While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


Frank Wagner

BRITTON, FORBES (1812–1861). Forbes Britton, soldier, businessman, and legislator, was born in 1812 in Clarksburg, Virginia, and is thought to have attended Kenyon College in Ohio. He was appointed from Virginia to the United States Military Academy at West Point and graduated thirty-third in his class on July 1, 1834. He was brevetted a second lieutenant, Seventh Infantry, on July 1, 1834. He was appointed a second lieutenant on November 18, 1835, promoted to first lieutenant on July 7, 1838, and made a captain on February 16, 1847, after serving in the Mexican War. For most of his army career he moved Indians from the southeastern United States to sites in Indian Territory.

He resigned his commission on July 16, 1850, and moved to Corpus Christi to practice law and speculate in real estate. With Cornelius Cahill, Britton began a profitable commission business in 1850. In 1852 he was one of the incorporators of the Corpus Christi Navigation Company, formed for the purpose of dredging a ship channel into Corpus Christi Bay. He lobbied for construction of a road between Corpus Christi and El Paso and joined with William L. Cazneau, James Power, Henry L. Kinney, and others in forming the Texas Western Railroad Company on February 16, 1852; the company laid no track. Britton incorporated the Western Artesian Well Company with Charles Stillman, Henry Redmond, Frederick Belden, D. S. Howard, and Henry Clay Davis on November 14, 1857. He was elected senator from the Nueces district in the Seventh (1857–58) and Eighth (1859–60) Texas legislatures, where as a moderate and a Unionist he supported Gov. Sam Houston. While serving in the legislature he was commissioned chief of staff to General Houston, on February 25, 1860, with the rank of brigadier general.

Britton married Rebecca Millard of Washington, D.C., on March 13, 1836, and they had two sons and two daughters; their daughter Elizabeth Anne married Edmund J. Davis. Britton died in Austin on February 14, 1861, while attending a special session of the legislature, and was buried in the State Cemetery, the third person to be interred there.


Corpus Christi Ranchero, February 25, 1860, February 23, April 6, 1861. Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army (2 vols., Washington: GPO, 1903; rpt., Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1965). Amelia W. Williams and Eugene C. Barker, eds., The Writings of Sam Houston, 1813–1863 (8 vols., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1938–43; rpt., Austin and New York: Pemberton Press, 1970).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Frank Wagner, "BRITTON, FORBES," accessed June 03, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fbr61.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on May 1, 2017. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...