Crain, Joel Burditt (1813–1887)

By: Eleanor Hanover Nance

Type: Biography

Published: May 1, 1995

Updated: October 20, 2016

Joel Burditt Crain, soldier, was born September 8, 1813, in Tennessee, the son of Ambrose and Mary (Burditt or Burdett) Crain. He settled in San Augustine County, Texas (at a site now in Nacogdoches County), in October 1834. He joined Capt. William Kimbro's San Augustine Company on March 15, 1836. He was in the skirmish at San Felipe when Santa Anna's army first arrived there, and his cousin, Robert Taylor Crain, was slightly wounded in the head by an escopeta ball there. His company joined Sam Houston at Groce's Retreat and was ordered down to San Felipe to guard that crossing. They burned the town, crossed to the other side, and entrenched. During the battle of San Jacinto, Sam Houston, in an attempt to disguise himself, wore the cap and rode the horse of Sergeant Major Crain. As sergeant major, Crain received the sword from Juan Nepomuceno Almonte at the surrender and carried the dispatches concerning the surrender to the authorities in Nacogdoches County. Crain married Sarah Elvina Smith on October 3, 1837; they had ten children, eight of whom lived to adulthood. Joel and Sarah lived in Nacogdoches County, then moved to Henderson in Rusk County, then to McLennan County. Crain received 640 acres for having participated in the battle of San Jacinto. In 1853, on the Brazos, seven miles south of Waco, he built one of the first sawmills in the county. He was also the first to plant cotton in the prairie portion of McLennan County. Crain died on January 18, 1887, and was buried in the Harris Creek Cemetery. In 1972 an official Texas historical marker was placed at his grave.

Sam Houston Dixon and Louis Wiltz Kemp, The Heroes of San Jacinto (Houston: Anson Jones, 1932). Dayton Kelley, ed., The Handbook of Waco and McLennan County, Texas (Waco: Texian, 1972). A Memorial and Biographical History of McLennan, Falls, Bell, and Coryell Counties (Chicago: Lewis, 1893; rpt., St. Louis: Ingmire, 1984).

Time Periods:
  • Texas Revolution

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

Eleanor Hanover Nance, “Crain, Joel Burditt,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 26, 2022,

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May 1, 1995
October 20, 2016