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 »


Rupert N. Richardson and H. Allen Anderson

SHAW, JIM (?–ca. 1858). Jim Shaw, a Delaware Indian, was noted as a valuable frontier scout, interpreter, and diplomat during the period of the Republic of Texas and in antebellum Texas. His Delaware name was translated roughly as Bear-Head. He appeared on the frontier of the Red River as early as 1841, when he was in his twenties or early thirties. At that time he reportedly saw the botched Texan Santa Fe expedition as the party turned west at the Wichita River, which they mistook for the Red River. Shaw later claimed that if he had not been leery of the Texans on account of President Mirabeau B. Lamar's harsh Indian policy, he would have offered his services and guided them to Santa Fe, thus perhaps changing the course of history. At any rate, Shaw was obviously familiar with the vast plains and breaks of West Texas. On the recommendation of Gov. Pierce M. Butler, the United States Indian agent in Indian Territory, he was employed by President Sam Houston in 1843 to aid in carrying out Houston's Indian peace policy, and until about 1858 he was ubiquitous on the Texas frontier, much of the time as an employee of the Indian service. He was a handsome man of superior intelligence, who spoke English adequately and had command of several Indian languages as well as Indian sign language.

In the summer of 1843, with the Delaware chief John Conner, Shaw guided Col. Joseph C. Eldridge, commissioner of Indian Affairs of the Republic of Texas, on a visit to the Penateka Comanches on the Red River; that fall he was an interpreter at the Indian Council at Fort Bird on the Trinity River. In May 1844 he was an interpreter at the Indian council held by President Houston at Tehuacana Creek. There the western artist John Mix Stanley painted Shaw's portrait, but it apparently was one of the paintings lost in the Smithsonian fire of 1865. In August 1845 Shaw and Benjamin Sloat, Texas Indian agent, led a party that conferred with Buffalo Hump and other Penateka chiefs on the San Saba River, and it was to Shaw's credit that he was able to win the friendship and trust of several Comanche leaders. In 1846–47 he guided John O. Meusebach's party in search of a suitable location for a German colony.

After annexation, Shaw's services continued to be in demand by federal officials and the United States Army. His brother Bill, or Tall-Man, who had worked as an Indian trader during the period of the republic, was also employed in a similar capacity. By the early 1850s Jim Shaw was residing with his wife and two children on the Upper Brazos near Fort Belknap. Often he commuted between the garrisons at forts Belknap and Phantom Hill, where he was on the civilian payroll list as an interpreter for a monthly salary of forty dollars. Emma Johnson Elkins, who spent part of her childhood with her family at Fort Phantom Hill, later recalled that Shaw "tried to emulate the whiteman in dress and manners, taking great pride in the personal appearance of his own family." In 1854 he accompanied Capt. Randolph B. Marcy's surveying party to locate the Upper Brazos Indian reservations and was the leader of a band of Delaware scouts under Col. Robert E. Lee's garrison at Camp Cooper in 1856. He died near Fort Belknap in 1858 or a little later after falling from the roof of a new house that he was building for himself and his family.


H. Allen Anderson, "Fort Phantom Hill: Outpost on the Clear Fork of the Brazos," Museum Journal 16 (1976). Rupert N. Richardson, ed., "Eldridge's Report on His Expedition to the Comanches," West Texas Historical Association Year Book 4 (1928). Rupert N. Richardson, "Jim Shaw the Delaware," West Texas Historical Association Year Book 3 (1927). Rupert N. Richardson, "Removal of Indians from Texas in 1853: A Fiasco," West Texas Historical Association Year Book 20 (1944).

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, Rupert N. Richardson and H. Allen Anderson, "SHAW, JIM," accessed August 11, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fsh11.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on June 1, 2011. 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...