Curtis, James, Sr. (ca. 1779–1836)

By: Corine Thomas, Charles L. Reid, and Linda A. Reid

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: February 17, 2010

James Curtis, Sr., one of the Old Three Hundred was born sometime around the mid-1770s to the mid-1780s. The location of his birth is unknown as are his parents’ names. James first appeared in the public record in the 1800 census of Pendleton District, South Carolina, as a married man with presumably his wife and two small children—one boy and one girl. His wife was Peggy Isaacs Rutledge, whose father, Samuel Isaacs, also lived in the district. There is no indication that Curtis had parents in the area, so he may have migrated to Pendleton District, South Carolina, from another country or another region in the United States.

James Curtis, Sr., married Peggy Isaacs Rutledge, probably in South Carolina, circa 1795 to 1800. She was a widow with one son named Richard Rutledge who lived in his stepfather’s household. Curtis followed his father-in-law, Samuel Isaacs, to Lincoln County, Tennessee, where many of the Curtis children were born. The couple had seven known children and resided in Tennessee for some fifteen years. Sometime between 1817 and 1823, Curtis moved his family to Alabama, where his wife’s siblings had settled. There is one surviving deed of sale for James Curtis when he sold 163 acres east of Mulberry Creek to George Stovall on March 16, 1816. This might approximate his departure from Lincoln County, Tennessee.

Family tradition states that the Curtis family was in Texas by late 1823, and some documents support the 1823 date. Other sources, however, show 1824 or 1825 as the date of arrival. Texas naturalization records show Curtis’s heirs later received one labor of land for arrival in 1825.

On August 3, 1824, as one of the Old Three Hundred, Curtis was given a sitio of land on the west side of the Brazos River in present-day Burleson County, Texas. His wife had died by 1826, when he was listed as a widower when Austin’s colony was enumerated. He was a stock raiser. By 1831 he moved his family to Bastrop County and either lived with or near his orphaned grandsons, James and John Stewart. He lived on the Stewart land on the west side of the Colorado River south of Bastrop. His sons, Washington and Elijah, had headrights on the east side of the river between present-day Bastrop and Smithville near present-day Alum Creek community. James Curtis, Sr., served in the revolutionary army during the Texas Revolution and participated in the siege of Bexer. He served under Edward Burleson and John J. Tumlinson, Jr. James, Sr., substituted for a son, Elijah, on February 22, 1836, under Tumlinson's command. One of Tumlinson’s duties was to guard the abandoned Bastrop townsite; Curtis was a guard. When the Mexican army came to Bastrop, Tumlinson’s company went to San Jacinto with Maj. Robert McAlpin Williamson and into Jesse Billingsley's company during the battle. Battle officers’ reports estimating Curtis's age during the battle are incorrect and have Curtis older then the census birth ranges. Several officer reports noted that, while fighting during the battle, Curtis yelled out, “Alamo! You killed Wash Cottle.” George Washington Cottle was his son-in-law.

James Curtis, Sr., died in the late summer of 1836 in Bastrop County, according to a signed statement by M. Elizabeth Curtis Reid. No gravesite has been found for him or his wife. It is presumed that he was buried in a lost family burial ground possibly on former Stewart, Curtis or Sims (owned by son-in-law Bartlett Samuel Sims) lands in Bastrop County.

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). Curtis Family Information, Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library, San Antonio, Texas. Daughters of the Republic of Texas, Muster Rolls of the Texas Revolution (Austin, 1986). Sam Houston Dixon and Louis Wiltz Kemp, The Heroes of San Jacinto (Houston: Anson Jones, 1932). Louis Wiltz Kemp Papers, Texas State Archives, Austin. Marion Day Mullins, First Census of Texas, 1829–1836, and Other Early Records of the Republic of Texas (Washington: National Genealogical Society, 1959). Worth Stickley Ray, Austin Colony Pioneers (Austin: Jenkins, 1949; 2d ed., Austin: Pemberton, 1970).Villamae Williams, Stephen F. Austin's Register of Families (Nacogdoches, Texas: Ericson, 1984).
Time Periods:
  • Mexican Texas
  • Texas Revolution

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

Corine Thomas, Charles L. Reid, and Linda A. Reid, “Curtis, James, Sr.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 30, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 17, 2010

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