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Sam McCulloch, Jr: a Texas Hero
  • History
Matt Sims

For a while now, I have been wanting to write some short historical blogs about obscure events or people that are not well known. I have decided to start out with a story about a true Texas hero who, despite facing significant challenges and discrimination, was able to overcome these obstacles. Not only did he persevere: he made a name for himself as a respected and successful member of society in a time where it was almost unheard of in the Southern United States.

Sam McCulloch Jr. was an African-American born in the Abbeville district of South Carolina in 1810. In 1815, he moved to Alabama with his white father, Samuel Sr., and his three sisters: Jane, Harriet, and Mahly.In 1835, the McCulloch family moved to Texas, like so many others during this time, and settled on the LaVaca river in what is now Jackson County. On October 5, 1835, Sam McCulloch joined the Matagorda Volunteer Company as a private to fight in the Texas Revolution. On October 9th, McCulloch and fifty other men attacked the Mexican garrison at Goliad. By many eyewitness accounts, he was the first soldier through the door. However, an enemy musket ball shattered his right shoulder during the battle. He is believed to be the first person wounded in the Texas Revolution.

McCulloch remained incapacitated at Goliad for three weeks before he was transportedby wagon to his father’s homestead where he began a long road to recovery. TheMcCullochs had to evacuate their home during the runaway scrape to escape the advancing Mexican Army. McCulloch was not able to have the musket ball removed until July of 1836, about nine months later! From there, it took McCulloch over a year to recover, though he would remain disabled for the rest of his life. However, he did not let that stop him. He was still able to fight against the Comanche Indians at the Battle of Plum Creek in August of 1840. And when Mexican General Adrian Woll invaded San Antonio in 1842, McCulloch served as a spy.

His permanent disability is not the only challenge he faced in newly-independentTexas. The Constitution of Texas had a clause that barred “all Africans and descendants of Africans and Indians” from citizenship. Free blacks had to apply toCongress for permanent residence in the Republic of Texas. In 1837, McCulloch petitioned for permanent residency for himself and his family along with his rights to receive grants of land. However, his petition was pushed aside because President Sam Houston had signed a law allowing all free blacks to have permanent residency if they were present at the time of the Texas Declaration of Independence on March 2, 1836. Thus, Mr. McCulloch was granted permanent residency - even though his petition itself was not addressed.

In August 1837, Samuel McCulloch married Mary Vess, the white daughter of Jonathan Vess. The McCullochs were never prosecuted for the ban on interracial marriage, and remained married until Mary passed away in 1847. They had four children and at least one of their sons, Lewis Clark McCulloch, fought during the civil war.

In December 1837, the Republic of Texas passed a law that granted one league of land (4,428 acres) to persons that had become permanently disabled in the service of Texas. Samuel McCulloch Jr. was granted his land in April of 1838 (though he did not claim it until 1850, when he found two-thirds of his league along the Medina River in Bexar Co., near present-day Van Ormy. He sold the rights to the remaining third of his league the following year). Finally, in 1852, he moved his family to his land in Bexar County, where he lived as a farmer and cattle owner. It is also worth noting that in 1858, after further petitioning, he received the original league of land that he was entitled to for settling in Texas prior to the Texas Declaration of Independence, which he had first been denied because of his race.

In his later years, Mr. McCulloch attended reunions for veterans and pioneers. On November 2, 1893, he passed away at the ripe old age of 83. His name was registered on the Texas Veteran's death roll in April 1894.

There is limited information available on the life of Samuel McCulloch Jr., but what is known suggests that he was a remarkable individual who faced adversity with courage and determination. He played a significant role in the defense of Texas during its early years as a republic. His story is a testament to the perseverance and strength of the human spirit.