SMYTH, GEORGE WASHINGTON

Robert Wooster

SMYTH, GEORGE WASHINGTON (1803–1866). George Washington Smyth, early Texas surveyor and signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence, son of a German millwright father and a Scots-Irish mother, was born on May 16, 1803, in North Carolina. After moving to Alabama and Tennessee as a child, he left for Texas in 1828 against the wishes of his parents. He crossed the Sabine River on February 11, 1830, and briefly taught school at Nacogdoches before securing an appointment in 1830 as surveyor for Bevil's Settlement from Thomas Jefferson Chambers, surveyor general. In 1832 Smyth and seven other Bevil-area residents, upon hearing of the Anahuac Disturbances, went to the scene but arrived after the excitement was over. Smyth married Frances M. Grigsby in 1834; they had seven children. Smyth became surveyor in 1834 for George A. Nixon, recently named commissioner of the Zavala, Vehlein, and Burnet colonies. He also served as land commissioner at Nacogdoches, where he remained until the office of land commissioner was closed on December 19, 1835. He was appointed first judge of Bevil Municipality by the General Council of the Provisional Government. After being elected a member of the Convention of 1836 by the residents of Jasper Municipality, Smyth signed the Texas Declaration of Independence and raised sixteen men, but they arrived at San Jacinto after the battle was over. Smyth and his family took part in the Runaway Scrape. Mirabeau B. Lamar appointed Smyth to the boundary commission that was to set the Texas-United States boundaries in 1839. He was also elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1844 and avidly supported annexation. In addition he took part in the convention that drew up the Constitution of 1845.

Smyth became the second commissioner of the General Land Office in March 1848, a position he retained for four years. As Democratic elector for president, he voted for Franklin Pierce in the 1852 election. The following year he won a seat in the Thirty-third United States Congress, but he did not seek reelection in 1855. He returned to his farm in Jasper County and by the eve of the Civil War had amassed an estate valued at $27,000, which included twenty-eight slaves. Smyth opposed secession, although his sons served with Confederate troops. After the Civil War, he went to Austin as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1866. He died in Austin on February 21, 1866, and was buried in the State Cemetery. In 1936 the Texas Centennial Commission erected a marker at the Smyth home, built 100 years earlier in Jasper County at the junction of Big Run and Little Walnut Run.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

"The Autobiography of George W. Smyth," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 36 (January 1933). Louis Wiltz Kemp, The Signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence (Salado, Texas: Anson Jones, 1944; rpt. 1959).

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Citation

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

Handbook of Texas Online, Robert Wooster, "SMYTH, GEORGE WASHINGTON," accessed December 14, 2019, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fsm51.

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