Berry, John Bate (1813–1891)

By: Joseph M. Nance

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: May 26, 2017

John Bate Berry, often known as Bate Berry, son of Betsy (Smothers) and John Berry, was born in Indiana on May 8, 1813, the oldest of three sons of this marriage. His mother died soon after the birth of her third child, Joseph Berry. John Berry and his three sons moved to Texas in 1826 with the intention of settling in Robertson's colony, but instead settled for a while near the mouth of Buffalo Bayou in what is now Harris County. Bate received a grant of a league of land on April 7, 1831, in Austin's colony on the east side of the Colorado River adjoining Ira Ingram's grant. He served as a private for fifty days in the Permanent Volunteer Company of Texas Militia in Capt. Robert McAlpin Williamson's company of Col. John Henry Moore's battalion, from July 26 to September 13, 1835. On February 28, 1836, he and his brother Andrew Jackson Berry joined the Texas army as privates, and although Andrew Jackson fought in the battle of San Jacinto, Bate, it has been reported, was among those detailed on April 21, 1836, to guard the baggage train and the camp of the sick opposite Harrisburg and did not take part in the battle. It seems that on February 28, 1836, Bate was appointed to drive a team and served until June 1, 1836, and thus was a part of the baggage train itself at the time of the battle. He was discharged from Capt. Jesse Billingsley's service on the latter date, after which he served as a private in Capt. William W. Hill's company from July 3 to October 3, 1836. He enrolled for three months in the ranging service of Texas on January 6, 1838, but he served only until February 20, when he was discharged. Bate and Andrew Jackson Berry both fought under Col. Edward Burleson in the battle of Plum Creek on August 12, 1840, against the Comanches. Bate and Joseph Berry each received land grants in Robertson's colony.

After the capture of San Antonio in September 1842 by Gen. Adrián Woll, Bate joined Capt. William P. Rutledge's company of Jackson County, on October 17, 1842. The company was transferred to the command of Capt. Jerome B. Robertson on November 15, and to that of Capt. Charles K. Reese on December 19, when Robertson's company returned home from the Rio Grande with Gen. Alexander Somervell. Joseph and Bate had enrolled in the Brazoria company under Capt. John Shelby McNeill for the Somervell expedition, and when Somervell started for home from the Rio Grande on December 19, 1842, he, too, transferred to Reese's company. Thus both brothers became members of the Mier expedition. Joseph was killed in the battle of Mier, and Bate was captured and imprisoned in Mexico until September 16, 1844. During the Mexican War he served in Col. John C. Hays's regiment as a scout under Capt. Creed Taylor for Gen. Zachary Taylor in northern Mexico, and on one occasion was strongly admonished by General Taylor to discontinue his practice of scalping Mexican soldiers whom he had killed in battle.

After the Mexican War Berry received a first-class headright certificate and selected his land in Williamson County, where he resided until the end of the Civil War. Shortly thereafter, probably influenced by his brother-in-law, James Bradberry (husband of Bate's half-sister, Elizabeth), he moved to the upper Llano valley. He settled on the river two miles above the mouth of Red Creek in Kimble County. There he built a log house surrounded by a stockade of tall pickets to afford protection from the Indians and raised cattle. Some five or six miles to the southwest, on Gentry Creek in Kimble County, lived the Raleigh Gentry family, including Nancy Frazier Gentry, widow of William Gentry (son of Raleigh Gentry), who was killed during the Civil War, and her young son. After John Bate and Nancy agreed to be married they rode horseback to Fredericksburg, a distance of sixty miles, where they were married on March 9, 1867. In 1871 they moved to Willow Creek in Mason County, where, on March 2, 1878, Bate purchased 160 acres of land from Gustav Schleicher and, on December 28, 1881, bought from William Koock three acres of land a mile or so west of Mason at a settlement known as Koockville. In those days Berry was often involved in helping to defend the frontier against Indians. In Mason County he farmed and ranched until his death at his home near Koockville, on December 20, 1891. Berry was a devout member of the Church of Christ. He was buried in the Grit Cemetery in Mason County. His wife died in 1928 at the age of eighty-three and was buried beside him.

Sam Houston Dixon and Louis Wiltz Kemp, The Heroes of San Jacinto (Houston: Anson Jones, 1932). Ovie Clark Fisher, The Texas Heritage of the Fishers and the Clarks (Salado, Texas: Anson Jones Press, 1963).

  • Peoples
  • Native American
  • Military
  • Soldiers
Time Periods:
  • Texas Revolution

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

Joseph M. Nance, “Berry, John Bate,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 25, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 26, 2017