Journal Of The Life And Culture Of San Antonio

Bexar County Chief Justice Samuel Augustus Maverick, 1803-1870

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by Richard L. Puglisi Jr.

A maverick is someone that is “an independent thinker who refuses to conform to the accepted views on a subject.” The word’s origin traces back to San Antonian Samuel Maverick, who, although not a native Texan, loved the state and served in several Texas battles and many political offices over his lifetime. Samuel Augustus Maverick was born on July 23, 1803 in Pendleton, South Carolina to Samuel and Elizabeth Maverick. He enrolled Yale College at the age of nineteen, and then, after graduating, he moved to Winchester, Virginia where he studied law under Henry St. George Tucker. He was then admitted to the South Carolina Bar in 1829.

Maverick’s return to South Carolina came in the midst of an intense secession debate about recently imposed tariffs. In 1832, he wrote a series of articles for the Pendleton Messenger expressing his opinions on the issue. These articles favored altering the tariff in a democratic way, and like his father, he was a staunch unionist, although years later he would vote for Texas secession. At a public meeting in Pendleton, Samuel’s father was speaking when a young man began heckling him; Samuel challenged this man to a duel, wounded him, and then took him home to recover. The episode prompted Samuel’s father to suggest that he move out of the state because his business prospects would be better elsewhere. Samuel agreed and moved to Alabama to manage a plantation that his father had given to his sister and him. The work did not suit Maverick and he began traveling the United States; eventually, his journey took him to New Orleans where he heard stories about great opportunities in Texas, which inspired him to go see for himself. His first view of little San Antonio de Béxar was on September 8, 1835, just weeks before the beginning of the hostilities of the Texas Revolution.

Maverick kept a journal of his travels, in which he assiduously recorded the events of his trip, most notably his description of the 1835 Siege of San Antonio. On October 8th, General Perfecto de Cos arrived in San Antonio on the orders of Mexican Dictator Santa Anna. Texan troops arrived just outside San Antonio and shortly thereafter Maverick was put under house arrest. During his captivity, he observed the Mexican troop movements and cannon placements, which he recorded. Cos released Maverick after he promised that he would leave Mexico and return to the United States, but he had no intention of doing so and quickly joined the Texan forces outside town. Maverick’s knowledge of the troop positions and cannon placement made him the ideal candidate to guide Ben Milam and the leaders of the attack on San Antonio. He was obviously too busy fighting to record the details in his journal, but on December 10, 1835, his entry briefly states, “White flag of surrender sent us.” The victory compelled Cos and his force to leave Texas to the revolutionary forces until Santa Anna and his army reappeared in San Antonio, February 23, 1836, beginning the immortal siege of the Alamo.

In that month of February, Samuel Maverick was elected to act as the delegate from Béxar to the Texas Independence Convention in Washington-on-the-Brazos. This election began a thirty-one year career of politics and public office. He left San Antonio, and at the convention, a fellow delegate described Maverick as “a man of determined will, unyielding when advocating what he believed to be right, and uncompromising in favor of…separation from Mexico.” After the Texas victory at the Battle of San Jacinto, Maverick traveled back to the United States.

He intended to return to the newly formed Republic of Texas as soon as possible, however, he delayed his return for a year because he fell in love with Mary Ann Adams. The two were married on August 4, 1836 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and left for Texas with their infant son in October 1837. Mary’s younger brother as well as their six slaves and their four children also accompanied the Mavericks on the trip. Although the whole group made it to Texas in February of 1838, they did not get to San Antonio until June. Maverick planned to make a fortune in land speculation in and around Bexar County, and according to county records, he made forty-one land purchases in 1838 and 1839 to begin on that course. Also in 1839, a busy year for Maverick, he moved his family into a new home on Main Plaza, his second son Lewis was born, and he was elected as mayor of San Antonio.

As mayor, Maverick helped settle disputes as well as increase the defenses of San Antonio because of the dual threat of Comanche and Mexican attack. The Indian danger came to reality on March 19, 1840, when a contingent of Comanches came to Main Plaza intending to bargain for a prisoner exchange. The negotiations turned violent after the Comanches learned that they would be held hostage themselves, until the rest of their captives returned. Mary Maverick would recall this day in her memoirs as “A day of horrors” that later became known as the Council House Fight. Samuel Maverick participated in the fighting, but to what extent is not entirely clear. After the shooting, thirty-three Comanches lay dead and thirty-three were prisoner. Six Americans and one Mexican also died in the confrontation.

When Maverick’s one-year mayoral term ended, he declined to serve another. He resumed his regular surveying trips, but returned to public office in San Antonio as treasurer in 1841. The next year, the Mavericks along with many other families fled San Antonio when Mexican forces again headed towards the city. His duties as treasurer, however, made it necessary for him to work in San Antonio. In September 1842, the Mexicans captured the city and took many prisoners, including Maverick. He was transferred to Perote Prison deep inside Mexico where he remained until his release March 30, 1843.

Despite being a prisoner in Mexico, Maverick was elected senator to the Congress of the Republic of Texas and served in the last session before annexation in 1845. Maverick moved his family back to San Antonio in 1847, served on various public committees, and continued surveying expeditions. In July, 1849, Maverick moved his family to Alamo Plaza, and again in 1851, he was elected the Texas state legislature and then served as state senator from 1855-1858. Again, he was elected as a representative in 1859. As secession fever heightened in February of 1861, Maverick joined the committee that took control of the U.S. Army garrison at the Alamo, just 30 yards from his house. Then a week later, Maverick voted with the majority of Texans to ratify secession. Despite the fact that Texas saw little fighting during the Civil War, Maverick and his wife sent four of sons to war.

In 1862, Maverick again won the election to serve as the mayor of San Antonio. The next year, he became the Chief Justice of Bexar County, principally dealing with petitions for assistance from the families of soldiers in the Confederate Army and with county tax collection. He would hold this position until all of the Confederate judges were removed from office after the war. Samuel Maverick died on September 2, 1870 and was buried in City Cemetery Number 1. In a eulogy delivered to the Alamo Literary Society, Dr. George Cupples said that the name Maverick would forever be “a synonym for honor, integrity and truth.”

 

Bibliography

Green, Rena Maverick, ed. Samuel Maverick, Texan: 1803-1870. Privately Printed, San Antonio: 1952., 44.

Ibid., 48.

Maverick, Mary A. Memoirs of Mary A. Maverick. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and London: 1989., 127.

Green, Rena Maverick, ed. Samuel Maverick, Texan: 1803-1870. San Antonio: Privately Printed, 1952.

Marks, Paula Mitchell. Turn Your Eyes Toward Texas: Pioneers Sam and Mary Maverick. Texas A&M Press, 1989

Maverick, Mary A. Memoirs of Mary A. Maverick. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1989.

Sexton, Irwin and Kathryn. Samuel A. Maverick. San Antonio: The Naylor Company, 1964.