interests and invested his money in livestock in this county, giving his attention to the cattle industry for some time, with gratifying success. In 1892 he was elected county assessor and served for six years, or until 1898. He then sold out his cattle interests and, when his term of office expired, he purchased stock in the Western Abstract Company of El Paso, Incorporated, of which he became general manager, and [he] is now in charge of the office and all the details of the business.
Captain Winn’s life has been filled with interest and romance peculiar to life on the frontier. In connection with Captain Day, now of Fort Worth, he organized the first Masonic lodge in southeastern Kansas, at Baxter Springs. He is financially identified with the upbuilding of this city and vicinity, and he is familiar with the life of the old-time cattle man and cowboy and was for years on the buffalo range. He is also acquainted with experiences of western mining life, and his memory presents a clear picture of the events that have marked the settlement of various western sections and which have led to the establishment of a modern civilization with all of its improvements and advantages. The founders of the state are not merely the men who handle the reins of government and control the public policy, but are also those who carry civilization into hitherto wild regions and develop the natural resources of the state. Such a one is Captain Winn, who came to western Texas in its pioneer epoch and has done much to prove the value of this part of the state as a splendid residence district, giving excellent business opportunities to its citizens. Captain Winn has one son, C. E. Winn, a prominent business man of Temple, Texas.
[Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. II, pp. 634-636.]
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