John Wheeler Bunton, patriot and statesman, son of Joseph Robert and Phoebe (Desha) Bunton, was born in Sumner County, Tennessee, on February 22, 1807. He was educated at Princeton College, Kentucky, and studied law in Gallatin, Tennessee. He arrived in Texas in 1833 and settled first in Austin's colony in San Felipe; soon thereafter he moved to Mina (Bastrop), where, on May 17, 1835, he was elected secretary of the local committee of safety. Such committees, newly organized for protection against the Indians, became the first step toward Texas independence. Bunton represented Mina at the Convention of 1836 at Washington-on-the-Brazos, signed the Texas Declaration of Independence, and was a member of the committee to draft the constitution of the new republic.
Bunton was first sergeant of Robert M. Coleman's company of Mina Volunteers. For the siege of Bexar on December 5–10, 1835, he was transferred to Capt. John York's company. After being honorably discharged, he rejoined the army, on March 28, 1836. At the battle of San Jacinto he served on the staff of Gen. Sam Houston in Capt. Jesse Billingsley's company of Mina Volunteers. Afterward, Bunton returned to his home, and from October 3 to December 21, 1836, he represented Bastrop County in the House of Representatives of the First Congress of the Republic of Texas.
In the spring of 1836 Bunton returned to Gallatin, Tennessee, and married his sweetheart, Mary Howell. In April the Buntons, accompanied by 140 friends and slaves, left for Texas. At New Orleans they boarded the Julius Caesar carrying a cargo valued at $30,000. Near the Texas coast on April 12 the vessel was captured by Mexicans and taken to Matamoros, where all of the passengers were imprisoned for three months. After release, the Buntons and other passengers returned to Tennessee. Bunton soon headed another group that traveled by boat and entered Texas at Indianola on Matagorda Bay. While residing in Austin County, he was elected to the House of Representatives of the Third Congress. He is credited for the bill that established the Texas Rangers, the bill providing postal service, and the bill outlining the judiciary system. In 1840 he settled on a farm on Cedar Creek in Bastrop County, where he resided for seventeen years. In 1857 he moved to Mountain City, where he engaged in the cattle business. Bunton originated the famous Turkey Foot brand, which was registered in Hays County.
He joined the First Christian Church at Lockhart and was baptized in Walnut Creek in Caldwell County. He was a very tall man, and family members said it was necessary to dam the creek to get sufficient water to immerse him. He was a member of the Texas Veterans Association and a charter member of the Philosophical Society of Texas. The Buntons had five sons and a daughter. On September 16, 1862, Mary Bunton died. Bunton was married again on July 26, 1865, in Bastrop County to Hermine C. Duval. He died at his home on August 24, 1879, and was buried in the Robinson Cemetery beside his first wife. In recognition of his patriotic services in behalf of Texas, on Texas Independence Day, March 2, 1932, the remains of John Wheeler and Mary Howell Bunton were moved and reinterred in the State Cemetery in Austin under the auspices of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.
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Sam Houston Dixon, Men Who Made Texas Free (Houston: Texas Historical Publishing, 1924). James L. Haley, Texas: An Album of History (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1985). Louis Wiltz Kemp, The Signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence (Salado, Texas: Anson Jones, 1944; rpt. 1959). Bill Moore, Bastrop County, 1691–1900 (Wichita Falls: Nortex, 1977). Annie Doom Pickrell, Pioneer Women in Texas (Austin: Steck, 1929). Worth Stickley Ray, Austin Colony Pioneers (Austin: Jenkins, 1949; 2d ed., Austin: Pemberton, 1970). Ann Miller Strom, The Prairie City: A History of Kyle, Texas, 1880–1980 (Burnet, Texas: Nortex, 1981).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Ann Miller Strom,
“Bunton, John Wheeler,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 24, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
February 28, 2020