Chapter V
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Chapter V: A History of Jefferson County, Texas

Mexico and the Anglo-American Pioneers

By W. T. Block

Following the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, Spain quickly renewed its interest in East Texas and dispatched troops to reoccupy four key points, one of which was El Atascosita on the lower Trinity River.1 From this beginning, the “distrito de Atascosita,” of which Jefferson County was a part,2 gradually evolved with the following boundaries:

The Atascosita District bounded…on the West by the Colony of San Felipe de Austin, on the North by the District of Nacogdoches, on the East by the reserved lands on the Sabine, on the South by the Gulf of Mexico, including all Islands and Bays within three leagues of Sea Shore.3

By 1805, Spain faced a multitude of prospective immigrants to East Texas. These included Spanish, French, Indians, and Anglo-Americans of Louisiana, who sought to escape the sovereignty of the United States. Many Anglo-Americans were adventurers or fleeing from justice. Some Louisiana tribes feared the American Indian policy and expected better treatment at the hands of the Spanish.

Spanish officials developed a plan whereby the applicants of European derivation were to be resettled in the interior of Texas,4 while a buffer zone of reserved lands along the coast and between the Trinity and Sabine Rivers was to be populated by Indian refugees considered to be hostile to the United States.5 After Spain’s eviction from Texas, the principle of a reserved buffer zone was continued by Mexico.

The problems experienced by Spain’s successor in the Atascosita District are depicted in the following quote:

While the French activities were temporary, the Anglo-Americans were not. After Texas became a part of Mexico in 1821 and opened the area legally to colonists, settlers poured in by the hundreds. Since the region was so far removed from the capitols at San Antonio and Saltillo and the Mexican administration moved so slowly in all matters, the frontiersmen, in their typical impulsive fashion, moved onto the land and worried later about legalities of title. This proved to cause considerable trouble in the Atascosita District...6

Between 1821 and 1836, Mexico’s policy toward Anglo-American immigration to Texas vacillated between acceptance and open hostility, tempered by the chaos of contending political factions and the fear of American encroachment. Its positive side is observed in the colonization law of 1824 that permitted Stephen F. Austin and other impresarios to secure land grants in Texas.7 Its negative side is seen in the decree of 1830, which was designed to curtail Anglo-American immigration, and the efforts to suppress civil liberties in Texas in 1835-1836. Additional factors were the large numbers of hostile Comanches who raided at will throughout the province and the failure of efforts to colonize Mexicans in Texas.8

Settlement in the Atascosita District, much of which lay within the reserved zone, was regulated by the Colonization Laws of 1824 and 1825 (later amended by the decree of April 6, 1830). Article 4 of the 1824 colonization act provided that “there cannot be colonized any lands, comprehended within twenty leagues [approximately sixty miles] of the limits of any foreign nation, nor within ten leagues of the coasts, without the previous appro­bation of the general supreme executive power.”9 Article 7 of the same law provided that “until after the year 1 840, the general congress shall prohibit the entrance of any foreigner as a colonist, unless imperious circumstances shall require it, with respect to the individuals of a particular nation.”10

The Coahuila-Texas State Colonization Law of 1825 continued the proscription of settlement in much of the Atascosita District and in all of the Jefferson County area.11 For that reason, squatters in the forbidden zone could not apply for land titles until the reserved lands were granted to the impresario Lorenzo de Zavala in 1829.12

Because of the disproportionate ratio of Americans to Mexicans in East Texas, the Law of 1830 was designed to curtail the immigration of Americans to Texas and to replace them with Mexican and European colonists.13 However, the Mexican commandant of the Eastern Provinces, General Mier y Teran, feared the result of a total ban on American immigration, and gradually, an interpretation prevailed that the ban did not apply to the colonies of Stephen F. Austin and Green Dewitt. Eventually, the ban was not enforced, and General Mier y Teran suggested that Austin incorporate the squatters of Atascosita District into the San Felipe colony, adding “it is all the same to me whether you bring a family from Tennessee or the Sabine.”14

In 1826, the alcaldes of Atascosita District, George Orr and Henry Munson, were already aware of the advantages of incorporation into either the Department of San Felipe or Nacogdoches. On September 10, 1826, an election was held, and, by a vote of thirty-seven to twenty-one, Atascosita citizens chose union with Stephen F. Austin’s colony rather than with Nacogdoches.15 On September 28, a letter,16 the results of the ballot, and a census, which listed 331 free citizens and seventy-six slaves in the Atascosita District, were, forwarded to San Felipe for Austin’s consideration.17

Although consolidation was not possible under the Colonization Acts of 1824 and 1825 without the special permission of the Mexican congress, it is interesting to note that, apparently, Austin considered the suggestion for some time. For one thing, he knew very little about the remote Southeast Texas sector, and, in 1827, sent John A. Williams to reconnoiter the area. Williams began at the San Antonio Road, traveled down Attoyac Bayou, the Angelina-Neches watercourses, and Sabine Lake, and stopped intermittently to take astronomical bearings. With the assistance of George Orr, the Atascosita alcalde who knew the region thoroughly, Williams prepared a rough map of the Atascosita District, and sent it to James E. B. Austin, along with his letter of October 14, 1827.18 After the impresario Lorenzo de Zavala acquired the border and coastal reserves as a land grant, Atascosita was absorbed into the Department of Nacogdoches in 1831 as the Municipality of Liberty.19

In 1826, the only family living in present-day Jefferson County is listed in the Atascosita census, along with the names of others who moved to Jefferson County before its separation from Liberty County. In 1824, Noah and Nancy Tevis and five of their children settled at Beaumont (known then as Tevis Bluff), where a sixth child 20 was born soon afterward.21 In 1833, James and Elizabeth McFaddin moved to Beaumont, having resided near Liberty for the previous ten years.22 John and Sarah McGaffey, who formerly lived in the hamlet of Jefferson, on Cow Bayou in present-day Orange County, became the first settlers at Sabine Pass in 1832.23 Ten or twelve families who lived between Jefferson and the Sabine River were omitted from the census.24

In January 1826, before the census was taken, John McGaffey had visited with Stephen F. Austin at the home of John Castleman on the Colorado River. According to his petition that follows, McGaffey felt that the influx of settlers using the lower Atascosita trail to the Trinity River was sufficient to warrant a ferry over the Neches River in south Jefferson County, but there is no record that McGaffey request was ever granted:

River Niege25 (Neches), January 10, 1826

To The Honorable The Authorities…of Texas

Your petitioner has with great pains…partially established a ferry to cross the River Niege on the Teskasito [sic] Road leading to Trinity… Your petitioner…solicits…a right to these marshes…to make good roads on the East side leading to and from the banks of the said River Niege…

As compensation…your petitioner respectfully solicits a right to a league of land convenient and adjacent to the ferry for the Maintenance and Support of himself and family.

John McGaffey26

One of the earliest rumblings of impending revolt occurred in the Atascosita District in 1831, following the stationing of 150 Mexican soldiers under Colonel John Bradburn at Anahuac.27 The affair began when Bradburn arrested Francisco Madero, the commissioner of land titles,28 but it mushroomed when because of Bradburn’s despotic conduct, William B. Travis and two others were imprisoned. The Ayuntamiento of Liberty was dissolved, causing its members to flee to Austin’s colony. A small citizen army rose in protest and was soon joined by units from the San Felipe and Nacogdoches departments. Colonel Jose Piedras of Nacogdoches marched a force to the relief of Bradburn, but, upon determining that the colonists’ complaints were justified, Piedras relieved Bradburn of his command.29

The issuance of land titles in Jefferson County was to emanate in Nacogdoches, where, on April 15, 1825, impresario Haden Edwards was granted a contract to settle 800 families.30 Using arbitrary methods, Edwards charged a higher price for land than was permitted and threatened to evict title holders unless they paid the difference in price. When a flood of protests resulted, Edwards’ contract was cancelled on October 2, 1826, and the abortive Fredonian Rebellion resulted, with the principal conspirators escaping to Louisiana. 31

Apart of Edwards’ grant was reissued in 1826 to David G. Eurnet and Joseph Vehlein of Mexico City, and the remainder, which included the twenty-league border reserve eastward to the Sabine River and all of the Atascosita District, was granted to Lorenzo de Zavala on March 12, 1829.32 Since they lacked the funds to develop their large grants, Burnet, Vehlein, and Zavala entered into an agreement with the Galveston Bay and Texas Land Company of New York, which issued scrip at ten cents per acre, the purchase of which was regarded as equivalent to a land title.33 The land company soon encountered difficulties with General Mier y Teran who refused to recognize it as the impresarios’ agent.34 Eventually, the problem was resolved, and, by 1834, the company was established at Nacogdoches, where Major George A. Nixon served as its land commissioner.35

Land was granted to Americans in quantities not exceeding one league and one labor (4,428 and 177 acres respectively), while Mexicans were entitled to grants not exceeding eleven leagues.36 The latter extravagance resulted in a low regard for land ownership among Mexicans, and it was said that one Nacogdoches Mexican traded four leagues (17,712 acres, valued by Americans at $10,000) for one hunting dog.37 Two Nacogdoches Mexicans were among the early land grantees of Jefferson County. Jose Maria Mora received a one-league grant at present-day Nederland, while Manuelo de los Santos Coy received a two-and-one-half league grant at Sabine Pass, the same passing to his agents, Sam Houston and Philip Sublett, when Santos Coy died in l836.38

Two early grants, now in Orange County, were issued to John Stephenson and Theron Strong on February 17 and March 9, 1830. The earliest grant in present-day Jefferson County was patented by a non-resident claimant, Thomas F. McKinney of Quintana in Austin’s colony, on April 26, 1831.39 During 1830, McKinney operated a keelboat on the Neches River while transporting cotton from Nacogdoches to New Orleans. He located his claim at the site of the high Indian mounds at Port Neches40 and gave that city its original name of McKinney’s Bluff.41 McKinney also surveyed a town site there to be named Georgia, but the plan did not materialize because of the sale of two-thirds of his league in 1837 to Joseph Grigsby, Port Neches’ first settler.42

Settlement progressed rapidly east of the Neches River, which, ironically, resulted in the present limitations of Orange County being synonymous with those of the original Municipality of Jefferson. In 1824, Robert and Elizabeth Johnson moved to Green’s Bluff (Orange), a site named for Reason Green, an early Sabine River boatman, who was an associate justice of Jefferson County in l837.43 In 1824, David and Jacob Gamer moved to Jefferson on Cow Bayou, present-day Bridge City, Texas, where their brothers-in-law, Claiborne West and John McGaffey, settled in the same year.44 In 1828, Bradley Gamer, Sr., and his wife (and sons Bradley and Isaac) joined their four children at the Cow Bayou community.45

Other early settlers east of the Neches River included James and Absalom Jett, who arrived in 1823,46 John Jett in 1826, John and William Allen in I 827,47 John Cole, David Cole, David Burrell,48 and James, William, and Gilbert Stephenson in 1828.49 Theron Strong, David Harmon, and George and John Stephenson were subsequent arrivals there in 1829.50 John Harmon, Stephen Jett, Hiram Bunch, Clark Beach, and George A. Pattillo came in 1830.51 Subsequent settlers prior to 1835 included William Clark, John and Peyton Bland, Benjamin Johnson, Abraham Winfree, Richard Ballew, William Milspaugh, William and Jesse Dyson, Sam and William Davis,52 and Aaron, Abner and William Ashworth.53 Beginning with the grants to Strong and Stephenson, more than thirty Mexican land patents had been issued in the Municipality of Jefferson (present-day Orange County) by 1836.54

After John McGaffey moved to Sabine Pass in 1832, he was joined in the same year by Thomas Courts, an Englishman, who had abandoned the Lavaca Bay region because of hostile Indians.55 In 1835, McGaffey applied for a land grant at Sabine, but, shortly after Dr. John A. Veatch completed the league’s survey in November, 1835, the Nacogdoches land office closed. There is no record of other settlers at Sabine Pass until Benjamin Johnson and Jacob H. Garner, McGaffey’s brothers-in-law, moved there in April 1838.56

That settlement in the Beaumont area did not gain momentum until 1833 is apparent in the Minutes, Board of Land Commissioners of Jefferson County. Also the issuance of Mexican land grants in that vicinity did not begin until December, l834.57 In 1833-1834, Hezekiab, Absalom, Charles, and Hezekiah R. Williams settled at Beaumont, and all of them received land grants between December 4 and December 24, 1 834.58

David Brown was issued a league of land adjacent to Noah Tevis’ grant on January 15, 1835.59

Additional grants were issued to John A. Veatch, Pelham Humphries, Asahel and Harvey P. Savery, Almonzan Huston, James Drake, S. Stivers, and J. Rowe, but, except for Drake and Rowe, the others were non-resident claimants.60 John Bollinger and his sons, Peter and Ephraim, settled on the James Gerish league, a few miles west of Beaumont, in July 1835. Two brothers from Mississippi, Henry and Dr. D. J. Otho Millard, came to Beaumont and opened a store in the same month.61 M. J. Brake, whose musket broke during the Battle of San Jacinto, was an early settler on the bayou which bears his name. Captain Samuel Rodgers was an early land promoter and Mexican customs official at Beaumont. Although William F. Gray wrote that Beaumont contained “only three or four houses” in April, 1836,62 it is apparent, from the number of troops that one company enlisted there a month earlier, that many settlers were living on farms in the immediate vicinity.63

Three other locations of Mexican land grants in Jefferson County are distinguished by their proximity to navigable water, namely, the Taylor’s Bayou and Pine Island Bayou watersheds and the northwest shore of Sabine Lake. Hiram Brown, Horatio M. Hanks, Joseph Butler, and N. Coleman had located claims in the latter area by 1835, but, in each instance, the grantees were non-resident claimants.64

The Taylor’s Bayou watershed, with its north and south forks, plus Big Hill, Hillebrandt, Den, and Double Point Bayous, was popular among land seekers because of the abundance of fertile soil and timber. Many of Jefferson County’s earliest settlers, including two brothers, Robert and David Burrell, and a Danish immigrant, Christian Hillebrandt, located their claims and were living in that vicinity by 1831.65 By 1836, William Carr, John J. French, Bennett and Josiah D. Blackmon, Michael Peveto, and Marcello Grange had obtained land grants and settled at Taylor’s Bayou.66 By 1840, the Burrells and Hillebrandt were leading cattlemen, the latter’s herd totaling 9,000 cattle and 1,000 horses by 1858.67

The Pine Island Bayou region attracted an equal number of land hunters. By 1836, Thomas Spear, Daniel Easley, Wesley and Josiah Dyches, David and John Choate, Thomas D. Yocum, Henry Stephenson, A. Byerly, Stephen Jackson, Walter Petit, and Isaac Applewhite had obtained Mexican land grants there, and nearly all were resident claimants.68

As the storm clouds of revolt gathered in October 1835, it is apparent that Jefferson County’s citizens were in the forefront of the action. At that time, Claiborne West, who operated a store on Cow Bayou, was certified by the citizens of Jefferson as that community’s representative at the Consultation of San Felipe in November, 1835.69 Henry Millard of Beaumont represented the Municipality of Liberty,70 and the two men were instrumental at the Consultation in obtaining the legislation which created the Municipality of Jefferson.71 Its borders were:

To commence on the Sabine River, fifteen miles above Ballew’s Ferry, and run down said river to its junction with Sabine Bay; thence west, along said bay, to the mouth of the Neches River, thence up said river to Grant’s Bluff [later Wiess Bluff], and thence, on a direct line to the place of beginning. . . .that Messrs. John Cole, Richard Ballew, John Harmon, and Thomas Heart be, and they are hereby authorized, to select a suitable place for the Seat of Justice for the aforesaid Municipality.72

Millard also obtained a commission for himself as lieutenant colonel of the First Regiment of Texas Infantry.73 His brilliant performance in the Texas army between December 15, 1835 and December 16, 1836 won for him a lasting friendship with General Sam Houston. While still in the army, Millard was appointed as a commissioner to treat with the Indians, and, in 1837, President Houston appointed him as chief justice of Jefferson County.74 There can be little doubt but that Millard, a proprietor of the Beaumont town site, used his influence with the president to effect the removal of the county seat from Jefferson to Beaumont,75 and for the expansion of Jefferson Municipality to Jefferson County in 1837, with the following boundaries:

All the territory in the following limits shall constitute and compose the County of Jefferson, to wit: Beginning on the Gulf of Mexico, from which a straight line drawn due north shall strike Wolf Point, then North to Big Sandy Creek [Village], then down said creek to its entrance into the Neches River, thence due east to the Sabine River, thence down said River to the Gulf of Mexico, thence west along the Gulf of Mexico to the place of beginning.76

Even as Millard and West were in session at the Consultation, other Southeast Texans went west to bolster the Texas defenses. William McFaddin of Beaumont joined Captain Andrew Briscoe’s company at Liberty, and took part in the storming of San Antonio de Bexar between December 5-9, l835.77 Benjamin Johnson enlisted in Captain Willis H. Landrum’s company, fought at San Antonio, and was discharged at the Alamo on January 1, 1836.78 Captain David Garner led a company of Jefferson County volunteers (which included his brothers Jacob and Isaac) to San Antonio, fought in the “Grass Fight,” and discharged his men at the Alamo on December 31, 1835. In November 1835, Captain James Chessher, the long-time ferryman over Pine Island Bayou, mustered a company of Jefferson and Jasper County volunteers and joined Colonel Ben Milam’s forces during the siege. Members of his company included David Chessher, William and Adam Byerly, James Drake, Murad W. Bumstead, Amos Thames, Enoch and Nathaniel Grigsby, and William, Moses, George, and Elisha Allen.79 Evidently, the retreat of General Perfecto de Cos’ force instilled a false security among the Texans, for William McFaddin lingered on in the city until February. While en route home afoot, he rejoined the Texas army at the Colorado River.80

In March 1836, Claiborne West was again a delegate to the Convention at Washington-on-the-Brazos, where he and William B. Scates, the other delegate from Jefferson, signed the Texas Declaration of Independence.81 Scates, who had just purchased a league of land on Pine Island Bayou from David Choate, then joined Captain B. F. Bryant’s company and fought at the Battle of San Jacinto.82 While returning home, West apparently incurred the ire of Mrs. Susan Choate Jackson of Pine Island Bayou, who told W. F. Gray that West “ran off from Washington, after signing the Declaration of Independence, before the ink was dry, and in his panic, forgot his hat and coat.”83

When Joseph Dunman reached Liberty on March 1,1836 with a copy of Colonel William B. Travis’ letter from the Alamo, Captain Benjamin F. Harper immediately raised a company of twenty-eight men at Beaumont. At Liberty, Harper’s company was merged with Captain William Logan’s company and fought at the Battle of San Jacinto.84 The following Jefferson County men from Logan’s company were veterans of the Battle of San Jacinto: David Choate, David Cole, Patrick J. Curneal, Lovic P. Dyches, Lefroy Gedry, David H. McFaddin, Ephraim Bollinger, Peter Bollinger, James Cole, M. J. Brake, Benjamin F. Harper, Michael Peveto, David Scott, John Stephenson, Hezekiah Williams, and William D. Smith.85

Other Jefferson County men were at or near San Jacinto, although most of them did not participate in the fighting. Benjamin Johnson reenlisted in Captain James Gillaspie’s company and fought in the battle.86 William McFaddin’s company was detailed to guard the baggage train three miles away.87 On March 23, 1836, Captain Chessher and Andrew F. Smyth raised the Jasper Volunteer Company, but missed the Battle of San Jacinto because of a guard assignment. Oliver H. Delano of Beaumont and James Armstrong were members of Chessher’s second company. Captain William Milspaugh raised a company at Jefferson, which saw no action because of a detail to guard military prisoners near San Jacinto. Jacob H. Gamer, Elisha Stephenson, and Payton Bland were members of Milspaugh’s company.88

Even after the victory at San Jacinto and the surrender of General Santa Anna, there were a number of Mexican armies still intact in Texas, and the volunteer Texas companies were sorely needed to escort the Mexican forces to the Rio Grande. The threat of a renewal of hostilities continued. On June 6, 1836, Captain William Logan discharged his 90-day volunteers, but his lieutenants, Franklin Hardin and B. J. Harper, re-enlisted most of them into two companies. A number of Jefferson County soldiers served in each unit. Captain Hardin enlisted the following men: Reason Green, David Burrell, William Smith, Claiborne West, Christopher Yocum, Elisha Stephenson, James Stephenson, and George W. Tevis.

The following Jefferson County volunteers joined Captain Harper’s company at Beaumont on July 7: Ephraim Bollinger, George Allen, William H. Irion, James McFaddin, Absalom Williams, Charles Williams, C. Bollinger, Murad W. Bumstead, George Hodges, Moses Allen, John C. Read, David Scott, John Clark, Gilbert Stephenson, Clark Beach, Absalom Jett, John Allen, Aaron Ashworth, John Turner, and William Ashworth.89

In her Story of Beaumont, Florence Stratton stated that Captain George W. Hargraves commanded a militia company of sixty-two men at Beaumont in August, 1835, and was en route to San Jacinto with twenty-one men when the battle was fought. As recalled by Hargraves, the members of his company included:

William Clark, … Clark, John Coale, … Coale, Bill Ashworth, Aaron Ashworth, Tapler Ashworth, Luke Ashworth, Charles Cronier, Elisha Stephenson, Lije [Elijah] Stephenson, Tom Berwick, Batiste Peveto, Dave Harmon, George Medgar, William Beckham, David Garner, Isaac Garner. Jim McCall, John Allen, … Allen, Joe Linsicomb, Jake Hays, Jim Jett, … Jett, Clark Beach, Powers, Archie Richie, Wash Tevis, Jack Tevis, Williams, Tom Yoakum, Jim Foreman, Ben Johnson, and Jim Courts.90

On another occasion, Hargraves reported that General Houston requested his help prior to the Battle of San Jacinto. Hargraves added that, when he left Beaumont with twenty-one men, he “furnished the ammunition and supplies; I spent $42 for ammunition, $6 for flour and $10 for meat for the trip.”91 Judge Tom J. Russell, an early Beaumont lawyer, described a company that left Beaumont on April 18, 1836. He added that Beaumont “men, women, and children engaged in molding bullets, baking bread, and drying beef” for the company’s provisions.92 Claiborne West was another who furnished provisions to departing soldiers. 93

There were others from Jefferson County who volunteered during the Texas Revolution. Robert E. Booth, who was postmaster at Mount Holland (present-day Orange County) in 1840, served from December 1835, until August, 1836.94 Randolph C. Doom, who was collector of customs at Beaumont from 1837 to 1839, enlisted for six months in Captain Fowler’s company.95 Charles Cronea of Sabine Pass, who once was a cabin boy on one of Jean Lafitte’s privateers, was awarded 1,280 acres of land for military service during the revolt against Mexico.96

Other county residents paid substitutes to serve for them in the Texas Army. Abraham B. J. Winfree hired J. B. Dupre, who enlisted for three months in Captain F. Hardin’s company.97 Abner and William Ashworth paid Elijah Thomas and Gibson Perkins (the latter four were free Mulattoes) to fight in their place.98

One of the saddest commentaries of the fateful month of April 1836 is that of William F. Gray, who described the refugees of the Runaway Scrape converging upon the banks of the Neches River, then at flood stage, at Beaumont. His diary states:

As we approached the Neches, we found there was a great uncertainty about crossing the river. The boats were said to have been taken from all the ferries and carried down to the lower bluff. Thither we bent our way, passing great numbers of fugitives, men, women, and children, black and white, with all the accustomed marks of dismay… There are many families here [Grigsby’s Bluff] waiting to be ferried across the bay, a distance of seven or eight miles, and put on the United States shore. There are at least 1,000 fugitives here … Started at 10 o’clock … Arrived at Beaumont about 1 o’clock. Passed on the road the Kuykendall family. They have in charge the poor little lost baby, which each carries by turns. I took pleasure in carrying it a short distance to relieve the old man…99

In time, the results of the battle won on April 21, 1836, stilled the fears of the fugitives and alleviated the congestion caused at Beaumont by the refugees of the Runaway Scrape, most of whom began the long trip homeward to rebuild their farms and fortunes. Meanwhile, Beaumont and Jefferson awaited the return of their soldiers. As Jefferson County approached the threshold of the Texas Republic, its population had done much for which they could be proud. They had punctured the wilderness although it remained a continual threat to their existence. They had furnished many of the soldiers who had help forge a victory out of chaos. With the war behind them, the county’s 250 free inhabitants, who revered the soil upon which they had settled, wished only to till their farms in peace and to develop the abundant resources that surrounded them.

Willaim McFaddin WILLIAM McFADDIN—One of Beaumont’s earliest pioneers, McFaddin fought throughout the Texas Revolution and in the Confederate army. A leading stockman and landholder, his descendants dominated the county’s cattle industry for decades afterward.




George W. Smyth GEO. W. SMYTH, SR.—A Jasper County resident and signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence, Smyth held public office during much of his lifetime. He also influenced the course of early Jefferson County history.




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1 B. Faulk, The Last Years of Spanish Texas, 1778-1821 (The Hague: Mouton and Company, 1964), p. 40.

2 H Yoakum, History of Texas (2 volumes; New York: Redfield, 1855, as reprinted by Steck Company, Austin), I, p. 276.

3 Mary M. Osburn (ed.), “The Atascosita Census of 1826,” Texana, I (Fall, 1963), p. 4, as reprinted by the Liberty County Historical Survey Committee.

4 Carlos Castenada, Our Catholic Heritage in Texas (6 volumes; Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1942), V p. 293.

5 Ibid. pp. 294-295; Faulk, Last Years of Spanish Texas, pp. 69-70.

6 Osburn, “The Atascosita Census of 1826,” Texana, p. 3.  In time, the Atascosita District included a portion of the reserved zone. Twenty leagues, or sixty miles, is the approximate distance from Liberty, Texas to the Sabine River.

7 Eugene C. Barker, The Life of Stephen F. Austin, Founder of Texas, 1 793-1836 (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1949), p. 65; Mary V. Henderson, “Minor Empresario Contracts For The Colonization of Texas,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly, XXXI (April, 1928), pp. 299-300.

8 Ohland Morton, “Life of General Don Manuel de Mier y Teran,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly, XLVIII (October 1944), p. 214.

9 E. Wallace and D. M. Vigness, Documents of Texas History (Lubbock: The Texas Tech Press, 1960), p. 48.

10 Wallace and Vigness, Documents of Texas History, p. 48.

11 Ibid. p. 49.

12. Henderson, “Minor Empresario Contracts For The Colonization of Texas,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly, p. 299.

13 Wallace and Vigness, Documents of Texas History, pp. 66-67.

14 Morton, “Life of General Don Manuel de Mier y Teran,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly, pp. 204-205.

15 E. W. Winkler (compiler), Manuscript Letters and Documents of Early Texians, 1821-1845 (Austin: Steck Company, 1937), pp. 50-51.

16 Ibid. p. 49.

17 Osburn, “The Atascosita Census of 1826,” Texana, pp. 3, 22-23.

18 E. C. Barker (ed.), The Austin Papers, in Annual Report of The American Historical Association For The Year 1919 (3 volumes; Washington, D. C. Government Printing Office, 1924), II, Part 2, Pp. 1698-1700.

19 Yoakum, History of Texas, I, p. 276.

20 The Atascosita census indicates that Delilah Tevis was probably the first child born of white parentage in Jefferson County.

21 Osburn, “Atascosita Census of 1826,” Texana, p. 21; Beaumont Journal, May 13, 1906 and April 14, 1907.

22 Osburn, “Atascosita Census of 1826,” Texana, p. 13; John H. Brown, Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas (Austin: L. E. Daniel, 189?), pp. 337-338.

23 Osburn, “Atascosita Census of 1826,” Texana p. 14; Beaumont Journal, January 14, 1906; G. W. McGaffey, Genealogical History of The McGaffey Family (reprint; Bradford, Vermont: Opinion Press, 1904), p. 33.

24 Osburn, “Atascosita Census of 1826, Texana, p. 23.

25 Neches River was known as the River Niege to the earliest Anglo-American settlers. Apparently, “Niege” was a corruption of the Spanish name, Rio de los Nieves, meaning Snow River, the name used by the Hasinai Indians because of the white sands along its banks.

26 Barker, Austin Papers, II, Part 2, pp. 1247-1248, 1257.

27 William Kennedy, Texas: The Rise, Progress, and Prospects of The Republic of Texas (reprint; Fort Worth: The Molyneaux Craftsmen, Incorporated, 1925), p. 366.

28 Winnie Allen (ed.), “The Autobiography of George W. S myth,’ ‘Southwestern Historical Quarterly, XXXVI (January, 1933), p. 206.

29 Ibid. pp. 206-207; Yoakum, History of Texas, I, pp. 290-292; Edna Rowe, “The Disturbance at Anahuac in 1832,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly, VI (October, 1902), pp. 265-299.

30 Henderson, “Minor Empresario Contracts For The Colonization of Texas,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly, p. 299.

31 Wallace and Vigness, Documents of Texas History, pp. 59-60; letter, Edwards to Austin, Nacogdoches, January 9, 1826, as reprinted in Winkler, Manuscript Letters and Documents, pp. 43-44.

32 Henderson, “Minor Empresario Contracts For The Colonization of Texas,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly, p. 299.

33 Wallace and Vigness, Documents of Texas History, pp. 67-68.

34 Morton, “Life of General Don Manuel de Mier y Teran,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly, p. 208.

35 A. A. Parker, Trip To The West And Texas (reprint; Austin: Pemberton Press, 1968), pp. 152-153; Juan N. Almonte, “Statistical Report on Texas, 1835,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly, XXVIII (January, 1925), p. 207.

36 Wallace and Vigness, Documents of Texas History, pp. 49-50.

37 Parker, Trip To The West and Texas, p. 153.

38 0. H. Delano, county surveyor, “Map of Jefferson County,” April 1840, Texas General Land Office, copy owned by the writer.

39 Volumes A, pp. 27, 79 and D, p. 423, Deed Records, Jefferson County, Texas.

40 E. C. Barker and A. W. Williams (eds.), The Writings of Sam Houston, 1813-1863 (8 volumes; Austin: Pemberton Press, 1970), IV, pp. 34-36; D. W. C. Baker (compiler), A Texas Scrapbook (reprint; Austin: Steck Company, 1935). pp. 27 9-280, photo p. 206; Volume D, p. 423, Deed Records, Jefferson County, Texas.

41 Invoice, N. Grigsby to Sabine customhouse, McKinney’s Bluff, Texas, November 19, 1839, Custom Records, File 4-21/10, Texas State Archives; Volume B, p. 143, Deed Records, and Original Probate, Final, p. 95, Jefferson County, Texas.

42 W F. Gray, From Virginia To Texas, 1835: Diary of Colonel William F. Gray (reprint; Houston: Fletcher Young Publishing Company, 1965), p. 167; Volume A, p. 39, Deed Records, Jefferson County, Texas.

43 Works Progress Administration, Inventory of The County Archives of Texas: Orange County, Nr. 181 (San Antonio: Texas Historical Records Survey, 1941), pp. 1-2; “The 1850 Manuscript Census Schedules For Jefferson County, Texas,” Texas Gulf Historical and Biographical Record, VII (May, 1972), p. 98, res. 114; Volume A, p. 2. Commissioners’ Court Minutes, Jefferson County, Texas.

44 Minutes, Board of Land Commissioners, pp. 24, 25, 27, 135, Jefferson County, Texas; Inventory of The County Archives: Orange County, p. 2; L. W. Kemp, The Signers of The Texas Declaration of In dependence (Salado: Anson Jones Press, 1944), pp. 361-364.

45 Minutes, Board of Land Commissioners, p. 130; Inventory of The County Archives: Orange County, p. 2; Garner-Keene Genealogy (Charlottesville, Virginia: Jorman Printing Company, 1952), excerpts owned by the writer.

46 Minutes, Board of Land Commissioners, pp. 22, 75; Inventory of The County Archives: Orange County, p. 2.

47 Ibid. Minutes, Board of Land Commissioners, pp. 7, 15, 16, 60, 66; Delano, “Map of Jefferson County,” April, 1840; Volume A, p. 319, Deed Records, Jefferson County, Texas. Subsequent deed records cited in this chapter involve only Mexican land grants.

48 Minutes, Board of Land Commissioners, pp. 15, 64, 68, Jefferson County, Texas.

49 Volume B, p. 66, Deed Records, and Minutes, Board of Land Commissioners, pp. 6, 61, Jefferson County, Texas; Inventory of The County Archives: Orange County, p. 2; Florence Stratton, The Story of Beaumont (Houston: Hercules Printing Company, 1925), p. 29.

50 Volume A, pp. 26, 79, Deed Records, and Minutes, Board of Land Commissioners, pp. 19, 73-74, Jefferson County, Texas; Delano, “Map of Jefferson County,” April, 1840.

51 Volumes B, p. 115, and G, p. 67, Deed Records, and Minutes, Board of Land Commissioners, pp. 14, 50-51, 120-121, Jefferson County, Texas; Inventory of The County Archives: Orange County, p. 2; Delano, “Map of Jefferson County,” April 1840.

52 Volumes A, p. 314; B, pp. 1, 5, 29, 115; and C, p. 166, Deed Records, and Minutes, Board of Land Commissioners, pp. 73, 89, 106, 124, 128, 146, 155, 167, Jefferson County, Texas.

53 Andrew Forest Muir, “The Free Negro in Jefferson and Orange Counties, Texas,” Journal of Negro History, XXXV (April, 1950), p. 185; Minutes, Board of Land Commissioners, pp. 109-111, Jefferson County, Texas; Delano, “Map of Jefferson County,” April, 1840; Inventory of The County Archives: Orange County, p.2.

54 Volumes A, pp. 27, 79, Deed Records, Jefferson County, Texas; Delano, “Map of Jefferson County,” April 1840.

55 “History of The Thomas Courts Family,” Port Arthur News, undated clipping, circa 1938, copy owned by the writer.

56 Indenture, John McGaffey and Joseph Grigsby, Sabine Pass, February 8, 1839, recorded in Volume C, pp. 215-216, Deed Records, Jefferson County, Texas; Beaumont Journal, January 28 and February 11, 1906.

57 Pattillo Higgins, “Map of Jefferson County,” 1898; J. F. Clark, “Map of Jefferson County,” July 22, 1896, Texas General Land Office, Austin, Texas.

58 Clark, “Map of Jefferson County,” July, 1896; Minutes, Board of Land Commissioners, pp. 53, 112, and Volumes B, pp. 55, 61, and C, p. 131, Deed Records Jefferson County, Texas; S. H. Dixon and L. W. Kemp, The Heroes of San Jacinto (Houston: Anson Jones Press, 1932), p. 374; “Early History of Beaumont,” Standard Blue Book of Texas, 1908-1909 (Houston: A. J. Peeler Standard Blue Book Company, 1908), p. 71.

59 Clark, “Map of Jefferson County,” July, 1896; Volumes A, p. 130, and C, p. 193, Deed Records, Jefferson County, Texas.

60 Clark, “Map of Jefferson County,” July, 1896; Volumes C, p. 118; D, p. 187; H, p. 295; and M, p. 396 Deed Records, Jefferson County, Texas.

61 Volume A, pp. 87-89, Deed Records, Jefferson County, Texas; Pixon and Kemp, Heroes of San Jacinto, pp. 89, 366; Gray, From Virginia to Texas, p. 89; Beaumont Journal, June 6, 1908.

62 Gray, From Virginia to Texas, pp. 166-168; Dixon and Kemp, Heroes of San Jacinto, p. 366; Volume B, p. 193, Deed Records, and Volume A, p. 14, Commissioners’ Court Minutes, Jefferson County, Texas.

63 Dixon and Kemp, Heroes of San Jacinto, p. 365.

64 Clark “Map of Jefferson County,” July, 1896; Volumes A, p. 211, and C, pp. 205, 258, Deed Records, Jefferson County, Texas.

65 Minutes, Board of Land Commissioners, pp. 88, 101-102, 209, and Volume C, p. 145, Deed Records, Jefferson County, Texas; Clark, “Map of Jefferson County,” July, 1896; Beaumont Journal, October 22, 1905 and February 4, 1906.

66 Minutes, Board of Land Commissioners, pp. 88-89, 93, 117, and Volumes A, p. 154, and B, pp. 140, 196, Deed Records, Jefferson County, Texas; Beaumont Journal October 22, 1905; Clark, “Map of Jefferson County,” July, 1896. Michael Peveto and Bradley Garner (footnote 45) were veterans of the Battle of New Orleans. Burwell Jackson, another veteran of that battle, died at Sabine Pass in 1860.

67 Gifford White (ed.), The 1840 Census of The Republic of Texa4 (Austin: Pemberton Press, 1966), pp. 94-95; Original Petition, 0. Levi Hillebrandt No.323 Versus Espar Hillebrandt, December 4, 1858, Jefferson County District Court; Volume B, pp. 301-307, Jefferson County Personal Property Record; W. T. Block, “Christian Hille­brandt, Cattle Baron,” Texas Gulf Historical and Bio­graphical Record, VII (November, 1971), pp. 38-41.

68 Volumes A, p. 167;B, pp. 128, 177;D,p. 321;K, p. 307; and L, p. 541, Deed Records, and Minutes, Board of Land Commissioners, Jefferson County, Texas; Gray, From Virginia To Texas, p. 166.

69 Kemp, Signers of The Texas Declaration of Indepen­dence, p. 362.Beaumont Journal, January 28 and February 11, 1906; H. P. N. Gammel (compiler), The Laws of Texas, 1822-189 7 (10 volumes; Austin: Gammel Book Company, 1898), I, pp. 496, 509.

70 Dixon and Kemp, Heroes of San Jacin to, p. 89.

71 Dixon and Kemp, Heroes of San Jacinto, p. 89; Gammel, Laws of Texas, I, p. 547.

72 Gammel, Laws of Texas, I, p. 955.

73 Dixon and Kemp, Heroes of San Jacinto, p. 89; Gray, From Virginia To Texas, p. 89.

74 Dixon and Kemp, Heroes of San Jacinto, p. 89; E. W. Winkler (ed.), Secret Journals of The Senate, Republic of Texas, 183 6-1845, in Texas Library and Historical Commission First Biennial Report, 1909-19 10 (Austin: Austin Printing Company, 1911), pp. 22, 39, 86; Volume A, p. 2, Commissioners’ Court Minutes, Jefferson County, Texas.

75 Federal Writers’ Project, Beaumont: A Guide To The City and Its Environs (Houston: Anson Jones Press, 1939), p. 43.

76 Gammel, Laws of Texas, I, p. 1452.

77 Brown, Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas, p. 337; Dixon and Kemp, Heroes of San Jacinto, p. 95.

78 Military discharge, W. H. Landrum to Benjamin Johnson, Alamo, Headquarters, Bexar, January 1, 1836, Texas State Archives, copy owned by the writer; Widow’s Pension Application, Matilda Johnson to Judge John F. Pipkin, File 119, Probate Records, Jefferson County, Texas; Lamar Donation Warrant No. 720 to Willis H. Landrum, “having been at Bexar between 5th and 10th Dec., 1835,” Dec. 27, 1838, General Land Office.

79 Pension Application, Jacob H. Garner to A. B. Bledsoe, comptroller, Sabine Pass, Texas, January 4, 1871, Texas State Archives; “Siege of Bexar, 1835. Muster Roll, Captain Chessher’s Company Volunteers, the Army before Bexar,” p. 22, Muster Roll Book, Texas General Land Office; Bexar Donation Grant No. 535 to Isaac Garner, August 4, 1881, and Fannin Donation Grant No. 1154 to Jacob H. Garner, Jan. 24, 1885, General Land Office, copies owned by the writer.

80 Brown, Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas, p. 337; Fannin Bounty Warrant No. 9572, Rep. of Texasto William McFaddin, General Land Office, copy owned by the writer.

81 Kemp, Signers of The Texas Declaration of Independence, pp. 317-318, 362-363.

82 Ibid. p. 318; Gray, From Virginia To Texas, p. 166.

83 Gray, From Virginia To Texas, p. 166. West, the postmaster at Jefferson, served a three-months enlistment in Captain F. Hardin’s company in 1836. He was elected to the First Texas Congress in September 1836. See Kemp, Signers of The Texas Declaration of Independence, p. 364.

84 Dixon and Kamp, Heroes of San Jacinto, pp. 365, 370.

85 Ibid pp. 366-374; John J. Linn, Reminiscences of Fifty Years in Texas (reprint; Austin: Steck Company, 1935), p. 220; “Capt. William Logan’s Company Volun­teers, March 7, 1836,” p. 37, Muster Roll Book, General Land Office.

86 Widow’s pension claim, Matilda Johnson to Judge John F. Pipkin, File 119, Probate Records, Jefferson County, Texas; Dixon and Kemp, Heroes of San Jacinto, p. 403; Linn, Fifty Years in Texas, p. 221.

87 Brown, Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas p. 337.

88 Pension application, Jacob H. Garner to A. B. Bledsoe, comptroller, Sabine Pass, Texas, January 4, 1871, Texas State Archives, copy owned by the writer; “The Jasper Volunteer Company, Rendezvous… March 23, 1836, by James Chessher,” p. 124, Muster Roll Book. Texas General Land Office.

89 “Return of Capt. F. Hardin’s company, July 7 to October 7, 1836,” p. 57, and “Return of Capt. B. J. Harper’s Co., 3 months, July 7, 1836,” p. 26, Muster Roll Book, Texas General Land Office; Bounty Warrants Nos. 458 and 460 to Elisha Stephenson and George W. Tevis, General Land Office, copies owned by the writer.

90 Stratton, Story of Beaumont, pp. 97-98. Credibility arises concerning some members on Hargraves’ list who may have been too young. Census records and tombstones indicate that Courts and McCall were born in 1829 and 1830, respectively. Peveto swore before the Board of Land Commissioners that he arrived in Texas in 1838.

91 Federal Writers’ Project, Beaumont, p. 41.

92 Beaumont Journal, January 28, 1906.

93 Ibid. February 11, 1906.

94 Milam Bounty Certificate No. 3464, Republic of Texas to R. E. Booth, May 19, 1838, General Land Office, copy owned by the writer.

95 “Muster Roll, Capt. Fowler’s Co., 1st Regt., Volunteers,” p. 85, Muster Roll Book, and Bounty Certificate No. 3357, Republic of Texas to R. C. Doom, May 14, 1838, General Land Office, copies owned by the writer.

96 Bexar Donation Certificate No. 1153 to Charles Cronea, Jan. 24, 1885, General Land Office.

97 “Return of Capt. F. Hardin’s Co., July 7 to Oct. 7, 1836,” p. 57, Muster Roll Book, and Bounty Certificate No. 2129, Republic of Texas to A. B. J. Winfree, January 26, 1838, General Land Office, copies owned by the writer.

98 F. Muir, “The Free Negro in Jefferson and Orange Counties, Texas,” Journal of Negro History, XXXV (April 1950), p. 186.

99 Gray, From Virginia To Texas, pp. 166-167.

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