Hanson George Catlett

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In Memory Of
3 Texas Arty
Somervell Exp
Mexican War
Full Name: Hanson George Catlett
Location: Section:Confederate Field, Section 2 (D)
Row:A  Number:12
Reason for Eligibility: Approved, Texas State Cemetery Committee; Republic of Texas Veteran; Veteran, Mexican - American War, Indian Agent, State of Texas; Postmaster, City of Austin 
Birth Date: 1808 
Died: August 19, 1854 
Burial Date: Cenotaph 

CATLETT, HANSON GEORGE (1808 ~ 1854) Hanson George Catlett was born in 1808 in Hagerstown, Maryland to Grandison Catlett and Mary "Polly" Gassaway. Not much is known about Hanson's childhood in Maryland, except that he had one sister, Mary, and three older half-sisters. Apparently, Grandison Catlett had an adventuresome spirit and was not well liked by Polly's father. When Hanson was less than 10 years old, his rich grandfather, Charles Gassaway, died but did not include the Catlett children in his will like he did the half-sisters. While Hanson was still a teenager, his father went to Kentucky, leaving his family in Maryland.

In 1832, Hanson married Eleanor Anne Bayne in Prince George's County, Maryland. It wasn't long before he was looking for adventure, opportunity and maybe, just some "elbow room." The letters that he wrote home showed how excited he was to go to Texas and how optimistic he was about making some good land deals and bringing his family to Texas.

He sailed from New Orleans and wrote home for the first time from Brazoria, on October 24, 1836, seven days after arriving in Texas. The first letter stated, "My health is much better than it has been for several years." Apparently, when Hanson left Maryland, he didn't know for sure if he was going all of the way to Texas, because he wrote to Ellen, "In my last letter to you from Orleans I informed you of my intention to come to Texas." He also mentions receiving her letters "directed to Orleans and Natchus."

Land was the reason that everyone was moving to Texas and H. G. know that it was his destiny, too. He quickly began making contacts and acquiring land. On November 4th, 1836, he wrote home, "I have already secured 4428 acres of the finest land and in the finest county." Independence from Mexico was brand new, but there must have already been talk of Texas becoming a state, because H. G. went on to say, " . . . if Texas should gain her independence or become a part of the United States which will be the case to a certainty." The General Land Office was established by the constitution of the Republic of Texas in 1836, but was not put into operation until the next year. H. G. mentioned this in a letter to his mother-in-law, saying "I have secured a right to seven thousand six hundred and five acres of land but have not been able to get deeds yet on account of the land office being closed owing to the recent war and unsettled state of the country."

H. G. was obviously a fairly well educated man. His letters show that he had been well trained in penmanship and vocabulary. Math, geometry and probably trigonometry must have also been in his educational background, because he took up surveying without mention of it. In a letter to his wife, dated May 1, 1838, he said, "I was then {four weeks ago} about to go into the woods for the purpose of locating lands. I succeeded very well." He goes on to explain how he met someone from Maryland and they became instant "old friends" simply because they were from the same state. He was obviously showing that he missed home, but the same letter eloquently describes the beautiful Texas springtime. "Indeed it is no exaggeration to call it a paradise when compared to Maryland. I have no language which will suffice to give an idea of the beauty of the country at this time. Everything is in full bloom. The prairies are vast flower beds. The spring fruits are in full maturity. I shall never consent to leave this country for a residence in Maryland without your first seeing it. For to see is to be infatuated."

The letters to Ellen do not give exact dates of his short visits back to Maryland, but presumably H. G. did go every years or so. He was always making excuses to her for not coming home when he had promised, and was always begging for her pardon. When H. G. came to Texas in 1836, he had left Ellen with their two children, Mary Emily who was three and Charles William who was less than one year old. A second son, Henry Bayne was born August 16, 1838. He would often close his letters by saying, "kiss my darling babes for me . . . ."

According to a letter that H. G. wrote to Commissioner Thomas Ward of the General Land Office, he was elected on July 24, 1841 to fill the position of Navasota County Surveyor. The County was only six months old with the courthouse located at Boonville. The only map at the General Land Office titled, "Navasota County" has "Hanson G. Catlett" listed as County Surveyor in the title block. In January 1842, the county was renamed to "Brazos County." In his letter, H. G. gives a hint of just how hard it was to send and receive mail in the Republic. He closed by telling the Commissioner, "You will please have all communications for me directed to Independence, Washington County, there being no post office in our county." Letters to and from Maryland were taking about one month each way.

In July 1842, H. G. wrote to President Sam Houston from Boonville explaining why the number of army volunteers from the county seemed low, but was actually about half of the able men. He went on to explain that some of the volunteers from Robertson County were actually from Brazos County. Soon afterwards, H. G. volunteered for the Somervell Expedition, which was organized in response to some predatory raids into Texas by the Mexican army. The ranger, Sam Walker, was also in the Somervell Expedition. Like H. G., he was from Prince George's County and they certainly became friends. It is not know if H. G. returned to Boonville, when that group disbanded in December 1842. Sam Walker continued into Mexico with the ill-fated Mier Expedition, but did not draw a black bean and get executed in prison, as one in every ten men did.

H. G. is listed as the postmaster of Austin for 1843 and 1844, but apparently began working as an assistant clerk at the General Land Office by February, 1844. He was one of about 8 men working there, updating maps and records of land patents. During this time, he also sold 640 acres that he owned in Brazos County. In December, 1844, Anson Jones took office as President of the Republic and almost immediately, H. G. began work as an assistant clerk at the State Department. He had corresponded with Jones before and may have known him from several years earlier when Fairfax Catlett, H. G.'s cousin, was Anson Jones' secretary at the Texas Legation in Washington, D. C.

In February 1845, with the prospect that Texas was about to be admitted to the United States, H. G. quit his government job and went to New Orleans. He had been promised a partnership in a land business, since he was so familiar with all of the land affairs of Texas. He found that this business partner had gone to Wisconsin, so H. G. returned to Texas, regretting that he had given up the State Department job. Texas had just signed a treaty with the U. S. for annexation, but it wasn't until after James Polk became U. S. President in November, 1844, that it started to become a reality. Texas President Jones called a convention in Austin to write a state constitution in July, 1845. At the same time, President Polk had sent General Zachary Taylor to Corpus Christi, in anticipation of Mexico's rejection to the Rio Grand boundary.

H. G. was sent from Austin with dispatches to General Taylor in Louisiana. Once there, he found that the army had left for Corpus Christi. When H. G. caught up with Taylor, he was sent on another mission or two and was rewarded by an appointment as a forage master for the army. H. G. wanted a better position but accepted this in hopes that he would perform his duties admirably and be promoted soon. As planned he was trusted with more and more army duties and gained the respect of General Taylor, but he was still only a civilian agent for the army. Texas was admitted to the United States on December 29, 1845. A few weeks later, the army was ordered to move on toward the Rio Grande, to defend that border. H. G. asked Taylor for permission to raise a company of "mounted Texans to act as a spy company." He refused the offer, indicating that he didn't need the Texans for a victory. H. G. did succeed in getting permission for his old ranger friend Sam Walker to accompany them, even though Walker was not in the army. Together, he and Walker went along into Mexico on spy missions and reported back to Taylor. Knowing that the fighting was soon to break out, he again asked the general for permission to raise a company of Texan spies. He stated that Taylor "not only refused but treated me unkindly and ungentlemanly."

In late April, 1846, after one of his squadrons was captured by the Mexicans, General Taylor asked H. G. to carry a requisition for troops to Governor Henderson of Texas. Before he left the camp, it was learned that the Mexicans had blocked all of the roads around them. Taylor told H. G. that if he could get through and take the dispatch to Austin along with ones for New Orleans and Washington, D. C., he would commission him as a captain of a spy company. H. G. left, traveling all night through lakes and swamps and narrowly escaping capture, and arrived at Ft. Polk after being in the saddle for 14 hours. There he told of General Taylor's urgent need for volunteers, but learned that Ft. Polk had the same problem. He took a boat to Port Lavaca, to begin his overland travel to Austin. H. G. hastily wrote a note to friends at Galveston, telling them of the dire straits that the army troops were in and asking them to do what they could to quickly raise some Texas volunteers. He sent the letter to Galveston, but it was inadvertently carried on to New Orleans where it was published in the newspaper. H. G. had purposely used strong language to emphasize to his friends, who were fellow soldiers, the urgency of the situation of the U. S. army.

To get to Austin, H. G. purposely took a route that passed through places where he thought volunteers could be found and he tried his best to spread the word of his mission. When he got to Austin, having traveled 270 miles in three sleepless days, he found that one of the men he had met along the way had already arrived and spread the news. H. G. also found that ranger Ben McCulloch had quickly gotten written permission from Gov. Henderson to lead a spy company and had already left on his way to General Taylor's camp. When H. G. got there, several days later, he confronted Taylor about his promise, but was told that McCulloch was in charge of the company. Taylor went on to berate H. G. for writing the letter that was published in the newspaper.

In late July, 1846, H. G. wrote home to his wife and told her about his extensive travels around Texas and into Louisiana, continuing to carry dispatches for the army. He wrote, "The under taking is a heavy one at this warm season of the year but my extreme desire to have my family with me would induce me to make money in any honest way without regard to any exposure of hardship to which I might be subjected. The services I am rendering are obvious and of much importance to both the Army and Govt. of the United States." The same letter tells his sons that "they shall have ponys when they get to Texas." But less than two weeks later, on August 8th, H. G. wrote Ellen from New Orleans and told her that he had quit his army job "in disgust" and "saw no prospect of advancement." He went on to inform her that in New Orleans he was offered double his previous wages to help the Quarter Master department outfit General Wool's troops, headed for San Antonio. During this year, H. G. had succeeded in getting "friends in high places" to ask President Polk to appoint him to "some office within your Excellency's gift." While in New Orleans, he heard that President Polk was asking about him, apparently considering an appointment in reward for his faithful services. In the August 8th letter, H. G. enclosed land patents for "upwards of a thousand acres." He told his wife to sell them and get some servants to help with house work. H. G. accepted the job with the Quarter Master department, and returned to Texas once again.

Not many details are know of the rest of his wartime service, but H. G. was back down in Mexico, in the spring of 1847, when General Winfield Scott landed at Vera Cruz and began his march toward the capital. President Polk finally forwarded to the Senate an appointment for H. G. as Assistant Quartermaster, with the rank of Captain, effective September 8, 1847, just before the final battles of the war took place. Sam Walker had been killed, but he and several other rangers, including Ben McCulloch, went down in history as the saviors of the U. S. Army in the Mexican War. General Zachary Taylor was elected U. S. President in 1848 and died in office two years later.

After the war, H. G. remained in the army, until he was honorably discharged on March 3rd, 1849. He apparently had spent most of his post-war duty on the western frontier of the state, where Indian affairs were the army's concern. Two months after his discharge, he wrote a lengthy and detailed account of the current Indian situation in Texas, to the U. S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs. It clearly showed that he had gained extensive personal knowledge of the many tribes and peculiarities of dealing with each of them. The letter was signed "H. G. Catlett, Late Assistant Quartermaster U. S. Army, stationed upon the northern frontier of Texas."

In February, 1850, he formed a partnership with two prominent politicians from Georgia, Robert Toombs and George Crawford. Crawford had been Governor of Georgia and was the current U. S. Secretary of War. But, in the fall of 1850, H. G. was still working as an Indian agent, helping bring the Comanche into a council. The Catlett, Toombs and Crawford partnership's plan was for Toombs and Crawford to finance the purchase of Texas land scrip (rights) and H. G. would survey the tracts and secure the titles. For "his personal trouble, skill and services" H. G. would receive one-third of the land. There was some trouble at first, getting the money to Texas, but records show that their partnership did acquire rights to over 80,000 acres of land.

In January, 1852, H. G. was listed as a Texas delegate for the Committee on Routes at the Southern and Western Rail-Road Convention in New Orleans.

On January 30, 1852, H. G.'s beloved daughter, Emily, died in Maryland at the age of 19. Undoubtedly, this pained him greatly, since she was their first child and only daughter. The partnership with Toombs and Crawford was promising to be the key to his future and being able to finally bring his family to Texas, but as always, it was not to be. Hanson George Catlett died in Austin, Texas on August 19, 1854.

He was a master Mason and Lodge No. 12 of Austin had a funeral procession for him the next day and resolved that the lodge would be in a state of mourning for 30 days, "as a testimonial of our respect for the memory of our deceased brother." The published obituaries did not name the cemetery and no records have been found with the location of his grave.

Because of H. G.'s land deals on behalf of Toombs and Crawford, he left behind a large estate and M. T. Johnson was appointed administrator. He had known H. G., having led a ranger company in the war and then on the northern frontier. The material items listed in the account of sale for the estate were only a few horses and rigging, clothes and a box of books, etc. The land holdings were still not located and couldn't be settled yet.

It appears that Charley, H. G.'s oldest son, came to Texas first, in the 1850s. He may have been there at or shortly after the time of his father's death. In 1860, his younger brother came to Austin and wrote back to Charley, who was now in Washington, D. C. Their mother, H. G.'s wife, Eleanor, had died in 1858, having never seen Texas.

Henry B. Catlett came to Texas to settle his father's estate, but the land rights were still in the name of the Catlett, Toombs and Crawford partnership. He became acquainted with Col. M. T. Johnson and was upset that he hadn't done more to resolve H. G.'s estate. He wrote to Charley, "I am completely out of patience with him . . . I will get it out of his hands as soon as I can safely do so." Henry traveled with Johnson, by stage coach, to the Fort Worth area, while waiting to hear from Toombs about dividing the lands. He stayed with Dr. C. M. Peak and his family in Fort Worth. A few months later, in the summer of 1860, he witnessed Capt. Sul Ross coming into town with Cynthia Ann Parker, a white woman who had been captured by Indians when she was young.

Henry Catlett was still in Fort Worth, when Colonel M. T. Johnson began recruiting an entire brigade of Texans for the Confederacy. Dr. Peak raised a company, but was injured during training and Ben Johnson became the captain. Henry Catlett was made 1st Lieutenant. Johnson's brigade left Fort Worth in the spring of 1862 and traveled east, into the thick of the wartime action and served honorably.

After the war, Henry Catlett lived in Missouri. He still had to pay taxes on his father's 28,000 acre share of the Catlett, Toombs and Crawford land in Texas. In a deed, dated March 5, 1870, he was shown as the only heir to H. G. Catlett and sold out to Toombs and Crawford for $7,500. This was a lot of money at the time, but represented only a 27 cents per acre selling price for the land.

Information taken from "Hanson George Catlett: His Life in Texas," compiled from research by Mary Helen Catlett Allen, Dennis M. Drummond, and Henry P. Mayo.



On Saturday, March 2, 2003, Texas Independence Day, a cenotaph dedication ceremony was held in honor of Hanson George Catlett, Republic of Texas and Mexican War veteran.

Entered by Administrator on 4/30/2003

Additional Multimedia Files To Download:

#8920) Title:Historic Re-enactors
Source:Henry Mayo
Description:Descendants of Mexican War Veterans, Sons of the Republic of Texas, and Sons of Confederate Veterans took part in H. G. Catlett's marker dedication ceremony.

#8921) Title:Jack and Mary Helen Catlett Allen
Source:Henry Mayo
Description:Mary Helen Catlett Allen, H. G. Catlett's great granddaughter, and her husband, Jack, had the cenotaph placed in the Texas State Cemetery to honor Catlett's memory and memorialize all that he had done for Texas.

#8922) Title:Jerry Patterson, Commissioner of the General Land Office, and Henry Mayo
Source:Henry Mayo
Description:After arriving in Texas, Catlett worked for the General Land Office and Jerry Patterson, Commissioner of the General Land Office, spoke about Catlett's work as a cartographer and his contributions to Texas.

#8923) Title:Program Participants
Source:Henry Mayo


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