Denton, John Bunyan (1806–1841)

By: W. Stanley Hoole

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: December 1, 1994

John B. Denton was born in Tennessee on July 28, 1806, and left an orphan at the age of eight. He was then adopted by a family named Wells, which shortly afterwards migrated to Arkansas Territory. Denton ran away from home when he was twelve years old and for a time worked as a deckhand on an Arkansas River flatboat. In 1824 he married Louisianan Mary Greenlee Stewart, who taught him to read and write. He underwent a conversion the following year, joined the Methodist Episcopal Church, and for ten years served in Arkansas and southern Missouri as an itinerant minister. In the fall of 1836 or early in 1837, in company with a fellow preacher, Littleton Fowler, Denton crossed the Red River into Texas. Because of the inadequate income afforded him and his growing family by the ministry, he began the study of law. Six months later he was licensed to practice and entered into partnership with John B. Craig at Clarksville.

He also served in the military, as a captain in a company commanded by Col. Edward H. Tarrant. On May 22, 1841, the unit attacked the Indians of Keechi Village in the battle of Village Creek, about six miles east of the site of Fort Worth. Denton, who, according to one account, was himself immediately in charge of the attacking force, was instantly killed by a bullet that hit his chest as he raised his rifle to fire. His body was brought back on horseback and buried in an unmarked grave on the east bank of Oliver Creek, near its confluence with a stream now called Denton Creek. Twenty years later John S. Chisum disinterred the remains and buried them in a wooden box in the corner of the yard of his home on Clear Creek, near Bolivar. In 1901 the Pioneer Association of Denton County, after diligent search and thorough identification, again removed the remains and buried them with appropriate ceremonies in the southeast corner of the Denton County Courthouse lawn.

William Allen, Capt. John B. Denton, Preacher, Lawyer, and Soldier: His Life and Times in Tennessee, Arkansas and Texas (Chicago: Donnelly, 1905). Zachary T. Fulmore, History and Geography of Texas As Told in County Names (Austin: Steck, 1915; facsimile, 1935). Homer S. Thrall, A Brief History of Methodism in Texas (Nashville: Publishing House of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 1889; rpt., Greenwood, South Carolina: Attic, 1977). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Lawyers
  • General Law
  • Religion
  • Methodist
Time Periods:
  • Republic of Texas

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

W. Stanley Hoole, “Denton, John Bunyan,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 27, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1994