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History of the

Creation of Montgomery County, Texas

(From: The Early History of Montgomery County, Texas)

Note:

December 14, 2012 is the 175th Anniversary of the Creation of Montgomery County, Texas - (December 14, 1837 - December 14, 2012)

 by: Kameron Searle: Updated 6/24/12

   This chapter details the history of the creation of Montgomery County, Texas by the Congress of the Republic of Texas. This history is built on a framework of four petitions that were presented to the Congress of the Republic of Texas by the citizens of Washington County.  It appears that at least two of these petitions were never considered previously by Montgomery County historians.  These two "new" petitions greatly enhance our understanding of the history, both local and Congressional, surrounding the creation of Montgomery County, Texas. 

   Montgomery County histories always mention how Montgomery County was created by an Act passed by the Congress of the Republic of Texas and signed into law by President Sam Houston on December 14, 1837.  Few Montgomery County historians have bothered to go into any detail about the political process by which Montgomery County was created.  This article will explain the most complete history of the creation of Montgomery County ever presented anywhere.

   The birth of Montgomery County was the result of a political battle that lasted over a year and involved the submission of four separate petitions to the Congress of the Republic of Texas.  Two petitions signed by the citizens of Washington County on the east side of the Brazos River would request the creation of a new county from the territory of Washington County located east of the Brazos River. The citizens of Washington County west of the Brazos strongly opposed both of these petitions for the creation of a new county with petitions of their own.

   The first petition for the creation of a new county submitted in 1836 failed.  The second petition for the creation of a new county submitted in 1837 succeeded.  These four petitions have never been presented together in a printed history before.  Two of these transcribed petitions have never appeared in a history book before.  Below are transcriptions of each of the four petitions along with the legislative history of the creation of Montgomery County.

 

Petition for the Creation of Travis County - Petition #1

   The Constitution of the Republic of Texas ratified by the voters of the Republic of Texas on the first Monday in September of 1836 provided for the creation of new counties.  Article IV, Section 11 of the Constitution of the Republic of Texas provided: 

SEC. 11. The Republic shall be divided into convenient counties, but no new county shall be established, unless it be done on the petition of one hundred free male inhabitants of the territory sought to be laid off and established, and unless the said territory shall contain nine hundred square miles.

   There are a great number primary records that prove that Montgomery County was almost named Travis County. Below is the transcription of the petition signed by the citizens of Washington County, Texas residing between the Brazos River and the Trinity River below the San Antonio road (the eastern portion of Washington County).

   To the Honorable the Senate and House of Representatives of the Congress of the Republic of Texas-

   The undersigned citizens, residing in that section of country lying between the Brazos River and Trinity, and below the San Antonio road, who will be subjected to great inconveniences in crossing of the Brazos River to attend courts, and for other county purposes, (so soon as the county shall be organized) pray, that your Honorable body will, during the present session of Congress lay off a County with the following boundaries, viz:-beginning at the San Antonio crossing of the Brazos and running with the San Antonio road to the said crossing on the Trinity – thence down the Trinity River to opposite the Coleto (Indian) village on the Trinity, thence on a straight line to Fish Pond Creek so as to include Donohos, thence down said creek to the mouth, thence up said River Brazos to the beginning; - Your petitioners would also, here observe that they have thus petitioned for a larger scope of country than is necessary to form a county; for the reason, that the population is not sufficient to form more than one county at this time.-

   And your petitioners will as in duty-bound, ever pray etc. etc.

   And your petitioners also, desire that the said county may be called “Travis” for reasons that your Honl. Body will readily anticipate.

[Signatures]

[Reverse]: Petition for a New County

[Later Note] Referred to the Committee on County boundaries

[In pencil] No date

 [Add Signatures]

   See Petition for a new County [Travis County], (No Date0, Memorials and Petitions, Texas Congress, Archives and Reocords Division, Texas State Library and Archives. As this petition bears no date, this document is hard to cite.  Though the petition is undated, it must date to a period between the first Monday in September of 1837 (ratification of the Constitution) and Jesse Grimes presentation of the petititon to the Senate on October 27, 1836.

  

First Session of First Congress

Legislative History of the Travis County Bill

Jesse Grimes Presents Petition for Travis County

   At the First Session of the First Congress of the Republic of Texas on October 27, 1836, Senator Jesse Grimes "presented a petition of sundry citizens of Washington County, praying the establishment of a new county, to be called Travis."  The petition specifically read, "And your petitioners also desire that the said county may be called "Travis" for reasons that your Honl. body will readily appreciate."  One hundred petitioners on the east side of the Brazos River had signed the petition.

   This petition requested the creation of a new county between the "Brazos River and the Trinity belwo the San Antonio road."  The petition is undated but logic dictates that it was prepared before October 27, 1836.

   The First Congress of the Republic of Texas began at Columbia, Texas in late 1836.  In her book, The Texas Senate: Republic to Civil War, 1836-1861, on page 18, Patsy McDonald Spaw gives us a picture of how hectic the First Congress was:

   "The Texas Congress meanwhile turned to the task of creating a functioning machinery of civil and military government.  Under the constitution, counties and county governments were to be organized by the Congress, and county judges, surveyors, and land commissioners were to be elected by its [Congress's] members.  This unusual concentration of power was justified by the chaotic condition of the country."

   "One of the earliest organizational measures of the First Congress replaced the large Mexican Municipalities, which were without boundaries, with smaller surveyed counties.  An act requiring each county judge to send an accurate description of his county to the secretary of state was passed; when these descriptions were filed, Congress made them legal by statute and gave Texas for the first time a well-defined system of government districts."

   Republic of Texas Senator Jesse Grimes who represented Washington County spear-headed the first attempt to create a new county out of the territory of Washington County east of the Brazos during the first session of the first Congress of the Republic of Texas held in Columbia, Texas.  In fact, it was Jesse Grimes who moved for the appointment of a committee in the Senate on county boundaries on Wednesday, October 26, 1836.

 

Senate - October 26, 1836

Committte on County Boundaries Created

   Mr. Grimes moved a committee be appointed on county boundaries. 

   The motion being adopted, the chair appointed Messrs. Grimes, Irion, and Luster said committee.

   See November 2, 1836, Telegraph and Texas Register (Columbia, Texas), Vol. 1, No. 36, p. 4, c. 1.  Jesse Grimes was appointed a member of the Senate committee on county boundaries.  The next day, Thursday, October 27, 1836, Jesse Grimes presented the petition praying for the establishment of a new county to be called Travis.

 

Senate - October 27, 1836

Grimes Presents Travis County Petition

   "Mr. Grimes presented a petition of sundry citizens from Washington county, praying the establishing of a new county, to be called Travis."

   See Telegraph and Texas Register (Columbia, Texas), November 2, 1836,Vol. 1, No. 36, p. 4., c. 1. The next day, Friday, October 28, 1836, the bill to establish Travis County was read for the first time.

 

 Senate - Friday, October 28, 1836

Travis County Bill Read First Time

   "The bill to establish the county of Travis was taken up, read a first time, and laid on the table until to-morrow."

   See Telegraph and Texas Register (Columbia, Texas), November 2, 1836,Vol. 1, No. 36, p. 4., c. 2.

 

Senate - November 14, 1836

   "An Act to form a new county to be called "Travis" was taken up and engrossed for a third reading;"

   See Telegraph and Texas Register (Columbia, Texas), November 23, 1836,Vol. 1, No. 41, p. 4., c. 1.  We also find this legislative record for November 15, 1836 in the November 23, 1836 edition of the Telegraph.

 

Senate - November 15, 1836

   "An act forming a new county called "Travis" was read a third and last time:"

   See Telegraph and Texas Register (Columbia, Texas), November 23, 1836,Vol. 1, No. 41, p. 4., c. 1. The Act forming the new county called Travis passed in the Senate on November 15, 1836.  The original act is still in existence and is located in the Texas State Library and Archives in Austin, Texas.

 

Front of An Act to Form a New County to be Named Travis

An Act to Form a New County to Be Called Travis

Texas State Library and Archives Commission

An Act

to form a New County

to be Named

Travis

ordered to be engrossed

 

An Act to Form a County to Be Named Travis

Texas State Library and Archives Commission

The committee on County boundaries have had under consideration the petition of sundry inhabitants of Washington County residing on the East Side of the Brasos River praying to be formed into a New County to be Named "Travis" ask leave to report the following Bill,

Section1

Be it enacted by the Senate and house of Representaives of the Republic of Texas in Congress Assembled.

That that part of Washington County lying on the east side of the Brasos River and bounded as follows, to Wit:

Beginning at the place where the San Antonio road crosses the Navasote thence with said road eastward to where the said road crosses the Trinity River thence down the said Trinity River to the Colettee village of Coshattee Indians thence on a straight line to the Brasos River at the mouth of Pond Creek, thence up the Brasos River to the mouth of the Navasotte thence up the Navasote to the place of beginning be formed into a New County go be called "Travis"

Jesse Grimes Chairman

R. A. Irion

J. S. Lester

   See Texas State Library and Archives Commission, Box 100-1358, File 900, "Records of Legislature, Republic of Texas, 2nd Congress, 2nd Session."  This file was improperly recorded and filed at some time in the past.  The Travis County Act was introduced in the First Session of the First Congress of the Republic of Texas in 1836.

   As the Republic of Texas was brand new, Senators in the First Congress drew lots to stagger the terms of Senators in the future.  About a third of the Senators drew lots and only got to serve one year.  Another third of the Senators drew lots and got to serve two years.  The remaining third of the Senators got to serve a full three year term.  Jesse Grimes had drawn lots during the First Congress and was one of the Senators who only got to serve one year.  Jesse Grimes was a Senator in the First Session and Second Sessions of the First Congress.  He was not a Senator in the First and Second Sessions of the Second Congress of the Republic of Texas and was therefore not the Chairman of the Senate Committee on County Boundaries in the Second Congress. The Travis County Act could not have been signed by Jesse Grimes in the Second Congress.  He was not sitting as a Senator at the time.

   Senators Grimes, Irion and Lester were on the Senate Committee on County Boundaries in the First Congress as proved by the legislative history recorded in the Telegraph and Texas Register newspaper.

   The Travis County Act went to the House shortly after passing in the Senate.  They are rare but a few copies of the Journals of the House of Representatives of the Republic of Texas for the First Session of the First Congress still exist.  The copy below is located in the Texas Library and Archives in Austin, Texas.

 

Journal of the House of Representaives First Session of First Congress

Texas State Library and Archives Commission

Journals of the House of Representatives of the Republic of Texas, First Congress -  First Session

 

Bottom of Page 161

Top of Page 162

Texas State Library and Archives Commission

   The Speaker called the attention of the house to the message and accompanying documents received this morning from the Senate...

   "An act forming a new county to be called Travis," (sent from the Senate,) which being read a first time was ordered to a second reading on to-morrow.

   [Cite Journal here] The November 17, 1836 entry for the Journals of the House of Representatives of the Republic of Texas makes note of the Travis County Act's arrival in the House of Representatives on November 17, 1836.  The Telegraph and Texas Register newspaper reported this event in its pages on November 23, 1836.

 

House of Representatives - November 17, 1836

   "An act establishing a new county to be called Travis, that passed the senate the 15th October [November], was read a first time."

   See Telegraph and Texas Register (Columbia, Texas), November 23, 1836, Vol. 1, No. 41, p. 3., c. 1.  The date the Travis County Act was reported to have passed in the Senate is a typo in the newspaer article and should read "November 15" not "October 15."  Remember, Jesse Grimes did not even present the petition for the establishment of the new county of Travis until October 27, 1836. 

 

Washington County Petitions Referred to a Special Committee

Two Petitions from Washington County Go to Special Committee

"...the two petitions from Washington, repecting that county...were...referred to the same committee."

   Here the two petitons (Petition #1 and Petition #2) from Washington County are mentioned together. 

   Following this first reading, the Travis County Act began to run into strong opposition.

 

Second Session of First Congress

Petition Opposing Creation of Travis County - Petition #2

http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth32375/m1/1/?q=documents_washington_county

   To the honorable Congress of the Republic of Texas, aware that a petition was presented to the last session of congress praying for a division of the county aforesaid, the inhabitants of said county respectfully represent that the line of division as proposed, did not, nor does not meet the approbation of a large majority of the population of said county, and we your petitioners esteem it as a matter of right, and of justice, that said division should only be made with the approbation of a majority of the citizens of the county -  the county forms a community, which was organized for the convenience of all concerned, by consent, and this community cannot nor should be dissolved without, the consent, of a majority of all the citizens, forming such community -  your petitioners oppose the plan of division that was proposed because it is unequal & unjust, to make the River the line of division.  that portion of the country west of the Brasos, would be about 50 miles long and its average width would perhaps not exceed 15 miles while that portion of the East of the Brasos would form a square of about 70 miles.- 

   If a division of the said county should be deemed necessary, by congress, your petitioners respectfully represent, the following, as the most equitable & just, that is to say, being on the Eastern boundary line of said county, east of the Brasos River, distant 15 miles from the mouth of Pond-creek on said line, and thence north to the San Antonio Road at 15 miles East of the Brazos River    Your petitioners represent that they are aware that the constitution provides for the establishment of new counties, upon the petition of one hundred Inhabitants, praying for a new county, provided the county so petitioned for, contains a superficies of nine hundred square miles-  but we do not consider that that article of the constitution has any bearing upon communities, or counties of prior existence; and division of such communities or counties, should not be arbitrary, nor made without the consent of a majority of the members of such communities

Washington 9th  March 1837 

[Signatures]

 

House of Representatives - June 2, 1837

Mr. Gant Presents Petition

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

Friday, June 2, 1837

   The house met pursuant to adjournment.

   Prayer by Rev. Mr. Hall.

   The journal being read,

   Mr. Gant presented a petition from the citizens of Washington county, which was

   Referred to the committee on county boundaries.

 

House of Representatives - June 8, 1837

Mr. Gant Appointed to Special Committee - Washington Petition Referred

"...Mr. Gant moved that the petition respecting the county of Washington be referred to the said committee; agreed to; and Mr. Gant was appointed a member of the committee."

   This activity took place in the House of Representatives of the Congress of the Republic of Texas on June 8, 1837.  See the July 8, edition of the Telegraph and Texas Register, Vol. II, No. 25, p. 2, column 2.

   The first Congress ended on June 13, 1837 with no further action on the Travis County bill.  The Travis County bill had died.

 

Shepperd and Moody Found the Town of Montgomery

July 8, 1837 - Advertisement for the Town of Montgomery

Predictions made by Shepperd and Moody

   In the second paragraph of the advertisement, Montgomery town founders, W. W. Shepperd and J. W. Moody make a couple of bold predictions:

1. It is expected that a new county will be organized, at the next session of congress, embracing this section of country,...

2. ...in which event , the town of Montgomery from its central position, must be selected as the seat of justice.

Inside Information - creation of new county in next session and Montgomery would be county seat.

 

Petition for County with "No Name" - Petition #3

   The third petition sought the creation of a new county out of the territory of Washington County east of the Brazos River.  Unlike the Petition #1 above, the new petition did not suggest a name for the new county to be created. 

   The third petition is not a single piece of paper, but rather three similarly worded petitions that were apparently circulated in different parts of Washington County east of the Brazos River.  Click on the links below to see each of these three documents.

http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth32375/m1/3/?q=documents_washington_county

Now your petitioners Citizens of Washington County East of the Brazos river being desirous for a division of said County do petition for your honorable boddy - to make the Brazos river the dividing line between said Counties so as to throw our new County seats in the high healthy Prairies   as for the arrangements of the new Counties after that is done we are willing to abide the justice of Congress or the honesty of our own Citizens in fixing the other lines

To the Honorable Speaker of

The house of Representatives in

Congress assembled 

A. D. Kinnard                                          William McCoy         

Peter Tumlinson                                    Philip Goodbread

Jas. W. Parker                                        William E. Kinnard

Lorenzo D. Nixon                                    Michael Kinnard

Luther T. Plummer                                 Francisco Aviela

Zoraster Robinson                                  Abram Zuber

William C. Seaton                                   William P. Zuber 

Benjamin A Kinnard                               Joseph Henson

Jesay Gray                                               John Copelin

David E. London                                      Martin Copelin

Samuel [Unreadable]                               Joseph Copelin

J J Tumlinson                                            Richard Copelin

John Goodbread

__________

   We your petitioners Citizens of Washington County East of the Brazos River being desirous for a division of the County of Washington, do hereby petition for your honorable body to make the Brazos River the dividing line between said contemplated counties so as throw our county seat in the high healthy Prairies.

   As for the arrangements of the new county seats after that is done, we are willing to abide the justice of Congress or the honesty of our own citizens in fixing the other lines and locating the seat of Justice.

To the Honl. The Speaker of the

House of Representatives

Congress assembled

Eduardo [Unreadable]                            Charles Garett         

Dolores Arriola                                       J. Worsham

Ant. ? Rio                                                 Wiley B. D. Smith

Allen Ting                                                 L. Smith

C. B. Ridgello                                           W M Rankin

Caton Jones                                            Thos. Corner

Jackson Jones                                         [Unreadable]

Jos. L. Bennet                                          Peter Cartwright

Anto. Rivers                                             J. H. Shepperd

[Unreadable]                                              William Patterson

[Unreadable]                                              William C. Clark

Jacob Shannon                                        Richard Williams

John Corner                                              U. A. Springer

[Unreadable]                                              Archibald McGee

William S. Taylor                                      John Pyle

[Unreadable]                                               Hampton Fultons

Thomas Rankin                                         M. P. Clark

Thomas [Unreadable]                                Israel Worsham

[Unreadable]                                               John M. Springer                     

Robert Hall                                                 Joseph [Unreadable]

Hiram [Unreadable]                                    Bill Clark

Nathan [Unreadable]                                  William B. Pillow

[Unreadable] Bryan

__________

 

[Scan petiton dated October 13, 1837 here]

   Unlike the original petition to create Travis County (see above), this petition suggests no name for the new county.

Legislative History

September 25, 1837, Sam Houston calls Special Session of Congress of the Republic of Texas in Houston, Texas.

 

Petition Opposing the Creation of County with "No Name" - Petition #4

 

First Session of Second Congress

Legislative History of the Montgomery County Bill

 

   The First Session of Second Congress of the Republic of Texas began in November of 1837 in Houston, Texas.  In her book, The Texas Senate: Republic to Civil War, 1836-1861, on page 33, Patsy McDonald Spaw wrote,

   "The work completed in the Second Congress was less vital than its predecessor's.  Most of the called and regular sessions were taken up with "private" bills for relief of individual citizens, the incorporation of cities, the chartering of companies and the creation of counties."

 

House of Representatives - November 23, 1837 

Bill to Create County of Montgomery Reported

 

"...by the house.  Mr. Baker from the committee on county boundaries to whom was referred the petition of Washington county, praying for a new county, reported a bill to create the county of Montgomery: read a first time.  On motion of Mr. Gant the house gave leave..."

   For primary source, see the Saturday, December 16, 1837 edition of the Telegraph and Texas Register newspaper, vol. 3, No. 1, p.1 column 1.  Note: The town of Montgomery had been founded in July 1837; and now, the county which had been petitioned for without a name has one - "Montgomery."  Montgomery County is named after the town of Montgomery, Texas. 

   A similar account was with a slightly different wording was reported in the June 23, 1838 edition of the Telegraph and Texas Register.

House of Representatives -November 23, 1837

Report on Bill to Create Montgomery County

   "Mr. Baker, chairman of the committee on county boundaries, reported a bill, accompanied by the petition of sundry citizens of Washington county, for the creation of a new county to be called Montgomery county.  Read a first time."

 

   See the June 23, 1838 edition of the Telegraph and Texas Register newspaper.

 

Act Creating Montgomery County Originated in the House of Representatives

An Act Creating Montgomery County, Texas

Texas State Library and Archives Commission

An Act

Creating the County of Montgomery

 

I certify that the within act originated in the House of Representatives

Frances R. Lubbock

Chf.Clk. HR.

   The Act to form the new County of Travis (which did not become law) had originated in the Senate during the First Session of the First Congress of the Republic of Texas.  The Act creating Montgomery County originated in the House of Representatives of the Congress of the Republic of Texas during the First Session of the Second Congress.

 

Body of Act Creating the County of Montgomery

Act Creating Montogmery County

Texas State Library and Archives Commission

   This is an actual scan of the Act that created Montgomery County, Texas on December 14, 1837.

 

Close-Up of 1st Section of the Act Creating the County of Montgomery

Section 1. - Act Creating Montgomery County

Texas State Library and Archives Commission

"Sect. 1st    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the Republic of Texas, in Congress assembled, that all that part of the County of Washington lying east of the Brazos and south east Navasota Rivers, shall constitute and form a new County to be known and designated by the name of Montgomery County.   Sec. 2nd    Be [it] further enacted; that the..."

 

Signatures on the Act Creating the County of Montgomery

Sam Houston's Signature on the Act Creating Montgomery County, Texas on December 14, 1837

Texas State Library and Archives Commission

...Pond Creek, and thence in a direct line to the mouth of Beeson's Creek, thence up the Brazos River, to the mouth of the Navasota river.

approved

Sam Houston

Joseph Rowe

Speaker of the house of Representatives.

MIRABEAU B. LAMAR,

President of the Senate.

14th Dec 37

 

 

Creation of Montgomery County, December 14, 1837

As It Appeared in the Telegraph and Texas Register

Act Creating Montgomery County - Telegraph and Texas Register

   For primary source, see page 1 of the "Supplement to No. 117," Vol. III, No. 13, Whole No. 117, March 10, 1838 edition of the Telegraph and Texas Register newspaper.

 

Creation of Montgomery County, December 14, 1837

As It Appeared in Gammel's Laws of Texas

An Act Creating the County of Montgomery

Sec. 1.   Be it enacted,

Transcribe Act

[Cite Gammel's Laws of Texas]

Selection of Montgomery as county seat - Early 1838 - Before March 1, 1838 Commissioners Court meeting.

Location of Town moved on March 1, 1838.

   Following the first Montgomery County Commissioners' Court meeting held on March 1, 1838, in which W. W. Shepperd donated an equal half undivided interest in 200 acres of land at the new site of the county seat to Montgomery County, the Commissioners sought to sell lots in the new town of Montgomery on the hill.  They advertised the sale of lots in the Telegraph and Texas Register newspaper published in Houston, Texas.

Town Lots of Montgomery

Town Lots of Montgomery,

Seat of Justice for Montgomery county, For Sale. A Sale of Lots in the town of Montgomery will take place on the premises, on the 4th Monday of April instant.  Terms made known on the day of sale.

By order of the County Commissioners.

april 14.                                                                                             22-3t*

   This advertisement ran at least three times.  See the April 14, 1838, April 18, 1838, and April 21, 1838 editions of the Telegraph and Texas Register newspaper.

[Petition to move county seat of Washington County]

[Note on Gandy and his thesis and how he was missled by the misfiling of the Travis County Act as 1837 rather than 1836.  Grimes was not even in the Senate during the First Session of the Second Congress.  Gandy based his conclusions on a mistake made by others for concluding that there was some kind of competiton between the terms Travis and Montogmery in the Legislative session in which Montogmery County was created.]

Stewart letter to M. B. Lamar trying to correct southern boundary line.  See papers of Mirbeau B. Lamar, vol. 2, p. 544-546.

Judicial County of Spring Creek 1841

   On January 21, 1841, the Acting President David G. Burnett signed the following act into law creating the Judicial county of Spring Creek from the territory of Montgomery and Harris counties.

Judicial County of Spring Creek

County of Spring Creek 1841

   See the February 24, 1841 edition of Telegraph and Texas Register (Houston, Texas), Vol. 6, No. 14, page 2.

County of Spring Creek. Unconstitutional. Stockton v. Montgomery, 1842. Supreme Court Case.