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John Moses Smith

May 2, 2012

Several years back, I was informed that I had a family member who was a traitor to the United States. I was told about Smith’s Point, and how it was named after him. At one point, my family even possessed a copy of the article that was written in the newspaper back then. Over time it has been lost, and I was not able to relocate it in my searches to learn more about this piece of my family legacy. I just thought it was a story that involved a person who was jailed for being a traitor. I did not realize it actually involved people like David Burnet, of course before this project I did not know who he was either. Also, it involved Sam Houston pardoning his John Moses’ son William for killing a man because he fought in the battle at San Jacinto, but refusing to do so for John Moses even though there was no evidence that he was there. It is kind of cool that I have relatives that are mentioned in history, even if it is very briefly. I was able to locate some articles online from the Handbook of Texas Online, which is published by the Texas State Historical Association. Below I have provided a they link, and also included a summary of the story passed along to me that my mother’s Uncle Hubert wrote.

Smith’s Point is located south of Anahuac about 70 miles driving distance from Houston. It is situated next to the Trinity Bay and Galveston Bay.

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This is the story passed down to me and also found in Hubert Smith’s book:

John Moses was said to be a tough and colorful character. He first shows up on history’s radar screen in 1803 at the age of 15 or 16. When in Mississippi, he got into a scrape and injured a man severely enough to require medical attention. In 1827 John Moses moved his family and slaves from Louisiana to Texas, and established a plantation in present day Liberty. At the time Texas was still a part of Mexico, and the Mexican government in Mexico City feared that the French or Spanish would force their way into occupy or claim “Tejas.”  John Moses was forced to relocate, so he moved his family and property to a point south of Anahuac. The area today is known as Smith Point, named after John Moses Smith.

John Moses’ problems began in Texas around the dispute to those loyal to the Mexican government and those wanting Texas to become independent from Mexico. John Moses chose his loyalty to Mexico. He tried to get in with the Mexican authorities, but was labeled as a traitor by his White neighbors.

William M. Smith, John’s oldest son, murdered Alfred Carroll, his sisters husband, during an argument on the plantation at Smith’s Point in October 7, 1835. There was no indication that John M. Smith had anything to do with the murder, but he was found guilty as an accessory to murder. His attorney, David G. Burnet appealed the conviction of John Moses and his son on March 30, 1836. Burnet had just been elected ad interim president of Texas. The two were to be sent to Washington-on-the-Brazos as directed by the President. While waiting to be taken to Harrisburg, John Moses feigned illness and escaped to Louisiana. On January 29, 1837, President Sam Houston issued William M. Smith a pardon for service at San Jacinto. In December 1836, John Moses and many citizens from Louisiana petitioned Sam Houston for a pardon of John Moses, but he refused.

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I really wish I could have found that article, it would have been awesome to be able to read it. I do remember one of my family members mentioning the article saying was very well known in Texas as a Tory. I was also told by someone in my family that he was hung at Smith’s Point, which I have found to be untrue. He just slipped away into the Louisiana background, and disappeared completely after a census in the 1840’s. Even though the story I learned through word of mouth had only a few more errors (like being hung at Smiths’ Point) in it than the one’s my uncle told, the story that I had learned has been true. I was also able to learn new knowledge like William M. Smith fighting at San Jacinto, and who David Burnet was. Overall, it was a pretty cool assignment, and I hope that one day I will find someone who has a copy of that article.

Robert Wooster, “SMITH POINT, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hrs51), accessed May 02, 2012. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Jean L. Epperson, “SMITH, JOHN MOSES,” Handbook of Texas Online(http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fsm66), accessed May 02, 2012. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Hubert Pickney Smith, “The Genealogy of Smith Family”

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From → Family Legends

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