John York, Indian fighter and soldier in the Texas Revolution, was born in Kentucky on July 4, 1800. He moved to Texas in 1829 and was soon engaged in leading expeditions against the Indians. During the Texas Revolution, the Convention of 1835 at San Felipe appointed him a first lieutenant in the regular infantry in the Texas army. As such he participated in James W. Fannin’s search in the Frio and Medina river areas in November 1835 for Domingo de Ugartechea, then bringing Mexican reinforcements to Martín Perfecto de Cos at Bexar. That same month Stephen F. Austin appointed York, along with Edward Burleson, as appraiser of horses and equipment of the Texan volunteers at Bexar. In early December 1835 York participated as a captain in the Siege of Bexar. On December 20, 1835, he was elected a captain in the legion of cavalry under Lt. Col. William B. Travis. Later the General Council appointed him one of the agents to raise a mounted company to fight Indians in the Mill Creek (in present Austin County) and Colorado River areas. In January 1837 he was serving as county sheriff, and in 1840 he was listed as owning one slave, twenty-five cattle, twenty workhorses, and one “pleasure carriage.” In March 1844 York was among the six men appointed commissioners by the Republic of Texas Congress to select the seat of Austin County, and in 1846 he was elected one of the commissioners for newly established DeWitt County, where he had resettled on Coleto Creek. Two years later he sold his half interest in a league of land for one dollar in cash. The purchasers agreed to lay out the town of Yorktown, named in his honor, and York was to retain each alternate lot, block, and acre lot. The veteran soldier was chosen to lead his neighbors, including Robert Justus Kleberg, in a retaliatory campaign against Indians in October 1848. York and his son-in-law, James Madison Bell, were among those killed on October 11 on Escondida Creek in a battle that generated much notorious publicity. York was buried eight miles east of Yorktown in the same grave with Bell. The state erected a marker at the gravesite in 1936.
L. B. Franks was commander of the Texan artillery during the Siege of Bexar. On November 27, 1835, Gen. Edward Burleson, commander of the Texas forces, appointed Franks lieutenant colonel of the Texan artillery – comprising two cannons and fifteen gunners – and, due to the illness of James C. Neill, Franks served as artillery commander at the siege of Bexar, December 5–9, 1835. His one twelve-pounder, however, became unmounted, and the artillery did little effective service in the fight. Although fearful that the enemy had received a large-caliber mortar that would be damaging to the assaulting troops, Franks advised that the Texans not retreat but press home their attack on the Alamo. His irritation at Burleson’s aide-de-camp, Peter W. Grayson, for failing to forward reinforcements to the troops assaulting the Mexican fortifications caused him, on the third day of the battle, to send an intemperate note to Grayson, who thereupon withdrew from the army. Later that month Grayson and Franks met at San Felipe, and as a result of the meeting Franks published an apology to Grayson acknowledging that his note “was an unjust and wanton attack upon his feelings and character,” for which Franks asked Grayson’s pardon. The note, however, also drew the wrath of General Burleson, who, when Grayson was running for the presidency in 1838, attacked Franks as having held “a temporary but undeserved standing in the army.” Franks considered the attack mere “electioneering.”
On March 8, 1836, Franks wrote from the Nashville (Robertson) colony informing the convention at Washington-on-the-Brazos that he had formed a volunteer company of thirty men to take the field against Indian raiders on the northern frontier. With this force, mounted at his own expense, Franks pursued the raiders to the headwaters of the Little River. There he hoped to induce them to attack his force, which he disguised to resemble an immigrant wagon train. His letter was referred to the Committee on Indian Affairs. On April 23 George P. Digges reported to Sam Houston that he had organized two spy companies, one under Franks, which was to patrol between Robbins’ Ferry and Gonzales.
Robert White, Alamo defender, was born in 1806. He was a resident of Gonzales and served in the siege of Bexar in the rank of lieutenant. Following the battle, White was promoted to captain and commanded one of the Bexar garrison’s infantry companies, the Bexar Guards. It is possible that White left Bexar before the siege of the Alamo for his home in Gonzales and then returned with the relief force from the town. White died in the battle of the Alamo on March 6, 1836.
Thomas B. Bell, one of Stephen F. Austin’s Old Three Hundred colonists, received title to a league of land now in Brazoria County from the Baron de Bastrop on August 16, 1824. On October 3, 1825, he headed a committee at Cedar Lake that wrote to Austin about the best means of contending with the Karankawa Indians. The Colorado District census of 1825 listed Bell, and the 1826 Texas census described him as a farmer and stock raiser aged between twenty-five and forty, with a wife and three children. While petitioning for additional land in 1829, Bell gave his wife’s name as Prudencio and his residence as Austin Municipality. Noah Smithwick visited him in 1835 at his pole cabin on the San Bernard River. Bell is probably the Thomas Bell who served in Capt. John York’s company of volunteers for the revolutionary army from about September 1835 to December 1835, participated in the siege of Bexar, and received donation and bounty land grants for his military service. He received a donation certificate for 640 acres in Archer County and a bounty warrant for 320 acres in the same county in summer 1857. Bell may have been the Thomas Bell who was a bearer of a Lone Star flag in the battle of Concepción in 1835. A Thomas B. Bell served on the committee that printed the Goliad Declaration of Independence, which was distributed in December 1835. A Thomas Bell lived with his family in Austin County in February 1844.
William Sims Hall, known as Sims Hall, one of several William S. Halls in the Republic of Texas, was a militia captain and a contractor for Stephen F. Austin’s army during the siege of Bexar. He may be the William S. Hall who, as a resident of Bolivar in 1826, served as captain of the Third Company of Lt. Col. Stephen F. Austin’s militia battalion. In May of that year he led his company under senior captain Aylett C. Buckner on a preemptive strike against the Wacos and Tawakonis threatening Austin’s colony. Hall drew a stinging rebuke from Austin, however, for impressing horses and arms from the poorest citizens of the colony to outfit his company and then failing to return that property to its owners at the end of the campaign.
On October 14, 1835, a William S. Hall, presumably the same man, was appointed an army contractor for the Gonzales region by the Consultation, and on October 27 Richard R. Royall informed Austin that Hall was “on the Guadaloupe Raising Beaves, and getting meal” for the Texas army besieging Bexar. On November 13 Hall arrived at Brazoria to retrieve the cannon lost in Matagorda Bay with the sinking of the Texas schooner San Felipe. He also forwarded a company of New Orleans Greys to Austin’s army at San Antonio and then on November 18 submitted his resignation to Austin. He assured the general, however, that he would be “proud and ready to execute any orders in [his] power and to give any pecuniary aid that [his] means will justify,” and left Brazoria on the same day in an effort to move the San Felipe cannon to Austin’s forces.
On February 20, 1837, a William S. Hall was appointed one of several overseers of roads for Brazoria County. This Hall apparently died before January 6, 1841, for on that date a runaway slave named Jim was apprehended and identified as belonging to the estate of William S. Hall, “late of Brazoria.” In 1845, however, a William S. Hall, perhaps the son of the Austin colonist, was awarded the contract for the mail route from the Brazoria County community of Columbia to Galveston, and in 1846 a William S. Hall enlisted at Brenham in Company F of Col. John C. Hays’s First Regiment, Texas Mounted Rifles, for service in the Mexican War. On July 11, 1846, he transferred to Company D of the same regiment, a unit composed primarily of Brazoria County volunteers.