by Lisa Y. Henderson
William Goyens (or Goings), early Nacogdoches settler and businessman, was born in Moore County, North Carolina, in 1794, the son of free mulatto William Goings and a white woman. He came to Texas in 1820 and lived at Nacogdoches for the rest of his life. Although he could not write much beyond his signature, he was a good businessman. He was a blacksmith and wagonmaker and engaged in hauling freight from Natchitoches, Louisiana. On a trip to Louisiana in 1826, he was seized by William English, who sought to sell him into slavery. In return for his liberty, Goyens was induced to deliver to English his slave woman and to sign a note agreeing to peonage for himself, though reserving the right to trade on his own behalf. After his return to Nacogdoches, he successfully filed suit for annulment of these obligations.
During the Mexican Texas era, Goyens often served as conciliator in the settlement of lawsuits under the Mexican laws. He was appointed as agent to deal with the Cherokees, and on numerous occasions he negotiated treaties with the Comanches and other Indians. He also operated an inn near the site of what is now the courthouse in Nacogdoches. In 1832, he married Mary Pate Sibley, who was white. Sibley had one son, Henry Sibley, from a former marriage, but Goyens and Mary had no children together.
During the Texas Revolution, Goyens was interpreter for Gen. Sam Houston and his party in negotiations for a treaty with the Cherokee. After the revolution he purchased what was afterwards known as Goyens’ Hill, four miles west of Nacogdoches. He built a large two-story mansion with a sawmill and gristmill west of his home on Moral Creek, where he and his wife lived until their deaths. During his later life Goyens amassed considerable wealth in real estate, despite constant efforts by his white neighbors to take it away. He always employed the best lawyers in Nacogdoches, including Thomas J. Rusk and Charles S. Taylor, to defend him and was generally successful in his litigation. He died on June 20, 1856, soon after the death of his wife; they were both buried in a cemetery near the junction of Aylitos Creek with the Moral. At his grave a marker was erected by the Texas Centennial Commission in 1936. Many traditions grew up in Nacogdoches about this unusual man, and sometimes it is hard to tell just what is true and what is tradition.
Adapted from Texas State Historical Association, tshaonline.org