Origin of Maverick

Cong Slayden Tells House Why Word Is Used

Congressman James L. Slayden, the Kentucky-born Democrat, who closes, March 4, 22 years' representation of the San Antonio (Texas) district, gave to the House the other day, in the course of an eloquent valedictory exposition of its history and resources of the "Lone Star" State this authentic account of the derivation and meaning of "maverick," as applied to unbranded cattle:

"An interesting case of perverted history is that of Samuel A. Maverick, a relative of Samuel Maverick, the Massachusetts lad, whose monument stands on Boston Common, with those of other bold patriots, who shed the first blood in the contest with King George's men in 1770. Mr Maverick was born in Charleston, S C, of well-to-do and distinguished parents, and educated at Yale College.

"Like many another bold and adventure-loving young man, he went to Texas in 1835 to seek his fortune. He arrived just in time to join in the revolution and to participate under Ben Milam in the assault on and capture of San Antonio. He was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and under the Republic represented the district of Bexar in the first Congress.

"In 1842 he and other citizens of San Antonio were captured by the Mexican General, Woll, and marched about 1200 miles through an almost waterless, treeless and footless desert to Southern Mexico, where he was imprisoned in the castle of Perote.

"For months he wore a ball and chain, still proudly exhibited by his sons, and worked in the quarries. Through the intercession of Waddy Thompson, then Minister from the United States to Santa Anna's turbulent autocracy, he was permitted to return to San Antonio in time to become a member of the last Congress of the republic, that which arranged by treaty for the admission of Texas into the American Union.

"And yet this brave and honorable man, who spent his entire adult life in constructive work for his country, has been the victim of a false and libelous story, told usually without malice, but with that preference for what is picturesque rather than that which is true, that has done such grave injustice to many of our Nation-building frontiersmen.

"Every Western man knows that the word 'maverick' is used to describe unbranded cattle, but few know the origin of its use. The Century Dictionary, in defining the word, quotes as authority an absolutely correct definition made by the late Col Roosevelt in the Century Magazine. Col Roosevelt says "unbranded cattle are called 'mavericks,' and when found on the 'round-up' are either branded by the owner of the range on which they are found or they are sold for the benefit of the association—of cattle raisers.

"Mr Maverick, a civil engineer by profession, like most enterprising men of that day went in heavily for land that could be bought at 5 and 10 cents per acre, and he never engaged in any other business. In 1845, while he was living temporarily at Decrows Point, on the Gulf Coast, a neighbor who owed him $1200 paid the debt in cattle at $3 per head.

"He did not want the cattle but took them and put them in the charge of some negroes, nominally slaves, but essentially free, and with his family returned to San Antonio. The cattle remained on the Gulf until 1853, when they were moved up to the San Antonio River, about 50 miles below the city of that name, and continued in the vigilant care of the same colored family.

"Mr Maverick was so occupied with public duties and other private affairs that he gave no attention to his herds. They were left to graze, to fatten and wander away at will on the prairies. His unbranded cattle found on the range were referred to as Maverick's, meaning that they belonged to the herd of Mr Maverick.

"They were so neglected that from the original stock of 400 taken over for debt in 1845 he still had just that number 11 years later when he sold them to Mr Toutant de Beauregard, a brother of the Confederate General from whom I had the story as well as from members of the family. I have seen all the letters that were written and received during those 11 years that referred to the cattle venture, and they established the accuracy of what I am saying.

"This, Mr Chairman, is the true story of the origin of the word Maverick."

Hon. James L. Slayden, Boston Daily Globe, Feb. 16, 1919, p. 32

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