Bexar County Judge Samuel Augustus Maverick, 1803-1870
by Andrew Gill
Samuel Augustus Maverick was born in 1803 at the Maverick family estate in Pendleton, South Carolina. His father, also a Samuel, had been a successful businessman and landowner in the region. Samuel the senior cherished his son, an affectionate relationship that would last the remainder of his lifetime, and was pleased to see that his son had inherited his intelligence and business prowess.
As he grew into young adulthood, it became apparent that Samuel Augustus would not be overshadowed by the success of his father. He attended Yale University, and upon his graduation in 1825, was given administration of the sizable Maverick estate. To be sure, this position gave him invaluable experience in business and land affairs, but Maverick saw even greater opportunity elsewhere in the country. In 1828, eager to create his own land empire, he left the care of his father to pursue a legal education in Virginia. He was admitted to the Virginia bar only a year later, and shortly thereafter became interested in politics.
Maverick ran for the South Carolina legislature in 1830, and although he would lose this race, he nevertheless came to understand the vital connection between political action and land development that was of imminent importance to the agriculturally-based Southern economy. He left South Carolina for Texas, a developing frontier society where the land was rich and plentiful – the ideal scenario for a person of Maverick's background.
Arriving in San Antonio in 1835, Maverick found himself amidst a turbulent situation. Being a strategically and economically important settlement, the Mexican Government was especially wary that it would fall into the hands of the incoming waves of American settlers. Accordingly, Maverick was placed under house arrest, and was forbidden to leave the city under orders of Mexican general Martín Perfecto de Cos. This action characterized what Texans recognized as an egregious violation of the charter that Mexico had granted to Moses Austin in 1820, an act provisioning for the settlement of Americans in Texas. Stephen F. Austin, caretaker of this promise, rushed to San Antonio upon hearing that the Mexican military had engaged in a siege of the town. Maverick, in his captivity, had come to thoroughly know the geographic topography of San Antonio and the location of the Mexican divisions. This knowledge was invaluable to Austin, and greatly aided the outnumbered group of Texan volunteers in claiming back the city. Maverick was personally selected to lead a division of Texans though the occupied buildings, a task that would have proven suicidal had he not known which structures contained hostiles. When San Antonio was purged four days later, Maverick was present for Cos' signing of capitulation in the Cos House, an old adobe building now part of San Antonio's famous tourist attraction La Villita.
Maverick's service to Texas had not gone unappreciated, and he was elected one of two representatives from San Antonio to attend a Texas independence convention at Washington-on-the-Brazos. This meeting, scheduled in March of 1836, took place simultaneously with the Battle of the Alamo. Maverick later confessed in his diary that his attendance to the convention saved his life: due to his own fiery personality and political fervor, he could have easily been the 190th defender of the Alamo; indeed, he was a close friend of Jim Bowie. In any case, the Maverick family business required attention, necessitating his departure to Alabama after hostilities in Texas abated.
While riding en route to this destination, Samuel Augustus came to the aid of a young woman who had dropped her handkerchief from atop her horse. Picking up and returning this article proved to be very significant to the gentlemanly Maverick, for its owner was Mary Anne Adams, his future wife. From this moment the two grew very close to one another, and were married only a few months later in August of 1836. After two more years of business management and travel, the couple returned to San Antonio with their first of ten children, Samuel Maverick Jr. Samuel Augustus quickly made up for his absence, acquiring a Texas law license and serving terms as mayor and city treasurer until 1842. During the same year, however, Mexico mounted a military campaign in the San Antonio area in hopes of re-annexing Texas. Mexican forces, this time led by General Adrián Woll, surrounded and invaded the city on September 11, 1842.
Although the Mexicans were repulsed back, they nevertheless succeeded in taking fifty-three Texan men as prisoner – Maverick being one of these unfortunate individuals. Interestingly, Maverick writes in a letter to the Mexican Secretary of State Jose Bocanegra that many of these men mistook the Mexican troops for robbers and fired upon the invaders. General Woll conceded that this was a legitimate mistake, due to the fact that the invasion took place just before daybreak under a dense cloud of fog, and that organized outlaws were known to frequent the area. In any case, several Mexicans were killed in the fray, necessitating a surrender of the citizen militia on Maverick's own orchard. This piece of property, known as "Maverick's Corner", included the land that is now at the intersection of Soledad and Commerce streets in downtown San Antonio.
The Texan prisoners were thereafter marched to the castle of Perote located deep within Mexican territory. There they remained for a year under what Maverick notes was especially oppressive and harsh conditions. Maverick himself was put into a dungeon after refusing to work, and remained there for some weeks before his captors released him and ordered him to supervise the other prisoners. On March 30, 1843, the same day that his daughter Augusta was born, he was released from Perote. General Waddy Thompson, personal friend to the Mavericks and US minister to Mexico, having personally visited Santa Anna and secured Samuel Augustus' release. Upon his liberation, Maverick discovered that he was elected Senator to the Seventh Congress of the Republic of Texas while he was imprisoned. Although he signed the Texas Declaration of Independence years earlier, he was a strong advocate of the annexation of Texas to the United States. He had personally invested an exorbitant amount of time and money into Texas land, and advised others to do the same, recognizing that annexation would provide Texan landowners with new opportunity. It was with great pleasure that he served in the Texas legislature that made Texas the twenty-eighth state in 1845.
In the years following his release from Perote, Maverick found himself engrossed in land acquisitions that took him far from home over extended periods. Throughout the remainder of his life, he amassed of thousands of acres in tracts of land that stretched from Matagorda County on the Texas coast to the reaches of West Texas. An estimate of the acreage in his name by the time of his death exceeds three-hundred thousand. He generously donated many of these titles to the state, including his own prized piece Maverick's Corner to the city of San Antonio. It was in his honor that Maverick County was named, an official recognition of one of the biggest landowners in Texas history.
Although the term maverick was originally a term given to the unbranded calves that roamed his vast ranchland, many of his personal friends knew him as an equally free-thinking, unconventional, and patriotic individual. Accordingly, he spent his time in political office developing the fledgling state, working to improve infrastructure, railroads, land rights and protection, and political representation. From 1851 to 1863 he served two terms in both the Texas House and Senate pushing these political convictions, all of which were aspects integral to his own success as a Texas businessman. He returned from the Texas Legislature to serve his own hometown, San Antonio, serving a second term as mayor and additionally a term as Bexar County Chief Justice during the Civil War. Although Maverick worked hard to secure annexation, and was against secession, he finally conceded support to the Confederate cause amidst political pressure.
The aftermath of the war would spell depression for the South and San Antonio, a difficulty that Maverick personally addressed by way of further donations to the city and mediation of radical Reconstruction policies. However, his dogged political activism took a toll on his health, as it had during previous campaigns in his life, but this time he would not recover. Samuel Augustus died on September 2, 1870, the father of the Maverick family legacy that would continue to serve his beloved state and city of San Antonio. A few days later Mary would discover her old handkerchief, the very article responsible for their meeting, amongst a collection of his most prized possessions.
Green, Rena Maverick, ed. Samuel maverick, Texan: 1803-1870. 1952; San Antonio: Privately Printed.
Marks, Paula Mitchell. Turn Your Eyes Toward Texas: Pioneers Sam and Mary Maverick. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1989.
Sexton, Irwin and Kathryn. Samuel A. Maverick. San Antonio: The Naylor Company, 1964.
Maverick Family Papers, The Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
Marks, Paula Mitchell. Samuel Augustus Maverick. The Handbook of Texas Online. August 23, 2007. Texas State Historical Archives. May 16, 2005. <http://www.tshaonline.org/ >