Smith, Erastus (Deaf) ( 1787 Apr 19 - 1837 Nov 30 )
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SMITH, ERASTUS -- ("Deaf Smith") - Born in New York State April 19, 1787, the son of Chiliab and Mary Smith. In 1798 his parents moved to Mississippi and settled near Natchez. Erastus first came to Texas in 1817, but remained only a short time and nothing is recorded of his trip. He was of feeble health at the time, but his constitution soon was built up again. He returned to Texas in 1821 and made his headquarters at Bexar, and there in 1822 he married to Mrs. Guadalupe Ruiz Duran, widow of Vincente Duran.
Green DeWitt on April 15, 1825, had been officially granted a contract with the State of Coahuila and Texas to introduce four hundred families within designated boundaries, now embracing Dewitt, Guadalupe, Caldwell and portions of Lavaca and Karnes counties. He commissioned James Kerr of Missouri to select and lay out a site for a capital of the colony, and in August 1825 we find Kerr, Erastus Smith, Basil Durbin, Geron Hinds, John Wightman, James Musick, Mr. Strickland and some negro servant of Mr. Kerr engaged in this work. This site, abandoned the following year, is located near where the present city of Gonzales stands.
The outbreak of the Texas Revolution, the loyalty of Smith to Texas was a matter of uncertainty, due to his past associations with Mexicans. When Austin's army was organized at Gonzales, however, Smith was one of the first to enlist and it was not long before he had gained the confidence of all loyal Texans. He was detailed on scout duty, for which he was peculiarly fitted, being thoroughly acquainted with the manners and customs of the Mexicans, and with the topography of the frontier. He participated in the fight at Concepcion, where the first Texan, Richard (Big Dick) Andrews, fell in the actual revolution and marched at the head of F. W. Johnson's command as the Texans made their way into the city. While on top of the Veramendi House, December 5th, he was wounded, at the time the valiant Benjamin R. Milam was killed in the Veramendi yard.
Upon the reorganization of the army under General Sam Houston at Gonzales in March, 1836, Smith was assigned to the Cavalry Corps and put in command of recruits. While near Harrisburg he captured a courier with important dispatches to Santa Anna, disclosing the whereabouts of Santa Anna and his army. On the morning of April 21st, he destroyed the bridge over Vince's Bayou, and when the battle opened on that memorable day, he fought gallantly. After the battle he was sent by General Houston to overtake General Filisola and deliver to him orders from Santa Anna to retreat with his men from Texas soil.
After the fall of Bexar in 1835, Smith and his family moved to Columbia to live. While no longer connected with the Army, he was given permission to raise and command a company of rangers, using his own judgment as to where and how he should operate. On February 17, 1837, with twenty men under him, he fought a battle on a creek five miles from Laredo with a force of Mexicans superior in number. In his official report of the engagement, he stated that ten of the enemy had been killed and as many more wounded, and forty of their horses captured. Two Texans were wounded and none were killed. Smith stated that his object was "to raise the flag of Independence on the spire of the Catholic Church at Laredo."
On November 11, 1836, the President signed an Act of Congress under which Erastus Smith could be presented by the Republic of Texas and house and lot in San Antonio that Smith might choose. He selected the one owned by Ramon Musquiz situated on the north east corner of main square, now called Main Plaza, and within less than a block of the Veramendi House where Bowie won his bride and where Milam fell on December 7, 1835. In 1924 a patriotic organization placed a marker on the building standing on the site of the old Musquiz home with the following inscription on it:
Site of Governor Musquiz' residence. Here the women and children survivors of the Alamo Massacre were brought on March 6, 1836.
Possibly the markers were not aware of the fact that the Musquiz house had been presented to Deaf Smith by the Texas Government.
The location of the property is definitely established in deeds signed by Simona Smith Fisk and Gertrude Smith Tarin, daughters of Erastus, by which they disposed of their claimed interest in the estate. A third interest was also claimed by Refugio Duran de Tejada, wife of Jose Tejada and daughter of Guadalupe Ruiz and Vincente Duran.
The deed signed by Simona Smith and her husband James Nathaniel Fisk is recorded on Page 427, Volume H1 of the deed records of Bexar County and is as follows:
The State of Texas)
County of Bexar) Know all men by these presents that James N. Fisk and Simona Fisk, his wife, in consideration of the sum of Six hundred and Sixty six dollars and Sixty seven cents to the said Simona Fisk paid by D. J. Cook and A. A. Lockwood of said County the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged have granted bargained, sold , released and confirmed and by these presents do grant, bargain, sell, release and confirm unto C. J. Cook and A. O. Lockwood, their heirs and assigns forever all the estate right title, interest and claim of the said Simonia Fisk in and to a certain lot and house situated in said county in the City of San Antonio on the corner of the main Public Square and Commerce Street bounded on the north by Commerce Street on the East by a house and lot belonging to the Masonic Lodge, on the west by said public square, it being the same premises formerly owned by Ramon Musquiz and afterwards claimed by the heirs of Erastus Smith, deceased, by virtue of an Act of Congress of the Republic of Texas entitled "An Act for the relief of Erastus Smith", approved November 11th, 1836, the portion of said premises claimed and hereby conveyed by the said Simona Fisk being an undivided third part of the same inherited from her father Erastus Smith. Together with all and singular the rights, members, hereditaments and appurtenances to the same belonging or in anywise incident or appertaining and assigns forever free and forever discharges of all and every claim of the said Simona Fisk, her heirs, executors or administrators of the same or any part thereof. In witness whereof the said James N. Fisk and Simona Fisk, his wife, have hereunto set their hands and scrawls for seal this thirtieth day of October A. D. one thousand eight hundred and forty nine.
Sealed and delivered in the presence of
James N. Fisk (Seal)
Simona Smith y Fisk (Seal)
Gertrude Smith Tarin and her husband Macario Tarin disposed of their claimed interest to the estate to Cook and Lockwood, November 9, 1849 as is disclosed by a deed recorded on page 431, Volume H1.
Erastus Smith had without a doubt selected the Musquiz residence as his but had failed to secure a deed to it from the Republic and as a consequence the intended gift was never in reality made. Ramon Musquiz, claiming it as his own sold it to Cook and Lockwood for $3,500.00 as is shown by a deed of November 5, 1849 recorded on Page 432, Volume H1. Cook and Lockwood in order to clear the title purchased the property from Musquiz and the heirs of Erastus Smith.
Erastus Smith was married to Mrs. Guadalupe Ruiz y Duran, widow of Vincente Duran, in San Antonio in 1822 and to them were born three children, Susan Conception, born August 15, 1823, Gertrude date of birth not known, and Simona, born October 28, 1829 in the Mission Espada.
Susan Conception was married to Nathaniel Fisk, November 12, 1839. She died January 22, 1849, and on August 1, 1849 Mr. Fisk was married to Simona.
Nathaniel Fisk was born in Scranton, Vermont, September 4, 1815, and emigrated to Texas in 1835, serving three months in the armies in the companies of Captains Jesse Billingsley and William E. Howth. He died April 5, 1876 and his wife Simona died November 11, 1890. Both are buried in the Alamo Masonic Cemetery at San Antonio.
Gertrude was married to Macario Tarin. The dates of their death are at present unknown to this writer. They were living in San Antonio in 1867.
Erastus Smith died in Richmond, Texas November 30, 1836. The State of Texas in 1931 erected a monument at his grave. His widow died May 1, 1849 and was buried in a Catholic Cemetery at San Antonio. Her grave is lost.
Deaf Smith County, Texas, was named in honor of the famous spy and on January 19, 1931, a monument erected by the state of Texas was unveiled at his grave at Richmond, Texas. Senator Thomas Holbrook of Galveston wasthe principal speaker.
Received title to one league of land December 25, 1833 in Austin's Second Colony in what is now Guadalupe County. On October 5, 1835 he received title to one fourth of a league of land in Robertson's Colony situated in the present county of Robertson. The Telegraph and Texas Register (Columbia) of September 6, 1836 carried this item: "Born to Mrs. Erastus Smith a son August 31st."
Some of the descendants of Erastus Smith are Mrs. Joseph K. Charnal of San Antonio; Mrs. O. F. Brown, Fred O. Brown, Thyea McCarty, Patty McCarty, Mr. O. M. Farnsworth, and Mrs. H. R. Wofford.
The widow of Mr. Smith died in San Antonio in 1842, leaving their two children Trinidad Travis and Simona. Trinidad was educated by R. A. Martin of Baldwin, Mississippi. Simona was married to I. N. Smith of San Antonio.
On October 15, 1835, Dr. Charles B. Stewart addressed the following letter to Stephen F. Austin:
The bearer Erasmus Smith is well known to you -- I have conversed with him and learned that the cavalry of San Antonio are dissatisfied to the cause with which they are serving. He thinks he can render Service to us in a certain way - Do consider if something cannot be done by assurances to the dissatisfied through this channel.
C. B. STEWART.
N. B. He is well known to me perhaps you may not recall him immediately--having traveled with him and received service and assistance at his hands perfectly disinterested, I believe that he can be trusted to any extent his abilities and infirmity may warrant.
The following is from a message from Governor Henry Smith to the President and members of the General Council, December 23, 1835:
"By verbal request of officers, who have been in command at Bexar, I am informed that a Mr. Smith, a deaf man, well known to the army for his vigilance and meritorious acts, has been severely wounded in storming Bexar, and that his family are daily expected in this place, with an expectation that the Council would exercise such guardianship over them as their situation may require. Their head remains in camp, as his services as a spy cannot well be dispensed with."
The Legislature on February 13, 1854 granted to the heirs of Deaf Smith 2 leagues of land to be divided in sections of 640 acres each, one-third to Gertrude Tarin, daughter; one-third to Simona Fisk, daughter; one third to James G. and Ophelia Fisk, minor children of Susan, deceased daughter of Erastus Smith.
(Gammel's Laws of Texas Vol. 4, pages 170-171)
The following is a copy of a petition on file in Memorials and Petitions, Archives, Texas State Library, Austin.
To the Honorable The General Council of the Provisional Government of Texas.
Citizen Hendrick Arnold, most respectfully represents to your Honorable House, that he arrived last night in the neighborhood of this town, with the wife and family of his father-in-law, Erastus Smith, who are in a state of destitution and thrown upon the sympathies and generosity of their fellow citizens of Texas. They have been reduced thereto by the present struggle for liberty, in which Erastus Smith has sacrificed his all, and has been wounded and now by me, respectfully and earnestly solicits the aid of your Honorable House for his indigent family.
San Felipe de Austin 4th January, 1836. Hendrick Arnold.
The following was extracted from a letter written by Miss Helen Wilkinson Reynolds, 56 Grand Avenue, Poughkeepsie, New York, August 11, 1936 to L. W. Kemp, Houston
. I wonder whether there is a definite tradition among his descendants that Deaf Smith's father's name was "Chiliab"? The name is one I never heard before. Is there any chance that the original census record in Washington could have been misread and the name really been "Caleb"?
The printed census of 1790 for Dutchess County gives "Chiliab" Smith as a resident of the town of Washington, with a household consisting of 1 male (including head of family) and 2 females (including head of family); Their statistics do not allow for a boy of three, as Deaf Smith would have been in 1790.
Chiliab Smith's name occurs next after the name of Silas Waddle I know exactly where Silas (Wodell, he was really) lived - a mile or so east of the present village of Millbrook on the main road to Amenia and Sharon. Chiliab Smith presumably lived not far from him. Next after the name of Chiliab Smith is that of Joel Smith.
The census of the state, 1790, shows six Joel Smiths and twelve Caleb Smiths. One of the Joels was at Huntington, Suffolk County, Long Island, one of the Calebs at Smithtown, Suffolk County. All the others were in localities which were settled by many migrants from Long Island. On Long Island were two distinct Smith families, numerous and well known.
I am "guessing" that Chiliab Smith and Joel Smith of this town of Washington may have descended from Long Island stock.
In the town of Washington there was, I believe, no Baptist Church in 1790. About six miles north at the place where Silas "Waddle" lived is Bangall, in the town of Stanford, where there was a Baptist Church before the Revolution but whether the register of that church has survived and covers 1787 I do not know. The Society of Friends formed a large element in Washington.
San Antonio Public Library
San Antonio, Texas
August 6, 1936.
Mrs. Henry Wofford
San Antonio, Texas
Dear Mrs. Wofford:
Referring to your request for information concerning Deaf Smith:
For entry see HEADS OF FAMILIES, Census 1790, page 96, column 2 item 7. (Note spelling "Chiliab" Smith.
According to a foot-note in Dudley Wooten's A COMPREHENSIVE HISTORY OF TEXAS, vol. 1:122: 'Erastus Smith (known as "Deaf" Smith because he was hard of hearing) was the son of Chiliab and Mary Smith, born in New York on the 19th of April, 1787. At the age of eleven years he emigrated with his parents to the Mississippi territory and settled near Natchez. His parents were exemplary members of the Baptist church and gave him such moral and intellectual training as circumstances....would permit. He first came to Texas in 1817....He soon returned home but in 1821 he came to Texas for the purpose of making his home'.
We quote this information hoping that the old Baptist Church records of Dutchess County, New York, may be available to you.
Signed: Minnie B. Cameron, Reference Librarian.
Written by Louis W. Kemp, between 1930 and 1952. Please note that typographical and factual errors have not been corrected from the original sketches. The biographies have been scanned from the original typescripts, a process that sometimes allows for mistakes in the new text. Researchers should verify the accuracy of the texts' contents through other sources before quoting in publications. Additional information on the veteran may be available in the Herzstein Library.
- Died in Battle: No
- Rank: Private
- Company: Capt. William H. Smith
- Alternate Names: Erastes
- Date of Birth: 1787 Apr 19
- Birthplace: New York, Dutchess County
- Origin: Mississippi
- Came to Texas: 1821
- Date of Death: 1837 Nov 30
- Other Battles: Concepcion; Grass Fight; Bexar
- Comments: Destroyed Vince's Bridge
- Wife: Maria Guadalupe Ruiz Durán
- Children: Susan Concepcion Smith Fisk; Maria Gertrudis Smith Tarin; Simona Smith Fisk; Travis Smith
- Family at San Jacinto: Step son-in-law Hendrick Arnold fought at San Jacinto.