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Dexter, Peter Bartelle (1799–1876)

Thomas W. Cutrer Biography

Peter Bartelle Dexter, soldier and civil servant, was born in Geneva, Ontario County, New York, on November 13, 1799. He moved from Tennessee to Texas in 1834. In 1835 he was elected secretary to the Consultation at San Felipe and later that year was elected secretary to the provisional government. On November 7, 1835, he became one of the signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence. When William B. Travis's final call for help went out from the Alamo, the citizens of San Felipe elected Joseph Baker to chair a meeting to determine their response. Baker appointed Moseley Baker, John A. Wharton, Alexander Somervell, Dexter, and eight other men to draft a resolution. At the meeting on February 27, 1836, the committee reported that the colonists "must read and act in the same moment or Texas is lost."

Dexter enlisted as a private in Capt. Moseley Baker's company, but because of a quarrel with Baker soon after the retreat from Gonzales his name does not appear on the unit's muster roll. On April 10, 1836, Dexter reported to Baker from Camp Salvation near San Felipe that the enemy had evacuated the former Texas capital. Only a few days after the battle of San Jacinto Sam Houston appointed Dexter commander of a new company, made up of men newly volunteered for the army and attached to Col. Sidney Sherman's Second Regiment, Texas Volunteers. When the Army of the Republic of Texas was organized in 1838 Dexter was promoted to lieutenant colonel and given command of the Legion of Cavalry. He was also appointed as the army's commissary of subsistence. By August 3, 1839, he had been replaced by William Gordon Cooke.

On July 24, 1839, Dexter was nominated as assistant commissioner to the commission that was to determine the boundary between the United States and Texas. He went to New Orleans to meet with the American commissioners, but the Senate of the Republic of Texas refused to confirm his nomination. In 1840 Dexter was residing in Harris County, where his taxable assets amounted to one gold watch. In 1849 he left to search for gold in California, and there he remained. Dexter died in San Francisco on October 22, 1876, and was buried there in the Odd Fellows Rest cemetery.

Compiled Index to Elected and Appointed Officials of the Republic of Texas, 1835–1846 (Austin: State Archives, Texas State Library, 1981). John H. Jenkins, ed., The Papers of the Texas Revolution, 1835–1836 (10 vols., Austin: Presidial Press, 1973). Telegraph and Texas Register, November 7, 14, 21, December 2, 1835. Texas Almanac, 1872.

Time Periods:

  • Texas Revolution

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

Thomas W. Cutrer, “Dexter, Peter Bartelle,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 27, 2020,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.