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 »


William S. Warren

SMITH, JOHN JEREMIAH [COHO] (1826–1914). Coho Smith, merchant, freighter, carpenter, gunsmith, and teacher, was born John Jeremiah Smith on December 4, 1826, in Pennsylvania. He was the son of James Smith, a merchant and immigrant from Rotterdam, Holland, and Elizabeth Stanford. In 1835 at the age of nine, he moved with his parents to Carroll County, Missouri, near the Missouri River. Not long after their arrival, James Smith drowned in the Missouri River, and Elizabeth married H. M. Wallace, a Mormon and follower of Joseph Smith, who had declared the Second Coming would occur in the adjacent Jackson County, Missouri. Wallace already had one wife.

Shortly after his father’s death, young John Smith, who spoke only Dutch, was boarded out as an apprentice to a cabinet maker to learn the trade and the English language. Smith, a self-educated man, went on to learn Spanish, German, Comanche, and a limited amount of French. About this time, he met the colorful fur traders Thomas “Pegleg” Smith, who became a chief of the Shoshone, and Jim Beckwourth, who became a chief of the Crow.

In 1842 Smith, at the age of sixteen, first came to Texas and stayed for a short time. He returned in late 1843 or early 1844 to what is now Dallas. He assisted John Neely Bryan, the father of Dallas, in laying out the original township and built the surveying instruments from materials he had at hand. Smith, along with Tom Helm, Tom McLain, Jim Druse, James Hoggard, and William Hoggard, helped construct the first Dallas house, a log cabin, for Neely along the banks of the Trinity River.

In 1845 Smith moved to Coahuila, Mexico, and spent time at Rancho Nuevo as well as Santa Rosa, what is now the municipality of Múzquiz, where he was adopted by a well-to-do Mexican family. At one time (ca. 1846–47), he ran contraband tobacco into Mexico. He was captured and jailed in Ciénegas, Coahuila, Mexico, but he escaped. Comanches were conducting raids in the area of Santa Rosa, and Smith was captured during one of them in early 1848. He was wounded by a lance in his left knee which left him lame for the rest of his life and from which he gained the Spanish name Cojo (Anglicized to “Coho”) which means “lame.” He remained captive for a year and traveled from northern Mexico to near present-day Lampasas, Texas, before his escape.

According to a biographical account by Smith’s granddaughter, Iva Roe Logan, he returned to Missouri after his years in Mexico and married Nancy Haney. The 1850 census for Carroll County, Missouri, lists “Jeremiah” Smith (age 24) with his wife Nancy (of Kentucky), and six-month-old daughter Missouri (born in Missouri) in the household. Smith’s profession was listed as “painter,” but he also tried his hand at farming. Smith, however, soon departed for California and was gold hunting in Oregon in 1852. Most likely, he periodically returned to his Missouri home.

The sedentary life was not to Smith’s liking; he traveled back to Texas probably by the late 1850s. According to an account by Coho Smith, in the late 1850s he was back in Tennessee where, by chance through an acquaintance, he met filibuster William Walker, who had organized several private military campaigns in Mexico and Central America. Walker was looking for someone he could trust to carry dispatches to Cuba and Central America to further his military activities. Smith agreed to be the courier. However, when he arrived in Honduras and discovered that Walker had been executed, he burned all the correspondence and made his way back to Texas.

At some point, Smith joined the Texas Rangers and served in Capt. N. H. Darnell’s Company, Middleton T. Johnson’s Regiment. He was honorably discharged on August 10, 1860. Smith appeared on the 1860 federal census in Dallas County with Nancy and their children; he was identified as a “gunsmith.” All five children, ranging in age from twelve to two, were born in Missouri. About this time, he and Nancy parted ways, and she returned to Missouri with the children.

Coho Smith moved to northeast Parker County where he married Nancy Jane Hoggard on September 3, 1861. He referred to her as “Jane” throughout their marriage. They had eight children.

In late 1861 or early 1862, he was called to the home of William Parker in Birdville, Texas, to translate for former Comanche captive Cynthia Ann Parker, mother of Quanah Parker (who later became chief of the Comanches). Smith recalled that she conspired to escape and promised him status and wives to realize her purpose.

The settled life never appealed to Coho, and during the Civil War he left his home for Mexico where, as he had done in years past, he clerked in dry goods stores on both sides of the Texas-Mexican border and had a reputation as a trusted middleman. He sent goods to his wife and her mother, along with powder and armaments to his relatives and neighbors. At some point during the war, Smith was appointed as a Confederate agent to freight cotton and other goods from San Antonio to Mexico.

Coho Smith finally settled near Azle, Texas, on the Parker County side. He took the area’s first log cabin school, known as the “Picket School,” as his home and was a teacher and instructed students in drawing, reading, and writing. Smith built a rock fort near the home and eventually returned to the furniture and gunsmith businesses. Throughout his life, he had kept a journal of his travels, and he also included drawings of his various adventures, which he eventually compiled into a book that he called Cohographs. Later in life, Smith also wrote his reminiscences in articles published in such periodicals as the Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Register.

Coho Smith died at his home in Azle on January 19, 1914. He and his second wife, Jane, are buried at Ash Creek Cemetery in Azle. In 1986 a Texas Historical Marker commemorating the Coho and Nancy Jane Smith farmstead was erected at the site near the banks of Ash Creek on the eighteenth hole of the Cross Timbers Golf Course.


Azle Historical Museum Society, History of Azle Community, Texas (Dallas: Curtis Media Corporation, 1986). Dallas Morning News, July 30, 1903; January 10, 1956. Fort Worth Daily Gazette, April 17, 1884. Heritage 13 (Winter 1995). Parker County Historical Commission, History of Parker County (Dallas: Taylor, 1980). Smith, Coho, Cohographs, Iva Roe Logan, ed. (Fort Worth: Branch-Smith, Inc., 1976). South-Western American (Austin, Texas), April 6, 1853. WPA Writers' Program, The WPA Dallas Guide and History, ed. Maxine Holmes and Gerald D. Saxon (Denton: University of North Texas Press, 1992).

William S. Warren

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, William S. Warren, "SMITH, JOHN JEREMIAH [COHO]," accessed August 12, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fsmco.

Uploaded on July 24, 2014. 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...