Ferris, Charles Drake (1812–1850)

By: Walter McCausland

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: January 1, 1995

Charles Drake Ferris, soldier, surveyor, and newspaperman, was born at Pittsfield, New York, on December 5, 1812, the son of Angus and Sarah (Gray) Ferriss and younger brother of Warren Angus Ferris. He spent his boyhood and youth in Buffalo, New York. In later years he dropped the final letter of the family name. In November 1835 Ferris left Buffalo for Texas, with letters to Sam Houston and Lorenzo de Zavala. Intending to join the army, he proceeded to headquarters at San Antonio. Although his family believed that he fought at the battle of San Jacinto, it was never proved. He may have been the "Col. Ferris" that James W. Fannin dispatched to Lt. Gov. James W. Robinson on February 28, 1836, with the information that Fannin's troops had made an unsuccessful attempt to reach Bexar and had returned to Goliad (see GOLIAD CAMPAIGN OF 1836). On April 10, 1836, Ferris, acting as a spy for Moseley Baker, sent a message to Baker informing him of Mexican troop movements. Robinson, in camp at Harrisburg in May 1836, gave to Ferris a letter of introduction to Gen. Thomas J. Rusk, then in command of the Army of the Republic of Texas. The letter referred to Ferris as a colonel and a young man of classical education, moral habits, and tried valor. Shortly thereafter Ferris joined the command of Maj. Isaac Watts Burton, a force later known as the Horse Marines.

He returned to Buffalo on leave in the summer of 1836 and assisted his brother Warren in editing the latter's journal, Life in the Rocky Mountains. In October 1836 Texas president David G. Burnet described Ferris as an "agent to receive donations for Texas." Ferris returned to Texas and was reported on the Trinity River locating land in February 1837. He resigned from the army in April and joined his brother as a surveyor; at this time he was also associated with Isaac W. Burton as surveyor and as editor of the Nacogdoches Texas Chronicle.

Ferris again returned to Buffalo in August 1837, intending to take his family to Texas. Financial difficulties intervened, however, and he turned to the study of law. Later he engaged in newspaper work and in writing. In May 1834 he married Hester Ann Bivins; they had five children. He never realized his desire to move with his family to Texas. He left home in ill health in 1849 and is believed to have died at sea in December 1850. By special act of the Texas legislature in 1860, his heirs were granted 960 acres of land in Denton County, in recognition of his military service to the republic.

Dallas Herald, October 14, 1871. Daughters of the Republic of Texas, Muster Rolls of the Texas Revolution (Austin, 1986). Warren Angus Ferris, Life in the Rocky Mountains (Western Literary Messenger, July 13, 1842-May 4, 1844; rpt., ed. Paul C. Phillips, Denver: Old West, 1940). John H. Jenkins, ed., The Papers of the Texas Revolution, 1835–1836 (10 vols., Austin: Presidial Press, 1973). Louis Wiltz Kemp Papers, Texas State Archives, Austin.
  • Journalism
  • Newspapers
  • Editors and Reporters
Time Periods:
  • Texas Revolution

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

Walter McCausland, “Ferris, Charles Drake,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 10, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/ferris-charles-drake.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 1, 1995