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SHORT, JOHN (1790–1847). John Short, a veteran of the battle of New Orleans and the Texas Revolution, was the nominal head of an extended frontier clan that generally kept ahead of the westward movement. Born in 1790 in Georgia, the son of an elder John Short who removed from there to Alabama shortly after 1800, John Short and his younger brother Michael moved to Texas in 1835, served as volunteers at the battle of San Jacinto, and then established themselves and their progeny, including the Sansom family, near La Grange in Fayette County. Here they engaged in agriculture, milling, speculation, trading, and controversy. John Short died on February 17, 1847, a year after the death of his wife, Dicey Stinson (1799–1846); court battles contesting his will initiated the family to a degree of notoriety that lasted through the Civil War and Reconstruction. With long-standing and long-lasting antislavery and Unionist connections in both the upper and lower South, the Shorts supported, among other activities in the 1840s in Fayette County, an underground railroad for runaway slaves. By repeatedly reselling the slaves at intervals along the way north and thereafter assisting with their escapes, they profited from their altruism. A similar cattle theft operation and counterfeiting ring with principals in five states, according to the Huntsville Texas Banner in the issue of October 6, 1849, resulted in the public hanging of one William Short, son of John, and in the incarceration of William Greenbury Sansom, a son-in-law of John Short, as the first inmate of the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville. Other members of the family were implicated but not tried and convicted; of these, Thomas Short, then sixteen, ostensibly wrote a vivid and imaginative confession, surprising in light of his youth and education, which was printed in the Texas State Gazette on August 25, 1849. He was acquitted on the basis of his youth. Sansom, the inmate, was pardoned by the subsequent governor, Peter Hansborough Bell, on September 15, 1850. During the early 1850s many of the John Short children and grandchildren moved westward across central Texas to the Hill Country, particularly Comal, Kendall, Bexar, Bandera, and Edwards counties. Others continued west to California. During the Civil War Capt. John W. Sansom, a son of William G. Sansom, became a prominent Unionist leader and chronicler in Texas.


Texas State Gazette, August 25, 1849. A Twentieth Century History of Southwest Texas (2 vols., Chicago: Lewis, 1907).

Glen E. Lich


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

Glen E. Lich, "SHORT, JOHN," Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed March 26, 2015. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.