Stephen F. Austin State University

Patrick Churchill Jack (December 2013)

Patrick Churchill Jack
By Kevin Ladd

Much has been written about William Barret Travis and his role in the historic events of Fort Anahuac in 1832. Travis, as they say, is considered to be standing in the front row of the great pantheon of Texas history figures. Somewhat further back in the recesses stands Patrick C. Jack, the gentleman who was also incarcerated with Travis by Juan Davis Bradburn in 1832. Who was Jack and what was his role in Texas history?

Patrick Churchill Jack was born on August 1, 1806 in Wilkes, Georgia. He was one of twelve children born to Col. Patrick C. Jack and his wife Harriet Spencer. Several sons of this couple fought on behalf of Texas in its struggle for independence from Mexico. As educated lawyers, his sons served as distinguished jurists and held offices for the Republic of Texas and the State of Texas. Col. Jack, the father of our subject, fought bravely in the War of 1812, commanding a company in the 8th U.S. Infantry regiment, and later represented Elbert County, Georgia in the state assembly.

After practicing law in Jefferson County, Alabama, for three years, Jack moved to Texas in 1830 and on April 6, 1831, was issued title to one-fourth of a league of land in Stephen F. Austin's second colony in the area of present Grimes County. Jack, one of the men whose imprisonment led to the so-called Anahuac Disturbances in the spring of 1832, was a delegate from the district of Liberty to the conventions of 1832 and 1833. His association with this area, therefore, appears to have been only of a few months - a little over a year at the most. It might be noted, however, that two of Patrick's brothers, Spencer and William H. Jack, both marched on Anahuac in 1832 and helped to secure the release of their older brother.

Patrick C. Jack later moved to the Brazoria Municipality, which he represented in the House of the Second Congress of the Republic of Texas from September 29, 1837, to November 13, 1838. Jack married Margaret E. Smith at Houston on October 30, 1838. He was appointed district attorney of the First Judicial District on February 1, 1840, and of the Sixth District on March 15, 1841, by President Mirabeau B. Lamar. Like many heroes of the Texas Revolution, Jack left this world at a young age. He contracted yellow fever in Houston and died there on August 4, 1844 at the age of 38. He was initially buried in the City Cemetery there under the auspices of Holland Masonic Lodge No. 1, of which he was a member.

But Jack's remains were destined to be moved twice more. The body was first moved and reburied at Lake View Cemetery in Galveston. The remains were exhumed once more on February 10, 1942 and reinterred in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin.

The state legislature on August 27, 1856, established Jack County from Cooke County, although the act does not spell out who the county was named for. Historian Homer S. Thrall contended the county was named in honor of Patrick C. Jack and his younger brother William H. Jack (1806-1844). William Houston Jack died of yellow fever only sixteen days after Patrick's death.

The third brother to come to Texas - Spencer Houston Jack - is also mentioned in the history books. The Handbook of Texas says: "[Spencer] Jack was the first colonist to draw Mexican blood in resistance to Mexican authority. On November 24, 1831, George Fisher ordered shipmasters to obtain clearance at Anahuac before sailing from the Brazos and certain other ports. Compliance for a vessel docked on the lower Brazos necessitated an overland journey of 200 miles or more, round-trip. On December 15, 1831, the Sabine, commanded by Capt. Jeremiah Brown, ran past the Mexican barracks at the mouth of the Brazos with cotton bales arranged on deck to protect the passengers and crew. The Mexican fusillade damaged only the ship's rigging. The Nelson, under Capt. Samuel Fuller, following in the Sabine's wake, also drew fire that slightly wounded Captain Fuller, who then called for his rifle, which Jack, a passenger, seized and fired, wounding one of the soldiers in the thigh. On Christmas Day the Spica, commanded by Capt. Isaiah Doane of Boston, also sailed from the Brazos without clearance. Gen. Manuel de Mier y Terán issued an order to arrest Jack and thus prevented his immediate return to Texas." Spencer died about 1838, possibly as late as 1840.

All three of the brothers are buried together in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin -- a unique honor among the honored dead of this State.