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WATKINS, JESSE (ca. 1776–1837). Jesse Watkins, early Texas settler, physician, and Indian commissioner, the son of William Ezekiel and Betsy (Jernigan) Watkins, was born at Murfreesboro, Tennessee, about 1776. He married Mary McCorkle there, and they became the parents of seven children. Watkins moved to Texas sometime in the early 1830s and was living in Nacogdoches by 1836. In September 1837 he was commissioned by Sam Houston to travel to the three forks of the Trinity River in what is now Dallas County to negotiate a treaty with the Kichai, Caddo, and Tawakoni Indians. Watkins never reached his destination. According to his interpreter, Luis Sánchez, he was captured and burned at the stake by a band of Cherokees. Two years later, at the battle of the Neches, Watkins's son-in-law, Capt. Robert W. Smithqv, shot and killed the aged Cherokee Chief Bowl as Bowl sat on the ground, wounded, following the battle. Smith apparently believed that Bowl had been responsible for his father-in-law's death.


Dallas Morning News, June 6, 1937. 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]).

Cecil Harper, Jr.


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

Cecil Harper, Jr., "WATKINS, JESSE," Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed October 10, 2015. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.