Since its original printing in 1952, the publication of the Handbook of Texas has been made possible through the support of its users. As an independent nonprofit, TSHA relies on your contributions to close the funding gap for the online Handbook and keep it a freely accessible resource for users worldwide. Please make a donation today to preserve the most comprehensive encyclopedic resource on Texas history. Donate Today »


Robert E. Cunningham

SOMERVELL, ALEXANDER (1796–1854). Alexander Somervell, entrepreneur, soldier, and leader of the Somervell Expedition, was born to James and Elizabeth Somervell in Maryland on June 11, 1796, in Prince George County, Maryland. He moved to Louisiana in 1817 and was a planter in St. Landry Parish. In the early 1820s he moved to Missouri where he was a merchant. He moved to Texas in 1833 and was granted land in Stephen F. Austin's second colony. Somervell engaged in the mercantile business at San Felipe with James F. Perry. In October 1835 Somervell joined the volunteers marching from Gonzales to Bexar and was elected major. He participated in the siege of Bexar. He enrolled in the Texas army on March 12, 1836, and on April 8 was elected lieutenant colonel of the first regiment of Texas Volunteers, succeeding Sidney Sherman. He participated in the Battle of San Jacinto and remained in the army until June 7, 1836. He served briefly as secretary of war in David G. Burnet's cabinet. Somervell represented Colorado and Austin counties in the Senate of the First and Second congresses, October 3, 1836, to May 4, 1838. By the time he was elected brigadier general on November 18, 1839, he was living in Fort Bend County. In January 1840 he was appointed commissioner to inspect land offices west of the Brazos. The following year he was named county clerk in Austin County. In 1842, Sam Houston gave him command of the Somervell Expedition. As a reward for his services, on December 17, 1842, he was appointed collector of customs for the port of Calhoun near Indianola, which he held until 1850. In partnership with two others, he helped develop the town of Saluria on northeastern Matagorda Island in Calhoun County between 1845 and 1847. President Franklin Pierce reappointed Somervell as collector of customs at Indianola in 1853, but he died on January 20, 1854, under mysterious circumstances. He died from drowning and his body was found lashed to the timbers of the capsized boat carrying a considerable amount of money from Lavaca to Saluria.  Somervell named his friend, James F. Perry, as the executor of his will, which left the majority of his wealth to his brother, James Somervell.  The will entered into probate proceedings in Calhoun County, on May 6, 1856. Alexander Somervell's place of burial is unknown.   


Sam Houston Dixon and Louis Wiltz Kemp, The Heroes of San Jacinto (Houston: Anson Jones, 1932). Texas House of Representatives, Biographical Directory of the Texan Conventions and Congresses, 1832–1845 (Austin: Book Exchange, 1941). Baltimore The Sun, February 9, 1854.  Gettysburg The Adams Sentinel, February, 13, 1854.

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:

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, Robert E. Cunningham, "SOMERVELL, ALEXANDER," accessed September 18, 2019,

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on September 8, 2015. 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...