Albert and Ethel Herzstein Library, San Jacinto Museum of History

Adele Briscoe Looscan Collection

John Birdsall Papers, Manuscript Collection: MC067

Collection Summary

Creator: Birdsall, John, 1802-1839
Title: John Birdsall papers
Dates: 1837-1850
Dates: (Bulk: 1837-1839)
Abstract: The estate papers of John Birdsall, legal and financial documents, and a single letter record the brief law career of John Birdsall in Texas.
Identification: MC067
OCLC Record No.: 50105479
Quantity: 61 items
Language: Materials are in English.
Repository: Albert and Ethel Herzstein Library, San Jacinto Museum of History, La Porte, Texas

Creator Sketch

John Birdsall was born in Greene, New York, in 1802, the son of Maurice Birdsall and Ann Pixley and the grandson of Lewis Birdsall and Patience Lee Birdsall. He was the cousin of Jane Birdsall Harris. Birdsall received his legal training in New York and held several legal positions there including those of circuit judge, appointed by Governor DeWitt Clinton, and state senator in 1832 and 1833. In 1837, he moved to Harrisburg, Texas, and formed a partnership with Thomas J. Gazley and became a friend of President Sam Houston. Houston appointed Birdsall attorney general for the Republic of Texas and Birdsall was confirmed unanimously by the Senate. When Houston later appointed Birdsall chief justice pro tempore his nomination was defeated. On January 8, 1839, Birdsall and Houston became law partners. John Birdsall died of yellow fever on July 22, 1839.

Of John Birdsall's fast rise within the Texas government, his uncle, Lewis A. Birdsall wrote, "had he lived, he would have been the next president." John Birdsall married Ann Whiteside and had two sons. In 1836 he married Sarah Peacock.

Scope and Content Note

The estate papers of John Birdsall, legal and financial documents, and a single letter record the brief law career of John Birdsall in Texas. Correspondence, statements of account, receipts, deeds, inventories and agreements document the settlement of Birdsall's estate. Of interest are a mortician's bill (1839) and a power of attorney given to Thomas William Ward by DeWitt Clinton Harris as executor of the Birdsall estate. Two inventories concern Birdsall's private possessions and property and his possessions jointly owned as a partner of Houston and Birdsall. Records created in the law practice of Houston and Birdsall (12), agreements between Sam Houston and John Birdsall (1) and Thomas J. Gazley and Birdsall (1), deeds (7), and a power of attorney illuminate the professional and personal legal business conducted by John Birdsall. Six statements of account and receipts (1838-1839) and a single letter from Thomas Shepherd also concern business matters.


Organized into four series: Correspondence, Financial, Legal, and Estate of Jobn Birdsall; arrangement is chronological.


Restrictions on Access


Terms Governing Use

Open for research by appointment.

Publication Rights

Copyright has not been assigned to the San Jacinto Museum of History. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Library Director. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the San Jacinto Museum of History as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the researcher.

Index Terms

Birdsall, John, 1802-1839--Archives
Gazeley, Thomas J., 1798-1853
Houston, Sam, 1793-1863
Shepherd, Thomas
Ward, Thomas William, 1807-1872
Houston and Birdsall (firm)
Land tenure--Texas
Harris County (Tex.)

Archivist's Note

Other related papers from the Adele Briscoe Looscan Collection include the Andrew Briscoe Papers, the DeWitt Clinton Harris Papers, the Adele Briscoe Looscan Papers, and the Mary Jane Harris Briscoe Papers. All photographs are located in the Adele Briscoe Looscan Papers. Transcripts of John Birdsall's letters are located in the Adele Briscoe Looscan Papers, MC041, 125-02.

Administrative Information


[Identification of Item], John Birdsall Papers, MC067, San Jacinto Museum of History, Houston, Texas.


Mr. and Mrs. George A. Hill, Jr., Houston Public Library, Annie Hume, 1939-1940.

Processing Information

Processed by Sandra Eileen Yates, 2002.


"Birdsall, John." The Handbook of Texas Online.



box folder
89.1 1 Correspondence, undated


box folder
89.1 2 Statements of Account, Receipts, 1838-1839, undated


box folder
89.1 3 Houston & Birdsall, 1839, undated
4 Agreements, 1839
5 Deeds, 1837-1840
6 General, 1838-1839

Estate of John Birdsall

box folder
89.1 7 Correspondence, 1839-1840, undated
8 Financial: Accounts, 1839-1842, undated
9 Financial: Bill, Receipts, 1839-1842, undated
10 Legal: Deeds, Estate Inventories, 1839-1850, undated
11 Legal: General, 1840-1841