Wealthiest antebellum planter dies
On this day in 1878, John Hunter Herndon, formerly the wealthiest man in Texas, died in Boerne. Herndon was born in Kentucky in 1813 and came to Texas in 1838. After serving as engrossing clerk of the House of Representatives of the Republic of Texas he moved to Richmond in Fort Bend County, where he was admitted to the bar. In 1839 he married Barbara Makall Wilkinson Calvit, the only daughter of Alexander Calvit and heir to the Calvit sugar plantation in Brazoria County. The plantation, near the site of present Clute, was noted for its Arabian horses and cattle herds, which were later sold to Abel Head (Shanghai) Pierce. Herndon owned stock ranches in Matagorda, Guadalupe, and Medina counties, engaged in real estate, and incorporated several other entrepreneurial ventures.The 1850 census indicates that he owned real estate valued at $100,000, the largest holding in Fort Bend County; by 1860 he had acquired $1,605,000 in real property, $106,050 in personal property, and forty slaves and was thus the wealthiest man in the state. Herndon at one time owned a summer house at Velasco and is believed to have owned a million acres of Texas land. From 1862 to 1865 he was president of the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos and Colorado Railway Company. The Civil War and Reconstruction destroyed most of his fortune.