Berry, John (1786–1866)

By: Jack Pope

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: May 26, 2017

John Berry, pioneer colonist, gunsmith, and blacksmith, was born in Louisville, Kentucky. He fought in the War of 1812. He moved from Christian Settlement, Illinois, to Blue Spring, Indiana, in 1816. Berry had three sons by his first wife, Betsy (Smothers), daughter of William Smothers, whom he married about 1810 and who died in Indiana; three daughters by Gracie Treat, whom he married on July 13, 1819; and twelve children by Hannah Devore, whom he married in Liberty, Texas, on May 8, 1831. In late 1826 he moved his family to the Atascosito District on the lower Trinity River in Texas. Mexico awarded him a lot in Liberty when it organized the municipality in May 1831. As a gunsmith, blacksmith, knifesmith, and furniture builder Berry qualified for the lot as an artisan. Sometime before 1834 he moved to Mina, later called Bastrop, where Mexico awarded him two town lots and a twelve-acre farm lot as an artisan. David Crockett, traveling on the Old San Antonio Road toward the Alamo, stopped at Mina while Berry repaired Crockett's famous rifle, Old Betsey. Berry's three sons by his first wife were Joseph, John Bate, and Andrew Jackson Berry. All three sons were Texas Rangers before and after the Texas Revolution, all served in the Army of the Republic of Texas, and all fought in the battle of Plum Creek. Berry, his wife Hannah, and their small children took refuge at Fort Parker during the revolution, and upon returning to Bastrop found their home burned to the ground. In 1840 the family moved to the settlement that later became Caldwell in Burleson County, where they lived for the next ten years. The Texas Congress named Caldwell as the county seat in 1840, but the county was not organized until 1846. The Berry family was living there at the time. Berry applied to be a Robertson colonist on November 6, 1835, but did not settle on his league of land, located about three miles northeast of Georgetown, until the winter of 1846. He built a spring-driven gristmill, later called Gann's Mill, on Berry Creek. In 1848 he served as a commissioner, named by the Texas legislature, to organize Williamson County. For the fourth time, he was living in a Texas county seat when the county was organized. Berry was a member of the Church of Christ; his third wife, Hannah, was a faithful Baptist. Their home at Berry Creek was regularly used for Baptist services. Berry died on December 24, 1866, and is buried in a small family cemetery on the Berry league. His grave is marked by a plaque placed by the Daughters of the War of 1812. Five of Berry's sons and three of his sons-in-law served in the Confederate Army. His most distinguished direct descendant was his great-grandson Audie Murphy. On the grounds of the Williamson County Courthouse, the buhrstone from the Berry Mill is preserved beneath a state historical marker placed for Berry, whose descendants meet annually to commemorate the Berry family's service to Texas.

John Holland Jenkins, Recollections of Early Texas, ed. John H. Jenkins III (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1958; rpt. 1973). Malcolm D. McLean, comp. and ed., Papers Concerning Robertson's Colony in Texas (19 vols., Arlington: University of Texas at Arlington Press, 1974–93). Miriam Partlow, Liberty, Liberty County, and the Atascosito District (Austin: Pemberton, 1974). Jack Pope, ed., John Berry and His Children (Austin, 1988). Andrew Jackson Sowell, Early Settlers and Indian Fighters of Southwest Texas (Austin: Ben C. Jones, 1900; rpt., Austin: State House Press, 1986). Virginia H. Taylor, The Spanish Archives of the General Land Office of Texas (Austin: Lone Star, 1955).

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

Jack Pope, “Berry, John,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 05, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 26, 2017