Bean, Peter Ellis (1783–1846)

By: John Edward Weems

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: May 1, 1995

Peter Ellis Bean (or Ellis P. Bean), filibuster and Mexican revolutionary, was born to Lydia and William Bean, Jr., on June 8, 1783, at Bean Station, Tennessee. In 1800 he joined Philip Nolan's last filibustering expedition to Texas, lured by promises of wealth from captured mustangs and by talk of gold and silver. He was captured by the Spaniards, established residences in both Mexico and in Texas, and became a minor, though colorful, figure in the history of both regions.

In Texas Bean found only misfortune. Spanish troops attacked Nolan's fortified camp, in what became McLennan County or Hill County, killed Nolan, captured Bean and the other survivors, and took them deep into Mexico, where they held them in a succession of towns. In his memoir Bean wrote that the attack occurred on March 22, 1801, while Miguel Francisco Músquiz, commander of the Spanish troops, recorded the date as March 21 in his diary. Mexican revolutionaries led by a priest, José María Morelos y Pavón, gave Bean his chance for freedom at Acapulco in 1810. He had been released from jail there to fight for the besieged Royalists, but he deserted to Morelos and helped capture the town. He stayed with Morelos and rose in favor.

Fifteen years after leaving his native land Bean returned as a Mexican colonel to seek United States aid for Morelos's cause, but with scant success. During the journey he joined Andrew Jackson's army and fought at the battle of New Orleans. On February 18, 1815, he departed for Mexico on the Águila. As a man of split loyalties, he divided his time between visits to Mexico and the United States. Bean soon returned to the United States as an escort of Morelos's ambassador Manuel de Herrera and Morelos's son Almonte. On his trip back to Mexico he learned that the royalists had executed Morelos. By 1816 Bean had married Magdalena Falfán de los Godos at Jalapa, Vera Cruz. Soon after, he barely escaped capture by the royalists by leaving his wife and fleeing to the United States.

About 1820 he married a Tennessean, Candace Midkiff (or Metcalf), and they eventually had three children. They lived in Arkansas Territory near the Red River, and then the family moved to East Texas in 1823. There Bean served Mexico again as Indian agent. He persuaded the Cherokees to remain neutral during the Fredonian Rebellion. By 1826 the Bean family lived on the Neches River in the Nacogdoches district. Apparently, Bean's wife became aware of his first marriage during this time as Mexican officials investigated his activities and personal life. In 1830 he commanded a small military force at Fort Terán. However, neither Texans nor Mexicans trusted him. After Texas independence he began yearning for Mexico and his other wife. He was still in Nacogdoches County in 1843 when he recorded his last will and testament, leaving his possessions to his three children. He received one league and one labor of land there on September 20, 1844. Sometime after, he traveled to Jalapa to be with his first wife and there, on October 3, 1846, died in her home.

Peter Ellis Bean Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Bennett Lay, The Lives of Ellis P. Bean (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1960). John Edward Weems, Men Without Countries (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1969). Henderson K. Yoakum, History of Texas from Its First Settlement in 1685 to Its Annexation to the United States in 1846 (2 vols., New York: Redfield, 1855).
  • Peoples
  • Native American
  • Indian Agents
  • Politics and Government
Time Periods:
  • Mexican Texas

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

John Edward Weems, “Bean, Peter Ellis,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 23, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 1, 1995

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