Maverick South Carolinian

Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary defines maverick as "an unbranded animal, esp. a motherless calf, formerly customarily claimed by the one first branding it; a refractory or recalcitrant individual who bolts his party or group and initiates an independent course." The word derives from "S. A. Maverick (1803-1870), a Texas cattle owner who did not brand his cattle." There's more to the story.

Samuel Augustus Maverick, the son of Sam and Elizabeth Maverick of Montpelier Plantation, was born July 23, 1803, in Pendleton, South Carolina. He studied law under Henry St. George Tucker at Winchester, Virginia, was admitted to the bar of South Carolina on May 6, 1829, and was graduated from Yale.

He left South Carolina because of his opposition to nullification. He went to the Cherokee Nation, Scudder's Post Office in the Federal Reserve, to Augusta, Georgia, and to Lauderdale County, Alabama. On March 16, 1835, he left Lauderdale County and arrived in San Antonio de Bexar (Texas) on September 8, 1835, just a few days before the Grand Independence Celebration which was held on the 16th of September.

Samuel A. Maverick was a delegate to the convention that prepared the Texas Declaration of Independence in 1836; however, high waters delayed his arrival until March 3, the day after the document was completed. He later participated in the drafting of the Constitution of the Republic of Texas. He was elected twice Mayor of San Antonio, Texas, many times to the Texas Congress and State Legislature, and finally Chief Justice of Bexar County, Texas.

The Maverick character is evident in the Perote Prison story. In September, 1842, the Mexican government sent an expedition under the command of General Adrian Woll to regain Texas. On Sunday, September 11, 1842, 100 Mexican citizens and 75 Americans (one of these being Maverick) attempted to defend San Antonio against the invading army of approximately 2,000. In the course of the Mexican victory, Maverick and others were taken prisoner. The prisoners were force-marched eighteen hundred miles to Perote Prison in Mexico where they suffered severe hardships. During this imprisonment Maverick had an opportunity to be released from prison by President Santa Anna on condition he would promise to support a token reannexation of Texas by Mexico.

According to the United States minister, General Waddy Thompson, Maverick stated: "I cannot persuade myself that such an annexation on any terms, would be advantageous to Texas, and I therefore cannot say so, for I regard a lie as a crime, and one which I cannot commit even to secure my release; I must, therefore, continue to wear my chains, galling as they are." General Thompson was able to secure the release of Maverick and two others on March 29, 1843.

In 1847, Maverick accepted four hundred head of cattle in payment of a twelve-hundred dollar debt. These cattle were kept on his ranch on the Matagorda Peninsula. In 1854, Maverick had the cattle moved to Conquista ranch, which was located on the banks of the San Antonio River about fifty miles south of San Antonio. He probably had the cattle branded at the time they were transferred, since branding was necessary to establish ownership when cattle ranges were not fenced. Anyone could claim unbranded cattle. In 1856, Maverick sold the cattle to A. Toutant Beauregard, who was to round up the cattle as a part of the contract. Whenever they found an unbranded yearling, they assumed it was Maverick's, or, as they began to say, "a maverick." All of these yearlings were then branded. As the cowboys told this story in their travels, the word "maverick" soon became used to mean any unbranded cattle. Eventually, the word "maverick" came to mean anyone who strayed from the established way or tradition.

Carroll Ainsworth McElligott, Carologue, May-June 1986, p. 1

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