A Guide to the George Washington Smyth Papers, 1819-1892, 1912-1960
George Washington Smyth (1803-1866), congressman and signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence and Constitution, was born in North Carolina as eldest son of Andrew and Susannah Smyth. In 1827 or 1828, George came to Texas and in 1830 settled in Bevil’s Settlement (near present-day Jasper), where he married Frances M. Grigsby (1809-1888) in 1834. The couple had seven children, including George Washington, Jr.
The Mexican government appointed Smyth as a surveyor, then as a commissioner of titles to issue titles to colonists entitled to Mexican land grants. He served as delegate from Jasper to the Convention of 1836 and signed the Texas Declaration of Independence.
In 1839, President Mirabeau B. Lamar appointed Smyth as Texas commissioner to help set the boundary line between the Republic of Texas and the United States. In 1844, he served in the Texas House of Representatives as a strong proponent to annexation. He then took part in the Convention of 1845, which developed the first Constitution of the State of Texas.
Smyth continued his involvement in the State of Texas’s politics, becoming the second commissioner of the General Land Office in 1848. After four years, he left to serve as Democratic elector and then from 1853 to 1855 as Congressman from the First Congressional District of Texas in the US House of Representatives. As an opponent to the passage of a law to allow the African slave trade in Texas, he ran for and barely lost the position as State Comptroller. Although Smyth opposed secession, he stayed loyal to Texas during the Civil War and encouraged his sons to fight for the Confederacy, which they did.
After the war, Jasper elected Smyth as representative to the Constitutional Convention of 1866. Against the advise of his doctors, he went to Austin, where he died on February 21, 1866.
George Washington Smyth Papers, 1819-1892, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
Wooster, Robert. “Smyth, George Washington (1803-1866).” Handbook of Texas Online, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/SS/fsm51.html (accessed February 22, 2010).
Correspondence, receipts, financial papers, plats, field notes, memoranda, notebooks, speeches, and newspaper clippings comprise the papers of George Washington Smyth and his family. The collection concerns Smyth’s career and interests in land affairs, the widening and dredging of East Texas rivers, Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, state’s rights, Mexican War, Wilmot Proviso, Oregon settlement, and Secession. Also included are an autobiography written in 1857; personal and financial affairs of Smyth’s family and friends; and business affairs of the mercantile establishments operated by his sons after the Civil War, such as Smyth and Beatty (to 1871), Smyth and Bro. (1871-1878), and Smyth and Seale (1878-1880).
The Fannie Smith Papers contain correspondence among the Smyth family about the movement of Smyth’s widow’s body to the state cemetery, erecting the monument at George Washington Smyth’s homestead in Jasper in 1936, and about erecting a gravestone for Mamy Sylla, beloved servant of Frances Smyth.
This collection is open for research use.
George Washington Smyth Papers, 1819-1892, 1912-1960, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
Revised by Laurel Rozema, February 2010.
Detailed Description of the Papers