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Dix, John James, Jr. (1826–1910)

Frank Wagner Biography Entry

John James Dix, Jr., surveyor, soldier, and legislator, was born on March 27, 1826, in Washtenaw County, Michigan Territory. He was brought to Texas by his parents in the mid-1830s, and the family settled at Cole's Settlement, afterwards called Independence, in Washington County. He learned astronomical surveying, possibly from his father, John J. Dix, a sea captain, and was known throughout his life for meticulous care in his measurements. He moved to Corpus Christi in 1845 and was engaged in surveying land and managing horses for the United States and Texas troops. Capt. Thomas B. Ives put him in charge of a seventy-five-wagon freight train for the United States Army bringing American possessions out of Matamoros at the end of the Mexican War in 1848. Juan N. Cortina was second in command. When Dix left Cortina in charge of the train, near La Grange, Fayette County, a dispute arose between Cortina on behalf of his men and some of the American teamsters. Army officers sided with the American teamsters. Dix returned to the command and mediated the difficulties, giving Cortina credit for strict obedience to orders and faithful and effective discharge of his duties.

Dix married Cynthia Jemima McNeill at Fort Merrill in 1855 or 1856. He served under Col. John S. Ford and Santos Benavides along the lower Rio Grande during the Civil War, and upon his return to Corpus Christi he calmed a potentially dangerous conflict between the civilian population and the occupying military forces. He moved to Duval County, where he served as deputy sheriff from 1872 to 1874 and as county surveyor and commissioner. He was a representative of the Eighty-third District in the Twenty-second Texas Legislature. A just and scrupulous man, he was an earnest believer in the economic and social philosophy of Thomas Jefferson; he differed sternly and warmly with younger, more conservative Democrats. During his latter years he often presided over meetings in South Texas to request help in driving off the bandits and Indians who disturbed the peace and robbed the citizenry. He was a member of the Democratic convention that nominated James Stephen Hogg for governor. Dix died in San Antonio in 1910.

Lewis E. Daniell, Personnel of the Texas State Government, with Sketches of Representative Men of Texas (Austin: City Printing, 1887; 3d ed., San Antonio: Maverick, 1892). John S. Ford, Rip Ford's Texas, ed. Stephen B. Oates (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1963). Sue Watkins, ed., One League to Each Wind: Accounts of Early Surveying in Texas (Austin: Texas Surveyors Association Historical Committee, 1964?).

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

Frank Wagner, “Dix, John James, Jr.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 20, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/dix-john-james-jr.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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