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Jean L. Epperson

SMITH, JOHN MOSES (ca. 1787–1840s). John Moses Smith, early settler, was born about 1787, the son of William and Prudence (Bonner) Smith of North Carolina. The family moved to Natchez, Mississippi, then to Louisiana and was settled by 1810 in the district described as "between Atacapas Church down to Berwick's Bay." With his large family and a number of slaves, John M. Smith moved to the Atascosito District (Liberty) of Texas in 1827. In 1830 his plantation was chosen as the site for the county seat. He surrendered his land and moved to the mouth of Turtle Bayou. Seeking to obtain land, he tried to ingratiate himself with the Mexican authorities but succeeded in gaining only the animosities of his Anglo neighbors. Smith was jailed for supposed involvement in the assassination of Frank W. Johnson, the leader of the march to Anahuac, where William B. Travis and others had been imprisoned by John Davis Bradburn, but was released for lack of evidence. He became known as the most notorious Tory in the Atascosito District. William M. Smith, John's son, killed his brother-in-law, Moses A. Carroll, during an argument on the plantation at Smith's Point (Chambers County) in October 1835. There was no indication at the trial that John M. Smith was present during the argument or fatal outcome, but he was tried as an accessory to murder and convicted along with his son. Nancy Ann, Smith's wife, hired David G. Burnet to appeal the conviction of her husband and son. The two rode post-haste to Washington-on-the-Brazos, where the provisional government was in session. Burnet was therefore at the right place at the right time to be elected ad interim president of Texas. The Smiths, William and John, were granted a thirty-day stay of execution. Burnet assumed the duties and responsibilities of the government, which included powers of clemency and pardon, and he had the Smiths transferred to Harrisburg and his control. John M. Smith conveniently escaped and went back to Louisiana. He was never pardoned and never returned to Texas. He died sometime in the 1840s. William M. Smith served at the battle of San Jacinto and was pardoned by Sam Houston. Mrs. John M. Smith was living in Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana, in 1850.

Frank W. Johnson, A History of Texas and Texans (5 vols., ed. E. C. Barker and E. W. Winkler [Chicago and New York: American Historical Society, 1914; rpt. 1916]). Miriam Partlow, Liberty, Liberty County, and the Atascosito District (Austin: Pemberton, 1974).

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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, Jean L. Epperson, "SMITH, JOHN MOSES," accessed August 18, 2019,

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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