Judge William Wood Farmer, Jr.: Lawyer, Legislator, Civil War Captain and Respected Judge of Ouachita Parish

I wrote this article back in April, 2011 for Louisiana Road Trips Magazine.     

           William Mills Farmer was born March 29, 1840 in Union Parish, the only son of William Wood and Pamela Ann Mixon Mason Farmer.  He was named for his father and paternal grandfather Mills Farmer, whom Farmerville, LA was named for.  His father, William Wood Farmer, was elected Louisiana’s Lieut. Governor, but died in New Orleans in 1854 during a yellow fever epidemic.  He was buried in the Girod Street Cemetery in New Orleans, but in 1855, his remains were taken to the Farmerville City Cemetery and reburied.  A large marker, placed by the State, still stands to mark his grave.

                William Mills Farmer decided to go in the legal profession.  Graduating with honors in 1858 from Centenary College, he got his legal license from the Law College of New Orleans in 1861.  It was around this time that Famer changed his middle name from Mills to Wood in honor of his late father.  Farmer returned to Monroe to begin his career, but war clouds were looming.  As the Civil War erupted, Farmer joined as a private in Company D of the 1st Battalion, known as the Shreveport Greys.  In 1862, Charles H. Morrison began to organize the 31st Louisiana Regiment in Monroe.  William was made Captain of Company H, known as the Confederate Warriors.  The men saw action in the battles of Chickasaw Bayou, Port Gibson and Vicksburg, where Farmer and his men were captured and made prisoners of war. 

After the Civil War, Farmer joined his former commander Col. Charles H. Morrison and formed a law partnership in Monroe.  Charles would later marry Farmer’s surviving sister Frances M. “Fannie” Farmer.  When Morrison died in 1876, Farmer practiced law on his own.  In 1880, he was elected to the lower House of the State Legislature.  While there, he served as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.  He was later made a Judge of the Second Circuit Court, but the lure of being a lawyer was too strong and he resigned so that he could resume the practice.  In a newspaper article after his death, it was said,

“Judge Farmer’s mind was large, his perception quick and his reasoning bordered upon intuition.  There was no plodding – a case stated was covered by an opinion.  His reading was extensive, his memory tenacious and the collation of the authorities was all that was necessary to confirm his conclusion.  He was honest and had a supreme contempt for Quirk, Gammon & Snap practice.  Whenever a client had a case to make he found in Farmer a lawyer unremitting in his exertions to secure his rights.  He never made an effort to mislead a court by suppressing evidence, garbling authorities or toadying his views to judges in private.  He rested upon the law and the evidence as they were written and he urged them with a force that every adversary dreaded.”

                On April 14, 1883, William Wood Farmer, Jr. breathed his last in Monroe.  The cause of death is lost to history.  He was only 43 years old.  Farmer’s funeral was held at Grace Episcopal Church.  His pall bearers were some of the leading men of the day:  Capt. L.D. McLain, Dr. T.O. Brewer, W.G. Kennedy, Dr. T.Y. Aby, F.Y. Dabney and W.T. Atkins.  Farmer left no descendants, having never been married.  All of his family was deceased, except for his eight year old orphan nephew Farmer Morrison.  The man who had lead men into battle; the man who had been well respected in his profession and community, was laid to rest in an apparently unmarked grave in Monroe’s Old City Cemetery.  Just a few months ago, I noticed that an old plot map of the Monroe Cemetery, done in 1886, showed that William Wood Farmer’s plot is where the flag pole is now standing in the cemetery.  Efforts are currently underway by local Civil War re-enactors to provide Farmer a military headstone. 

About a year or so after writing the above, William got his military stone. You can see a photo of it on his findagrave memorial here: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/60673224/william-wood-farmer

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