Col. Albert Miller Lea
of Navarro County, Texas


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Colonel Albert Miller Lea
by Mrs. G. H. Scholle,
Originally published in "The Navarro County Scroll", Vol. XXI 1981
Courtesy of the Navarro County Historical Society (all rights reserved)

Many local families were deeply involved in the War Between the States but Colonel Albert Miller Lea was the participant in one of the most poignant stories coming out of that great conflict.

Lea, who gained his title as a member of the Texas Cavalry during the Civil War, was born July 23, 1808 at Granger County, Tennessee. Following graduation from Knoxville College, he entered West Point, where he was graduated in the class of 1831.

The three years following this were spent in going to various parts of the country on topographical and scientific duties for the United States government.

This work called him from the Great Lakes to the Gulf and from Oklahoma to Tennessee. It gave him a vast amount of information concerning the West and its few pioneers.

Having completed an assignment of paying the Indians in Nebraska, Lea reported for duty at a newly established army post in the then Fort Des Moines. This was situated near the present town of Montrose in the southeastern part of Iowa, and under the government of the Michigan territory.

Shortly after Lea's arrival, orders were received for an expedition to proceed up along the Des Moines River to a certain point, where it would strike northeast to the Indian village near Lake Pepin on the Mississippi River. Under the command of Lt. Col. Kearny, 150 mounted men with supply wagons started June 7, 1835, on this march, for the purpose of exploration and of impressing the Indians with the power of the United States government.

These Dragoons were officered by Captain Nathaniel Boone, a son of Daniel Boon, Lt. Albert Lea, and Lt. Turner. In addition to his regular duties, Lt. Lea served as ordinance officer, and voluntarily assumed the duties of topographer. Using his watch and compass he sketched the route, lakes, distance traveled daily, and rate of their march.

On reaching their destination on the Mississippi River, and conferring with the Indians at the Sioux Wabasha village, supplies were taken from the stern-wheeler Warrior.

Soon the expedition was headed westward toward the head waters of the Des Moines River, hence they would follow it down to their starting place. They appeared in Freeborn County on the morning of July 28, 1835, in the northwest part of the county.

That night, camp was made near the north shore of the lake which now bears Lea's name. Lea in later years stated that a fox had run through the column of soldiers while he was sketching the lake, and he had designated it as Fox Lake. A few years later official maps showed the lake as Lake Albert Lea, being named in Lt. Lea's honor.

On July 29, 1835, the midday rest for dinner was on the north shore of White's Lake, some 2 1/2 miles northeast of what is now Albert Lea, Minn. Lea designated the lake as Lake Chapeau, as it resembled a Frenchman's hat, and he named the prairie which he could see to the north as Paradise Prairie.

Lee resigned from the army shortly after this expedition, and became interested in developing a tract of Iowa land. His land enterprise was not successful, and Lea went to Washington where he acted as chief clerk for the War Department. For a period, he was Secretary of War. Later he was a professor of mathematics at the University of East Tennessee.

Lea married his first wife, Ellen Shoemaker, and had one son, Edward. Here is where the tragedy mentioned in the beginning of this article comes in. In the final battle for Galveston, Lea was with the Confederate forces. As the Bayou City, the Confederate boat, rammed the Harriett Lane, the Union boat, the two crafts locked together.

"Cowards won't follow me!" dared Major Leon Smith, Confederate commander, leaping aboard the Harriett Lane. The wild Texas cavalrymen needed no urging. They came from behind their cotton bales with guns blazing.

Aboard the Union ship, the commander, Mayhew Wainwright, was found dead, and his second in command, Edward Lea, dying. Lea's father was among the soldiers boarding the ship. Lea, seeing his son bleeding on the deck, rushed to the boy and knelt by his side.

"Father is here," exclaimed the dying Yankee boy. Lea bent over his son with a prayer. It has been said that a short truce was declared while young Lea was given a Masonic funeral by the members of the Order from both the North and the South. He is now buried in Galveston's Episcopal Cemetery.

Following the death of his first wife, Lea married Catherine Daisy Heath, in Baltimore, Maryland. They had three children, Eliza or Lyda (sometimes spelled Lida), who never married; Alexander McKie, married and had one daughter, Katie; and Albert Lea, married and has three children.

Lea's father, Major (a name, not a title) Lea, was born May 21, 1771, and died July 16, 1822. His grandfather, Luke Lea, was the son of the emigrant, James Lea, of Lea Hall on Lea River, Surrey, Cheshire, England.

At the close of the War Between the States, Lea settled in Galveston, later moving to Corsicana, where he lived until his death, January 16, 1891, and he was buried in Oakwood Cemetery.


See Also:



Colonel Albert Miller Lea
Jul 17, 1808 - Jan 10, 1892



On June 5, 6 and 7, 1941, Albert Lea, Minn., a thriving and growing city, named for the late Col. Albert M. Lea, resident of Corsicana for many years, and who was buried in
Oakwood Cemetery with his wife, Catherine; daughters, Eliza Levin and Lyda and grandson, Albert Heath Lea, celebrated “Colonel Albert Lea” days in a grand manner, with parades, marching bands, coronation of Personality Queens, nightly display of fireworks, bewhiskered men and costumed women that transformed the city into a carnival of fun and frolic for the three days.

This celebration is now an annual affair, this having been the second such event and this year two granddaughters of the man in whose honor Albert Lea was named were present and were feted from the times of their arrival until their return to their home in Arlington, Va. They were Mrs. Jessie Lea Roberts and Miss Lyda Lea. These ladies are friends of Congressman and Mrs. Luther A. Johnson of Corsicana and Washington, and it was through Congressman Johnson that the Sun has received a paper. The Albert Lea Evening Tribune, and the Albert Lea Community Magazine, both of which featured the occasion in an interesting manner.

Granddaughters Present.
The Tribune of June 6 carried a picture of Mrs. Roberts and Miss Lea, seated on the stage where they were presented to a vast audience numbering many thousands who attended the celebrations. Under the two-column heading of “Col. Lea’s Granddaughters Are Guests at Celebration,” the Tribune starts a long and interesting story as follows:

“If the two granddaughters of Col. Albert Lea, who are guests in the city for the three-day celebration, have inherited their grandfather’s personality, his must have been one of great charm, for all who have met these two ladies have spoken in high praise of them.

“Miss Lyda Lea and Mrs. Jessie Roberts, both of Washington, D. C., arrived here yesterday afternoon to join the inhabitants of Albert Lea in celebrating. Miss Lea and Mrs. Roberts were born in Corsicana, Texas, where Colonel Albert Lea, and his wife as well as others of his family are buried.”

The Community Magazine in its May issue contained a large picture of Col. Lea and information concerning his visit to that section of the United States in 1835 and the mapping of the surrounding territory. Also carried was a full program of the three-day celebration.

In a letter to Rep. Johnson, Mrs. Roberts stated: “All the people we met seemed historically minded and are trying so hard to collect data and relics pertaining to grandfather. I fee sure it would be greatly appreciated if any one in Corsicana who knew the family would write out the facts, or send relics which could be displayed in the museum they are trying so hard to get started.”

Father Miss Lyda Lea.
As is generally known, Colonel Albert Lea was the father of Miss Lyda Lea, beloved long-time resident of Corsicana, who passed away only a few years ago, and was buried beside her parents and other relatives in Oakwood cemetery.

At this time it is appropriate to mention the fact that a tear sheet from the Evening Tribune of Albert Lea, Minn., was received by George Campbell of this city some time ago with pictures of the graves in Oakwood cemetery of Col. Albert M. Lea, his wife, Catherine; daughter Eliza Levine, and grandson, Albert Heath Lea, and of St. John’s Episcopal church of this city of which Col. Lea was one of the founders and a senior warden in its early days. Memorial windows in St. John’s church bear the names of Colonel Lea and his wife, Catherine Lea.

These picture were taken, an article accompanying them states by A. E. Freitham of Albert Lea, Minn. While on a vacation trip to Texas. According to the marker shown at the head of Col. Lea’s grave he was born July 17, 1808 and died Jan. 10, 1892. He was a colonel in the Confederate army.


  • The Corsicana Daily Sun - Tues., Jun 17, 1941
  • Submitted by Diane Richards
  • h/o Catherine S. D. (Heath) Lea; s/o Major Lea & Lavinia (Jarnagin) Lea buried in Lea Springs Cemetery, Richland, Grainger Co., Tenn.


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