Thomas Marshall Duke, the first constitutional alcalde of Austin's colony and one of Stephen F. Austin's Old Three Hundred colonists, the son of Dr. Basil and Charlotte (Marshall) Duke, was born at Lexington, Kentucky, in 1795. His mother was a niece of Chief Justice John Marshall. Duke served in the War of 1812 under Gen. William Henry Harrison and was in the battle of the Thames, October 5, 1813. In 1818 he married Eliza J. Taylor of Newport, Kentucky. She died about six months after the marriage, and by 1819 Duke was in Natchitoches, Louisiana. In 1821 or 1822 he sailed to Texas on the schooner Lively to join Austin's colony. The 1823 census of the Colorado District listed him. On July 24, 1824, he received a sitio of land on Caney Creek in what is now Matagorda County. When the Baron de Bastrop arrived to organize the Austin colony, Duke acted as his secretary and accompanied him on the inspection tour. At one time Duke and Stephen Richardson were partners in a mercantile business at San Felipe. The census of 1826 listed a Thomas Duke as a single farmer and stock raiser, but sometime later that year or the next Duke married his second wife, Nancy Ashby of Lexington, Kentucky. They had one child. Around 1828 or 1830 Duke married his third wife, Jane McCormac (McCormic or McCormick; some sources have Jane Wilkins) at San Felipe; they eventually had six children. Duke and his third wife were active in Christ Church at Matagorda.
Like most of the colonists, Duke was a soldier and took part in numerous Indian fights. In 1827, while acting as alcalde of the Mina District, he drafted and signed the resolutions condemning the Fredonian Rebellion and attesting loyalty to Mexico. He was captain of one of the companies sent from Austin's colony to help in crushing the rebellion. Also in 1827 he became one of the proprietors of the townsite of Matagorda. In 1828 he was elected the first constitutional alcalde of the jurisdiction of Austin. He was secretary of an 1829 meeting of York Rite Masons at San Felipe and a charter member of the Masonic lodge in Matagorda. After serving as a member of the Convention of 1833, he was elected by the General Council in 1835 to be second judge of Matagorda Municipality. He apparently held that position until Gen. José de Urrea's advancing armies compelled him and his family to seek safety. Duke was collector at several ports, including Calhoun, Lavaca, and, by 1841, Cavallo Pass (see DECROS POINT, TEXAS). He was also at one time mayor of Matagorda. Around March 1842 he enrolled with the Matagorda volunteers under Clark L. Owen and went to the relief of Bexar when the Mexican army invaded. When Calhoun County was established in 1846, he was appointed one of the commissioners to locate the county seat. By July 1846 his third wife had died. During the late 1840s he moved from Matagorda to Refugio County, where he was one of the few resident slaveowners, and established a ranch in the vicinity of Hynes Bay. After an 1858 visit to Kentucky, he lived at Saluria before returning to his Hynes Bay ranch during the Civil War. As an ardent secessionist, he was a member of his precinct patrol; nearly all his sons served in the Confederate Army. Duke fell victim to the yellow fever epidemic of 1867 and was buried on his Hynes Bay Ranch in Refugio County.