Bonnell, George William (unknown–1842)

By: L. W. Kemp

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: September 15, 2021

George W. Bonnell, journalist and soldier, a native of Onondaga County, New York, was an editor in Alabama for a time and moved by 1829 to Columbus, Mississippi, where he worked as an editor. He traveled to Texas in the summer of 1836 with a company of volunteers from Columbus that he had recruited for the Texas war of independence. In December 1837 he was living in Houston, where he was a charter member of the Philosophical Society of Texas. During Sam Houston's first term as president of the republic, Bonnell was commissioner of Indian affairs. In April 1838 he reported efforts of Manuel Flores and other Mexican emissaries to stir up the Indians in Texas against the Whites. In June 1838 Houston assigned Bonnell to prepare a report for the Bureau of Indian Affairs on the status of relations with the Indians. Bonnell advocated a harsh policy against them. In November 1838, with rank of major, he was campaigning against the Indians. In 1839 he moved to Austin, where he and Jacob W. Cruger were selected as government printers on December 6. On January 15, 1840, Bonnell started publication of the first Austin Texas Sentinel. He sold the Sentinel on December 26, 1840, the year he printed his Topographical Description of Texas, to Which is Added an Account of the Indian Tribes. That year he was also a charter member of the Texas Patriotic and Philanthropic Society and sometimes worked as a Spanish translator in the General Land Office. In January 1841 he was involved with the Texas Trading, Mining, and Emigrating Company. On February 4, 1841, he became a charter member of the Austin Lyceum. He took part in the Texan Santa Fe expedition and was released from prison in Mexico in the summer of 1842, in time to return to Texas to join the Mier expedition as a lieutenant in Company F. On December 26, 1842, Bonnell was left with a camp guard on the Texas side of the Rio Grande. When the guard was ordered to retreat, he and a companion returned to the camp for horses, and Bonnell was captured and shot by a Mexican soldier, probably on December 27, 1842. Some sources credit George Bonnell as the namesake for Mount Bonnell on the Colorado River and that Gen. Edward Burleson may have named the mountain in 1838.

Austin History Center Files. George B. Erath, "The Memoirs of George B. Erath, 1813–1891," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 26–27 (January–October 1923; rpts., Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1923; Waco: Heritage Society of Waco, 1956). Thomas J. Green, Journal of the Texian Expedition Against Mier (New York: Harper, 1845; rpt., Austin: Steck, 1935). William S. Speer and John H. Brown, eds., Encyclopedia of the New West (Marshall, Texas: United States Biographical Publishing, 1881; rpt., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978). Houston Wade, Notes and Fragments of the Mier Expedition (La Grange, Texas: La Grange Journal, 1936). John Melton Wallace, George W. Bonnell, Frontier Journalist in the Republic of Texas (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1966).

  • Journalism
  • Newspapers
  • Editors and Reporters

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

L. W. Kemp, “Bonnell, George William,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 14, 2022,

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September 15, 2021