John P. Coles (Cole), one of Stephen F. Austin's Old Three Hundred, was born in Rowan County, North Carolina, in 1793. He married Mary Eleanor Owen in Georgia in 1821. The couple moved to Texas as an Old Three Hundred family and reached the Brazos River in the spring of 1822. Coles received title to 8½ leagues of land in the area of present-day Burleson, Washington, and Brazoria counties on August 19, 1824. His cedar log cabin became the center of a community known as Coles' Settlement. Coles maintained a public house, where David Crockett was reported to have lost eighty dollars in a poker game on his way to the Alamo. According to inaccurate local tradition, when the signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence rode from Washington-on-the-Brazos to spend the night at Coles' Settlement, the name of the village was changed to Independence. The census of March 1826 listed Coles's wife, a son, two daughters, five servants, and four slaves and noted that Coles was building a mill on Yegua Creek. Three other children were later born to the family.
Coles was alcalde of Washington Municipality in 1828 and a delegate to the Convention of 1833 at San Felipe de Austin. On July 2, 1835, he signed a petition for the organization of Washington Municipality. During the Texas Revolution he moved his family east of the Neches and then joined William Warner Hill's company, in which he served from July to October 1836. Coles was elected chief justice of Washington County in December 1836 and represented the county in the Senate of the Fifth Texas Congress, 1840–41. He died on January 19, 1847, and was buried at Independence. His original cabin was in good restored condition late in the twentieth century.
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E. L. Blair, Early History of Grimes County (Austin, 1930). Lester G. Bugbee, "The Old Three Hundred: A List of Settlers in Austin's First Colony," Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 1 (October 1897). Betty Cantrell Plummer, Historic Homes of Washington County (San Marcos, Texas: Rio Fresco, 1971).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Noel Grisham and L. W. Kemp,
“Coles, John P.,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed August 17, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
August 1, 1995
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