John William Smith

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John William Smith
Mayor of San Antonio
In office
1837 – 1838; 1840 – 1841; 1842 – 1844
Personal details
Born (1792-11-04)November 4, 1792
Died January 12, 1845(1845-01-12) (aged 52)
Spouse(s) Harriet Stone
Maria Jesusita Curbelo
Profession Senator
Public Servant

John William Smith (November 4, 1792 – January 12, 1845) (born William John Smith in Virginia) was a Texas political figure, the first mayor of San Antonio under the Republic of Texas and the first mayor of San Antonio under the state of Texas. He supported and served Texas during the struggle for Texas Independence.

Early life[edit]

Smith was born as the second son of John and Isabel Smith. He grew up in Ralls County, Missouri after moving from his birth state of Virginia, and received an expensive education. He married Harriet Stone in Hannibal, Missouri sometime between 1821 and 1822. They had two children, both of whom lived.

His first elected position was in 1822 as Sheriff of Ralls County and State and County tax Collector. He resigned from the post in 1826 to move to Texas following the birth of his third child. His wife refused to accompany him and filed for divorce. She ultimately came to Texas with her second husband.

Move to San Antonio[edit]

Smith moved to Mexican Texas and settled in San Antonio. In Texas, he changed his first and middle names around because "William" was difficult for Mexicans to pronounce. He was known throughout the town as "El Colorado", Spanish for "Redhead". He served as in the city as military storekeeper until 1835 also working as a surveyor (like his Texas contemporaries; James Kerr, Byrd Lockhart, and Arthur Swift ) and a civil engineer. While in the city (San Fernando Cathedral to be exact), he converted to Roman Catholicism and married a 15-year-old Spanish (her [1] great grandfather Juan Curbelo came from the Canary Islands) girl named Maria Jesusita Curbelo.[2]

Texas Revolution[edit]

Through time, Smith had become upset by the occupation of San Antonio by Mexican Colonel Domingo Ugartechea. He was arrested with A. C. Holmes and Samuel Maverick and was saved by his wife's pleas, which enabled him to escape and guide the final assault in the Siege of Bexar.[3]

He served twice as a messenger during the Siege of the Alamo. On February 23, Smith and Sutherland were sent by Travis as scouts to access the Mexican Army's strength and position. Upon locating the Mexican Army in strength, he immediately returned to the Alamo. That evening he was dispatched to Gonzales, Texas with a message from Travis. He returned to the Alamo from Gonzales, Texas on March 1. Before the final battle of the Alamo and its fall, William B. Travis sent Smith with a message for Washington-on-the-Brazos, allowing him to escape the fate that all Texas soldiers defending San Antonio ultimately succumbed to. After delivering the message, he returned with men to fight in the battle but heard no gunfire as their horses drank at Cibolo Creek. He was informed that the battle of the Alamo was over and headed eastward to fight at San Jacinto, where independence was won. [4]

Mayor of San Antonio[edit]

The city close to the time of Smith's mayorship

He was elected Mayor on September 19, 1837 and served until 1838. As mayor, he prohibited public bathing in the San Antonio River and San Pedro Creek between the hours of 5 a.m. and 8 p.m. He established that businesses must close at 9 p.m. on Sunday, and allowed for milk cows in Downtown as long as they were milked and in the corral before 10 p.m. Smith also regulated dog ownership, taxing citizens $2.00 for bitches and $0.50 for males. Although he did not run for re-election in 1838, he would run in 1840 and was elected. He served his second time as mayor until 1844. During this time, he constructed the city's first bridge across the San Antonio River on Commerce Street.

He was for a time postmaster of San Antonio.

Other positions he held in Bexar County were alderman, tax assessor, clerk of the County Court, clerk of the Board of Land Commissioners, clerk of the County Probate Court, county treasurer.[5]

Senator of the Republic[edit]

During the Republic years, Smith served as a commissioner, to treat with the Indians of Texas.

From 1842 to January 12, 1845, he served the Republic as a Texas Senator. [6]


He died on January 12, 1845, most likely from pneumonia. He is regarded as a hero and was honored as such upon his death.

He was buried at the Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historical Park, but his remains were later transferred to Washington Cemetery which is located on 19724 Washington Cemetery Rd, Washington, Texas in Washington County, where his body remains today.[7]


  1. ^ 1937 Chabot "With the Makers Genealogies ..." book
  2. ^ Zelime Vance Gillespie II, John William Smith: Soldier, Messenger, Patriot [1]
  3. ^ TAMU
  4. ^ Surviving Couriers & Foragers
  5. ^ Cecil Collins Scanlan, "SMITH, JOHN WILLIAM," Handbook of Texas Online [2], accessed May 17, 2011. Published by the TSHA.
  6. ^ Cecil Collins Scanlan, "SMITH, JOHN WILLIAM," Handbook of Texas Online [3], accessed May 17, 2011. Published by the TSHA.
  7. ^ Find A Grave

External links[edit]

Preceded by
William H. Daingerfield
Ludovic Colquhoun
(1842 abducted by Mexican Army)
Republic of Texas Senate
Republic of Texas Senator from Bexar District

Succeeded by
Smith was last before statehood