Barrow, Benjamin (1808–1877)

By: Kevin Ladd

Type: Biography

Published: November 1, 1994

Benjamin Barrow, "Ben the Bearhunter," an early settler, rancher, and official of Chambers County, the son of Reuben and Mary Jane (Johnson) Barrow, Sr., was born on April 24, 1808, near Opelousas, Louisiana. Although he may have traveled to Texas with family members as early as 1824, he did not permanently settle there until 1827. In 1838 he received a headright near the site of present Devers in Liberty County, but he does not appear to have lived on the grant. He was married on June 4, 1835, to Permelia Jane White, daughter of cattleman James Taylor White. Family legend has it that Benjamin was caught in a rainstorm around 1830, stayed at White's home for the night, and resolved to wait until Permelia, then about ten, was old enough to marry. They had nine children. After Permelia died in 1861, Barrow married Mrs. Mary Jane Middleton Bryan. They had no children.

Barrow received a pension for service in the Texas army from May 10 to August 10, 1836. He is also listed as a second lieutenant in a Liberty militia company organized during the Republic of Texas period. He established a cattle ranch on Turtle Bayou five miles northeast of Anahuac and became one of the county's largest ranchers and wealthiest men. He was a substantial slaveholder and raised cattle, blooded horses, swine, and sheep on his ranch. His upside-down-wineglass brand was a familiar sight on the prairies of Southeast Texas.

A number of legends revolve around Barrow's bear-hunting exploits. On one occasion when his dogs surrounded a bear in a briar patch, he is said to have climbed into the briars and killed the bear with a knife in order to save his hounds. Family members recall that he also kept pet bears around his house. Barrow was elected justice of the peace in 1843 and county commissioner in 1854. In April 1868, during Reconstruction, he was appointed district clerk, a position he held for a year. He died during a smallpox epidemic on February 7, 1877. Mrs. Barrow died of the same disease three days later.

Jewel Horace Harry, A History of Chambers County (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1940; rpt., Dallas: Taylor, 1981). Margaret S. Henson and Kevin Ladd, Chambers County: A Pictorial History (Norfolk, Virginia: Donning, 1988).

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Kevin Ladd, “Barrow, Benjamin,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 21, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 1, 1994