Carter, Richard (ca. 1790–1863)

By: Eleanor Hanover Nance

Type: Biography

Published: December 1, 1994

Updated: October 8, 2020

Richard Carter, early settler, the son of Joseph and Nancy (Menefee) Carter of Virginia, was born about 1790. He may have been a constituent of the "Alabama Settlement," which migrated from Virginia to Tennessee, Alabama, and finally East Texas, by the first quarter of the nineteenth century. Carter married Elizabeth Lones in 1811 in Knoxville, Tennessee, and later moved to Morgan County, Alabama. They had several children. Carter may have served in the War of 1812. On April 30, 1831, he received a grant for a league of land in Stephen F. Austin's colony, now in Brazos County. The family settled at Sabine Creek (subsequently renamed Carter Creek). Carter was reported to be the first White settler in the area of present College Station. In describing their early life in Texas his daughter, Evaline Burton, states that the only women she saw from the arrival of their family in 1831 until the following July were those in her own family and friendly Indians and that during this time their family lived exclusively on wild meats and honey. Another early Brazos County settler, Harvey Mitchell, described the Carter Creek bottom as "an unbroken canebrake, infested with bear, panthers, wild cats, and other enemies of hogs and cattle, as well as of men."

After 1835 Carter moved his family to Tinninville, north of the Old San Antonio Road at the Navasota River in the area that became Robertson County. He is listed in 1838 as paying taxes on 1,476 acres originally granted to Jeremiah Tinnan in 1835. According to Mitchell, he boarded with the Carters at Tinninville during 1839 and 1840. He later visited their home, again on Carter Creek in Brazos County, during Christmas of 1840. At that time the Carters were living in a one-room log cabin, and stock raising was widespread locally. Carter's property was close to Boonville, which was made the county seat in 1841. The first area school was conducted in his home, and Carter, John H. Jones, and Hiram Hanover served as the first board of commissioners in 1841 to survey the town and auction off the lots. Hanover bought the first lot and built a log cabin home that served as the first post office in Boonville, with Hanover as postmaster. Carter's son Wiley served at the first meeting of the grand jury in Boonville. In 1848 Carter served again as a commissioner.

By 1845 he had real and personal property worth $5,800. In the 1850 census he was listed as a farmer who owned 350 cattle, five horses, and five slaves. In the 1850s Carter was prosecuted for allowing a slave to carry a gun off his property without proper supervision. The case went all the way to the Texas Supreme Court. By 1860 he had a herd of 1,000 cattle and was among the top cotton and corn producers in the county. The 1860 census listed his real estate at a value of $4,000 and his personal property at $26,150. From 1846 to 1860 Carter's estate increased in value from $5,800 to $30,000. This was in part due to an increase in the value of land and cattle. Also, increased production of corn and cotton was possible through an expanded number of improved acres. However, the most significant factor accounting for his prosperity was the value of slaves. Half of Carter's taxable property was based upon slave ownership-each slave averaging $800 in 1860.

Carter died on May 12, 1863. Popular legend held that a substantial amount of Confederate money was buried with him, but the story was never substantiated. Apparently he had no desire for emancipation to be proclaimed within the lifetime of his family, for his will stated that upon the death of his wife, Elizabeth, who died in 1876, his property, including his two slave families, should be divided among his children and grandchildren. Through the war years Carter's estate climbed to an unprecedented $44,000. But after the 1865 taxes were assessed, the value of the estate had plummeted to $9,800, which still left the Carters in the upper economic bracket of Brazos County. In spite of the loss of three-fourths of their accumulated wealth, Elizabeth Carter was the second largest cattle owner in the county in 1865 and remained among the richest 2 percent of county residents. During Reconstruction her finances were relatively grim compared to the prewar years. Between 1865 and her death her property dwindled in value to $3,400.

In 1986 the Richard Carter homesite was dedicated as Richard Carter Park, on Brazoswood Drive, College Station, at a Texas historical marker ceremony conducted by the Brazos County Historical Commission. In the early 1990s the remains of the Carters and probably several slaves were moved to a new site in the park.

Glenna Fourman Brundidge, Brazos County History: Rich Past-Bright Future (Bryan, Texas: Family History Foundation, 1986). Virginia H. Taylor, Index to Spanish and Mexican Land Grants (Austin: General Land Office, 1976). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

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

Eleanor Hanover Nance, “Carter, Richard,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 07, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1994
October 8, 2020