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 »


Thomas W. Cutrer

MCMANUS, ROBERT ORSON WILLIAM (1812–1885). Robert O. W. McManus, surveyor, soldier, and planter, the son of William and Catherine (Kuntz) McManus, was born in Troy, New York, on December 12, 1812. His father was a prominent attorney and member of the United States House of Representatives from New York, 1825–27. McManus was educated at Troy High School and at Rensselaer Institute, which he left without graduating after a quarrel with the president. As assistant engineer for the Troy and Bennington Railroad, McManus surveyed the route of that line in 1830 and then returned to civil practice for two years in Troy. He was drawn to Texas by the lure of land speculation and immigrated with his sister Jane McManus Cazneau, landing at the mouth of the Brazos in December 1832. He settled in Liberty and served as a surveyor for the government of Coahuila and Texas. In this role he surveyed grants in the colonies of David G. Burnet, Lorenzo de Zavala, and Joseph Vehlein before the closing of the land office on November 13, 1835. When the citizens of Liberty received Col. William B. Travis's appeal for aid, Capt. William M. Logan formed a company of volunteer infantry that McManus joined on March 6, 1836. Unaware of Travis's fate, the company marched to the Colorado River, where it joined Gen. Sam Houston's army on its retreat into East Texas. After observing McManus in a skirmish with Mexican cavalry, Erastus (Deaf) Smith selected him as one of four scouts-the others being Henry Wax Karnes, Washington H. Secrest, and Fielding Secrest-to maintain contact with Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna's army and report its strength and movements to Houston. Although these spies were reattached to the army before the battle of San Jacinto, McManus's name does not appear on Logan's muster rolls. He was discharged on June 6, 1836. After the revolution he served in the militia company of Capt. Newton Swinney of Beat Number Nine, Liberty County, but the period of his enlistment is not known.

On July 18, 1838, he married Sarah (Isabella) Spinks, daughter of Baker M. Spinks. The couple had six children. As a surveyor McManus had accumulated an estimated 100,000 acres of land, and in 1840 he owned 320 acres in Liberty County. There he established a prosperous plantation at Moss Point, some fifteen or twenty miles below Liberty on the east bank of the Trinity River. In 1860 he owned twelve slaves. Although never himself a candidate for political office, on August 15, 1853, McManus published a broadside addressed "To the Freemen of Liberty County" attacking William Fields's candidacy for the House of Representatives. After the death of his first wife in 1879, McManus, on May 3, 1880, married Mary E. Turner, a native of Texas; this couple had no children. McManus died at his Liberty County plantation on September 10 or 11, 1885, and was buried in the State Cemetery at Austin. He was a member of no religious communion.


Jane Cazneau Papers, New York Historical Society, New York City; Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Daughters of the Republic of Texas, Founders and Patriots of the Republic of Texas (Austin, 1963-). Daughters of the Republic of Texas, Muster Rolls of the Texas Revolution (Austin, 1986). Sam Houston Dixon and Louis Wiltz Kemp, The Heroes of San Jacinto (Houston: Anson Jones, 1932). Galveston Daily News, September 12, 1885. William S. Speer and John H. Brown, eds., Encyclopedia of the New West (Marshall, Texas: United States Biographical Publishing, 1881; rpt., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978). E. W. Winkler, ed., "Checklist of Texas Imprints, 1846–1876," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 47 (October 1943).

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, Thomas W. Cutrer, "MCMANUS, ROBERT ORSON WILLIAM," accessed May 28, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fmc92.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on April 14, 2020. 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...