Word Origins & the Biography of Sam Maverick Part 1

About the history and biography of Sam Maverick the man whose name came to mean a rebel or outlaw.


SAM MAVERICK (1803-1870)

maverick ('mav-(e-)rik) n. 1. An unbranded or orphaned range calf or colt, traditionally considered the property of the first person who brands it. 2. A horse or steer that has escaped from a herd. 3. a. One who refuses to abide by the dictates of his group; a dissenter. b. One who resists adherence to or affiliation with any single organized group or faction; an independent.

While still a young man living in a small South Carolina town, Samuel Augustus Maverick saw his father being rudely interrupted while speaking against secession at a public meeting. He challenged the young heckler to a duel, wounded him, then carried him to his own home and cared for him until he recovered. It was a typical thing for the impetuous young lawyer to do, but the provocation for the duel persuaded him that South Carolina in the 1830s was no place for a convinced antisecessionist. He had heard much talk of Texas; Texas was the frontier of the South. It was danger and hardship, but it was also opportunity. He determined to go there.

Sam Maverick was 32 years old when he first rode into San Antonio a few weeks before the outbreak of the Texas war for independence. Sensing the coming conflict, he walked about making mental notes of the layout of the town and of where the river could safely be crossed. After the Mexican forces had occupied San Antonio, taken him prisoner, and then duly released him (on the condition that the return to the U.S), Maverick rode straight to the main Texan force, camped 10 mi. below the town. There he climbed upon a tree stump and harangued the troops, urging them to storm the town and offering to guide them himself. This he did, and five days later recorded in his journal: "White flag of surrender sent us."

This initial success led to his election as the San Antonio representative to the Independence Convention held at Washington-on-the-Brazos. There he signed the document by which Texas declared her independence from Mexico. Not until later did he learn that during his absence his fellow San Antonians had died, almost to a man, at the Alamo.

Rather than trust the mails, Maverick returned in person to South Carolina to reassure his family that he was still alive. There he met and married a remarkable young woman whose subsequent diary of their life together provides a vivid glimpse of Texas frontier existence. A year after their wedding, Sam and his wife, Mary Ann, set out with their baby, young Sam, and 10 slaves (four of them children) for the new republic. They skirmished with Indians several times on the way, and Mary Ann described another encounter soon after their arrival: "Our Negro men plowed and planted one labor above the Alamo and were attacked by Indians. Griffin and Wiley ran into the river and saved themselves. The Indians cut the traces and took off the work animals and we did not farm there again."

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