William Jesse (W.J.) Poynor, Comanche County pioneer, marched off to war in 1861, just like a lot of other men of the day. The only difference is that many of you will recognize the Poynor name as belonging to people who still live in Comanche County.
William Jesse (W.J.) Poynor, (a farmer and a son of a farmer) mustered into the Texas Confederate Volunteer Army in the summer of 1861; he was 20 years old. W.J. traveled by horseback to Washington County (near Brenham), the first official seat of government for the newly seceded state of Texas, which was by then a part of the Confederate States of America (CSA).
Private Poynor became part of General Sibley’s brigade in San Antonio in the newly constituted 5th Texas Volunteer Calvary, F Company. By late October of 1861, Sibley had formed and trained a 3,200-man brigade of four regiments.
General Sibley’s army received their orders from President Jefferson Davis; those orders were to attack the Union Fort system in New Mexico and Colorado. History records two significant face-to-face confrontations between these Confederate and Union forces – the Battle of Valverde and the Battle of Glorietta Pass in New Mexico.
These battles were supposed to break the back of the Union forces in the South but instead, Sibley’s army was left battered and bruised. It is said that W.J.’s horse was shot from beneath him and that he completed the skirmish on foot. Colonel Tom Green was Private Poynor’s commanding officer, and apparently he performed so well that eventually the county of Tom Green County named after him.
Defeated in an ambush with supply wagons destroyed, Sibley’s Brigade limped back home to San Antonio. Of course, the South eventually lost the war; however, W.J. (as did untold numbers of southern boys just like him) had fulfilled his obligations as a volunteer soldier, and he had done so with honor and a deep sense of commitment to his state and his country as he saw it.
Private William Jesse Poynor returned to Comanche County to live out his days as a farmer, eventually marrying and raising 14 children. He died on November 16, 1913. His grave can be seen in the Oakwood cemetery in Comanche at the corner of Bryan and Cedar Streets.
Every last Saturday of the last full week of July, William Jesse Poynor’s descendants meet somewhere in Texas for the W.J. Poynor Family Reunion where they celebrate, dance, and reminisce.
W.J.’s farm is still in family today. Great grandsons Bob and Johnny Poynor live on the two halves which were created when Farm Rd. 2247 dissected the land and ushered in the modern era. The property deed, first issued by Sam Houston, is a treasured document. Another heirloom is W.J.’s Army issue Colt revolver which he received as a private in the Confederate Army – the only remaining vestige of William Jesse’s short soldiering career.
Indeed, W.J. left the Poynor clan with much more than grizzled war stories, worn out farm tools, and a blistering, dry West Texas homestead – No, Mr. Poynor, long ago, gathered in his family and taught them the value of family… pure and simple… as it should be.
Thank you to Scott Clamp for his research.