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Barbara L. Young

SMITH, JOHN (ca. 1795–?). John Smith, one of the first Texas Rangers and a member of Stephen F. Austin's Old Three Hundred, was born about 1795. He moved to Texas in 1822 or early 1823 and was listed in the first census of Texas, taken on March 3, 1823, as a resident of the Colorado District, a twenty-eight-year-old farmer with one horse. Throughout the winter of 1822 and the spring of 1823 the first Austin colonists camped along the Colorado River had been plagued by attacks from Indians, who had killed a number of their members, and from thieving bands of smugglers, who were traveling the contraband trails from Mexico to Louisiana. Alcalde John Jackson Tumlinson, Sr., and Capt. Robert H. Kuykendall requested that a paid military company of young men be organized to scout out and control the Indians. On May 5, 1823, ten men were mustered into service under the command of Lt. Moses Morrison. John Smith was one of those men. As a member of the first Texas Rangers he was required to furnish his own horse, rifle, and ammunition. John Smith and his companions were sent to the mouth of the Colorado River to build boats and blockhouses. Their job was to stop the Karankawa Indians before they reached the settlements on the river. The rangers used their guns to defend against the Indians and also to supply their food, since they existed solely on game. On June 5, 1823, Lieutenant Morrison's duty roster stated that John Smith had only ten loads of powder and balls for his rifle. Two months later he reported that the Karankawas were in sight of their camp and that the rangers were completely out of ammunition and could neither defend themselves nor procure food. The men were ordered to return to the settlements on the river; they fought some battles with the Indians during the late summer and fall and were then disbanded. There is no record that John Smith and the other rangers were ever paid for this service. On August 3, 1824, John Smith and his partner, Hugh McKinsey, received title to a league of land that straddled what would become the boundary of Wharton and Matagorda counties. The land was on the east bank of the Colorado, below Kincheloes. On March 21, 1825, Smith and McKinsey petitioned to have the land partitioned. John Smith received the upper half of the league; his land was in what is now Wharton County. He sold his half-league to Peter W. Grayson on January 10, 1836, for $1,388.75. In a few weeks the Texas Revolution would envelop the land and the people. Times were chaotic and recordkeeping ranged from inadequate to nonexistent. There were five John Smiths that fought at the battle of San Jacinto and twenty-four John Smiths in the Texas army during the revolutionary period. It is no longer possible to ascertain if this John Smith was one of them. After the war, on July 2, 1838, John Smith married Catherine C. Gillet in Brazoria County. On August 26, 1858, John Smith again sold the upper half of his league, this time to Charles K. Reese for $3,321.00. There is no record as to why he still owned the land; it can only be presumed that Grayson had not finished paying for the land before he committed suicide in July 1838. This August 1858 appearance in the court at Matagorda in connection with the second sale of the land is the last official record of John Smith.


Lester G. Bugbee, "The Old Three Hundred: A List of Settlers in Austin's First Colony," Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 1 (October 1897). Colorado County Historical Commission, Colorado County Chronicles from the Beginning to 1923 (2 vols., Austin: Nortex, 1986). Daughters of the Republic of Texas, Founders and Patriots of the Republic of Texas (Austin, 1963-). Sam Houston Dixon and Louis Wiltz Kemp, The Heroes of San Jacinto (Houston: Anson Jones, 1932). Dan E. Kilgore, A Ranger Legacy: 150 Years of Service to Texas (Austin: Madrona, 1973).

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

Handbook of Texas Online, Barbara L. Young, "SMITH, JOHN," accessed May 29, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fsm28.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on March 25, 2019. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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