Combs, David St. Clair (1839–1926)

By: Nowlin Randolph

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: June 1, 1995

David St. Clair Combs was born on May 26, 1839, in Johnson County, Missouri, the son of David and Rebecca (Burruss) Combs. In 1854 the family moved to Texas and settled near San Marcos, then a frontier town. In August 1861 at La Grange, Fayette County, Combs enlisted in Company D of the Eighth Texas Cavalry, better known as Terry's Texas Rangers. He fought in all major engagements in which the rangers participated through Chickamauga. While he was on furlough in Texas, he was transferred to the Trans-Mississippi Department, where he served to the end of the war. He fought in the battle of Palmito Ranch on May 13, 1865, the last engagement of the Civil War. After the war Combs was one of the first traildrivers; from 1866 to 1879 he drove cattle and horses to Louisiana, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, and the Dakotas. In 1880 he and his partners ranched near San Angelo, but in 1882 they moved ranching operations to Brewster County. In 1900 he established Combs Ranch, one of the largest ranches in Brewster County, near Marathon. As one of the last surviving members of the Eighth Texas Cavalry, Combs was instrumental in getting L. B. Giles to write his history of the regiment, Terry's Texas Rangers (1967); Combs's letter is the preface. Combs married Eleanora Browning on February 27, 1873, and they had two daughters and a son. Combs died on January 3, 1926, in San Antonio and was buried in San Marcos.

J. Marvin Hunter, Trail Drivers of Texas (2 vols., San Antonio: Jackson Printing, 1920, 1923; 4th ed., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985). Frank W. Johnson, A History of Texas and Texans (5 vols., ed. E. C. Barker and E. W. Winkler [Chicago and New York: American Historical Society, 1914; rpt. 1916]).


  • Ranching and Cowboys
  • Trail Drivers and Riders

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

Nowlin Randolph, “Combs, David St. Clair,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 20, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

June 1, 1995