Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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HOUSTON, William Churchill, lawyer, born in Cabarrus county, North Carolina, in 1740; died in Frankfort, Pennsylvania, 12 August, 1788. His father, a native of Ireland, settled in the central part of North Carolina with Lord Cabarrus. In early manhood the son went to Princeton, taught in the college grammar school, and was graduated in 1768, and appointed a tutor. In 1771 he was elected professor of mathematics and natural philosophy, which post he held until he resigned in 1783. At the beginning of the Revolutionary war, he and Dr. Witherspoon were the only professors in the college, and when Princeton was invaded in 1776, and the students scattered, he commanded a scouting-party, organized in Flemington, New Jersey, and rendered important service in the counties of Hunterdon and Somerset. He was commissioned captain in the 2d battahon, Somerset, 28 February, 1776. Quiet having been restored in Princeton, he resigned his captaincy, 17 August of the same year, and resumed the duties of his professorship. In 1777, while still connected with the college, he was elected a member of the general assembly from Somerset county, and in 1778 was chosen a member of the council of safety. In 1779 he was sent to congress as a representative of the county of Middlesex, and served during that year and in 1780-'1. In 1783 he resigned his professorship in the college, having, in the midst of his multifarious occupations, acquired sufficient knowledge of the law to be admitted to the bar. He now removed to Trenton, New Jersey, where he entered upon an extensive practice. In 1784 he was again sent to congress, and was appointed a delegate from New Jersey to the convention of commissioners at Annapolis, 11 September, 1786, which suggested the convention that framed the Federal constitution. But, broken down by severe study and arduous labor, he was unable to take part in the proceedings of this convention, which met in Philadelphia the following year, and soon afterward he abandoned all active employment.
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