Ronald Howard Livingston

JACK, SPENCER HOUSTON (1809–1837/38). Spencer Houston Jack, Austin colony pioneer, lawyer, and revolutionist, the eighth of twelve children of Patrick and Harriet (Spencer) Jack, was born in Wilkes County, Georgia, on April 13, 1809. He accompanied his brother William H. and William's family to Texas in 1830. They located in San Felipe de Austin.

Jack was the first colonist to draw Mexican blood in resistance to Mexican authority. On November 24, 1831, George Fisher ordered shipmasters to obtain clearance at Anahuac before sailing from the Brazos and certain other ports. Compliance for a vessel docked on the lower Brazos necessitated an overland journey of 200 miles or more, round-trip. On December 15, 1831, the Sabine, commanded by Capt. Jeremiah Brown, ran past the Mexican barracks at the mouth of the Brazos with cotton bales arranged on deck to protect the passengers and crew. The Mexican fusillade damaged only the ship's rigging. The Nelson, under Capt. Samuel Fuller, following in the Sabine's wake, also drew fire that slightly wounded Captain Fuller, who then called for his rifle, which Jack, a passenger, seized and fired, wounding one of the soldiers in the thigh. On Christmas Day the Spica, commanded by Capt. Isaiah Doane of Boston, also sailed from the Brazos without clearance. Gen. Manuel de Mier y Terán issued an order to arrest Jack and thus prevented his immediate return to Texas.

In June 1832 Jack marched with his brother William on Anahuac to demand the release of their brother Patrick C. Jack and William Barret Travis and others imprisoned there by order of Col. John (Juan) Davis Bradburn. Years later, Jack gave Mirabeau B. Lamar an interesting written account of his activities during the Anahuac Disturbances. On April 20, 1833, Jack was issued title to one-fourth league of land in Austin's second colony in what is now Lavaca County. At Bexar, on September 23, 1833, after a complaint filed against Jack the same day by Oliver Jones, "Deputy of this State," Manuel Ximenes (first regidor and acting  alcalde  ruled that Jack had "offended with a cutting instrument." Jack had cut Jones on the nose. Early in 1834 Samuel M. Williams appointed Jack as his agent for settling families in the "upper colony," which had been granted to Williams and Stephen F. Austin by the legislature of Coahuila and Texas on February 25, 1831. Jack thus opened a land office at Tenoxtitlán in March 1834. The grant, however, was revoked on May 22, 1834, and Williams, then in New Orleans, instructed Jack to go to Monclova to reopen the case. Additionally, Jack and Peter W. Grayson, both lawyers, were commissioned to continue to Mexico City to present memorials from the ayuntamientos of Texas requesting the release of Stephen F. Austin, who was then imprisoned there. They left San Felipe on August 10, 1834, accompanying Col. Juan N. Almonte, an aide to President Antonio López de Santa Anna, who was making an overland return from his inspection tour of Texas. Jack was unable to achieve much at Monclova. Likewise, he and Grayson failed to get Austin freed, though they did bring about his release on bail on Christmas Day, 1834. By the end of December Jack had returned to San Felipe. During the final days of the 1835 legislative session, Governor Agustín Viesca restored the upper colony to Williams, who again designated Jack as his agent for receiving applications for land. On September 20, 1835, Jack received title to ten leagues of land under the terms of Decree 278, passed by the legislature of Coahuila and Texas on April 19, 1834, which provided for the sale of land to mobilize a frontier force against Indian attack.

Jack had an interest in cargo aboard the schooner Martha, which was seized at Galveston Bay by the Mexican warship Moctezuma on May 3, 1835, taken to Veracruz, and condemned. He was a participant in the siege of Bexar. On October 28, 1835, he and George Huff wrote from Gonzales to the "President of the Council at San Felipe," criticizing Sam Houston's efforts to discourage the advance of the company "in whose charge is the cannon" to Bexar. A bounty grant for 320 acres in Blanco County was issued for Jack's additional military service from July 30 to October 30, 1836. During this period or that of his earlier service he briefly held an appointment in the quartermaster's department. As an attorney, Jack represented the firm of Johnson, Chriesman, and Company of Washington Municipality in 1835. The September 6, 1837, issue of the Matagorda Bulletin listed Jack as one of the five lawyers then practicing in Matagorda. He and Seth Ingram were appointed executors of the estate of Ira Ingram of Matagorda on October 3, 1837. Jack died in Matagorda in late 1837 or early 1838. His first-class certificate for an augmentation of 369 acres was issued "To William H. Jack as Heir" by the Board of Land Commissioners of Brazoria County sometime between January and August 1838. Probably he was originally buried in Brazoria (or Matagorda) County; however, his remains and those of his brothers Patrick and William were later taken to Galveston and reinterred in Lake View Cemetery. They were later removed again for reburial in the State Cemetery in Austin.


Biographical Souvenir of the State of Texas (Chicago: Battey, 1889; rpt., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978). James Perry Bryan, ed., Mary Austin Holley: The Texas Diary, 1835–1838 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1965). James A. Creighton, A Narrative History of Brazoria County (Angleton, Texas: Brazoria County Historical Commission, 1975). Charles Adams Gulick, Jr., Harriet Smither, et al., eds., The Papers of Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar (6 vols., Austin: Texas State Library, 1920–27; rpt., Austin: Pemberton Press, 1968). Keith Guthrie, Texas' Forgotten Ports (Austin: Eakin Press, 1988). Margaret S. Henson, Juan Davis Bradburn: A Reappraisal of the Mexican Commander of Anahuac (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1982). Margaret S. Henson, Samuel May Williams: Early Texas Entrepreneur (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1976). John H. Jenkins, ed., The Papers of the Texas Revolution, 1835–1836 (10 vols., Austin: Presidial Press, 1973). Worth Stickley Ray, Austin Colony Pioneers (Austin: Jenkins, 1949; 2d ed., Austin: Pemberton, 1970). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin (Jack Family).

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, Ronald Howard Livingston, "JACK, SPENCER HOUSTON," accessed February 29, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fja02.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on May 1, 2019. 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...