James W. Hancock

James W. Hancock was born on March 16, 1842, in Bastrop County, in the then Republic of Texas. His father William Ryan Hancock was a Virginia farmer who emigrated to Texas in the late 1830s, and by 1850 the family owned at least 14 slaves.

The United States annexed Texas in December 1845, when James was three years old. His father died seven years later, on September 11, 1852, leaving behind five children. By 1860, James had moved to Austin, Texas, where he lived with his older brother John. He enrolled at the University of Virginia later that year to study Latin and mathematics. He remained for only a year, withdrawing from the university on June 12, 1861.  

Hancock worked as a clerk in Texas during the war, apparently avoiding service in the Confederate army. He eventually fled to Union-occupied New Orleans, probably in the winter of 1864-1865, and on February 13, 1865, he enlisted in the Union army. He was mustered in as a private in Company A of the 2nd Texas Cavalry (United States), a one-year regiment. His brother William enlisted one day later, and was assigned to the same regiment. James was promoted to first lieutenant on March 30 and served as a company adjutant during his service. On May 13, he fought in the Battle of Palmito Ranch, one of the last battles of the Civil War. Hancock and 20 of his men were cut off during the battle and surrendered to Confederate forces. He mustered out of service on November 10, 1865, in Brownsville, Texas.

Hancock returned to Texas after the war, and on October 15, 1867, he received a temporary commission as postmaster for Saluria, Texas. A four-year commission followed in February 1868. Although Texas legislator Lemuel Evans considered him a “most competent and faithful young man,” Hancock owed his commission, in part, to the political influence of his uncle John Hancock. Evans advised President Andrew Johnson that the elder Hancock—a prominent judge—was “one of the ablest men of the state, personally & politically your friend, & a true Union man.” Hancock joined the Democratic Party after the war, and in the 1880s, he served as party chairman for his local precinct.

James Hancock married Mary W. Roper around 1868, and their son James R. was born on October 26, 1868. Mary died on October 15, 1872, in New Orleans, and Hancock married his second wife Myrtle Allen on November 4, 1875. They had at least five children: Sue, born April 14, 1877; Lucy, born December 1, 1879; Allen E., born October 4, 1881; Ruth, born April 25, 1893; and Edwin M., born March 18, 1896.

After his appointment as postmaster ended, Hancock secured a position as deputy U.S. clerk. Rheumatism, however, forced him to leave the job in 1875. His health continued to decline, and in later life he suffered from respiratory disease, heart disease, “general debility,” and lingering symptoms of malaria. He died on December 26, 1905, in Austin, Texas. Following his death, his widow Myrtle began receiving a pension of $8 a month beginning January 25, 1906, which was increased to $12 a month later on in her life.


Obituary of James W. Hancock

Name:Hancock, James W.
Alternative names:
  • Soldier
  • UVA (Union)
2nd Regiment Texas Volunteer CavalryA
Branch of service:Army
Enlistment1865-02-13New Orleans, LA
Muster In1865-03-16New Orleans, LA
Muster Out1865-11-10Brownsville, TXMustered Out
Residence at UVA:Austin, TX
UVA Begin Year:1860
UVA End Year:1861
Residence at enlistment:
Rank In:Private
Rank Out:First Lieutenant
Highest rank achieved:
Person 1Person 2NumberRelation Type
Hancock, James W.Hancock, James W.1184968application-invalid
Hancock, James W.noneapplication-minor
Hancock, James W.noneapplication-parent
Hancock, James W.Hancock, Myrtle Allen842004application-widow
Hancock, James W.Hancock, James W.1001066certificate-invalid
Hancock, James W.Hancock, Myrtle Allen613261certificate-widow
Birth date:1842-03-16
Birth date certainty:Certain
Birth place:Bastrop County, TX
Death date:1905-12-26
Death place:Austin, TX
Causes of death:
Person 1Relation TypePerson 2
Hancock, James W.parent ofHancock, James R.
Hancock, James W.parent ofHancock, Sudie
Hancock, James W.parent ofHancock, Lucy
Hancock, James W.parent ofHancock, Allen E.
Hancock, James W.parent ofHancock, Ruth
Hancock, James W.parent ofHancock, Edwin M.
Hancock, Myrtle Allenwife ofHancock, James W.
Hancock, Mary W.wife ofHancock, James W.

Compiled Service Records for James W. Hancock, RG 94, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.; Pension Records for James W. Hancock, RG 15, National Archives and Records Administration; United States Census, 1850, 1880, and 1900, accessed through Ancestry.com; Lemuel D. Evans to Andrew Johnson, September 25, 1867, The Papers of Andrew Johnson, Vol. 13: September 1867-March 1868, ed. Paul H. Bergeron (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1996); UVA Student Catalogue, Jefferson's University: Early Life; Southern Historical Society Papers Volumes 22-24 (1894).