A Guide to the Jeff Hamilton Interview, 1938
Jeff Hamilton (1840-1941) was born a slave on the Singleton Gibson plantation in Kentucky on April 16, 1840, and was taken from his mother in October 1853 to sell at auction in Huntsville. Senator Sam Houston was in town that day, noticed the crying child, and purchased him.
Houston took Hamilton to his home, where he was a playmate of the Houston children, a personal bodyguard and valet of Sam Houston, and had a close, loving relationship with the family. Hamilton was a driver for Houston during his two campaigns for governor. He learned not only reading, writing, and arithmetic but also had lessons on religion and responsibility with the Houston family. When Houston was elected governor of Texas in 1859, he appointed Hamilton as his office boy. Hamilton met many important historical figures during this period in his life and attended many important events. He was with Houston when the governor refused to take the oath to join the Confederacy. When Houston freed his slaves in October 1862, Hamilton remained with the family. He was Houston's personal body servant and was with him at the time of his death. Afterward, Hamilton moved with the Houston family to Independence, Texas, and remained with them until Mrs. Houston died. In Independence Hamilton helped the Houstons and worked as a janitor at Baylor College from 1889 to 1903. When the female college (now Mary Hardin-Baylor University) moved to Belton, Hamilton moved there too.
Throughout his life Hamilton remained an honorary member of the Houston family and attended all their reunions and special family events. During his later life he was honored throughout the United States for his association with leading historical figures of his lifetime. He spoke at many historical events, especially during the Texas Centennial, and was widely interviewed about his life as a slave and his life with the Houston family. Two Texas historical markers honor Hamilton, one at his gravesite and one on the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor campus in Belton.
Information taken from the Handbook of Texas Online.
Photocopy transcript of an interview with Jeff Hamilton relates to recollections of Sam Houston by Hamilton, a former servant to Houston. Interview conducted March 16, 1938.
Jeff Hamilton Interview, 1938, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
Detailed Description of the Papers