Gervais, Sinclair David (1779–1838)

By: Margaret Belding de Wetter

Type: Biography

Updated: November 29, 2019

Sinclair David Gervais, early Texas jurist, was born on February 21, 1779, in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of John Lewis and Mary (Sinclair) Gervais. His father represented South Carolina in the Continental Congress during the American Revolution and later served in both houses of the South Carolina legislature. Sinclair David graduated from the College of Charleston at age fifteen on October l6, 1794. As a young man he was active in the management of his father's plantation, Herrenhausen, in the Hard Labor section of up-country South Carolina. On June 16, 1805, he married Miss Katherine Olivia O'Keeffe; they had four children: Mary Ann, John Lewis, Eliza Amelia, and Claudinia. Gervais was commissioned a captain in the Tenth Regiment of the Mississippi Militia on July 6, 1812, and was promoted on October 14, 1814, to the rank of major in the same regiment. On May 22, 1815, he received the rank of lieutenant colonel.

In 1835 he moved to Texas, was given a one-league grant near Mina (Bastrop), in Milam's colony, and was commissioned first judge of the Municipality of Mina by Governor Henry Smith. The next year, under pressure from Comanche and Mexican attacks, he and other settlers left the area. He returned to Texas in 1837, sailing from New Orleans to Velasco and thence to Brazoria, Columbia, and finally to Matagorda. On November 7, 1837, he was nominated by Sam Houston as chief justice of Matagorda County. On November 18 the Senate confirmed his appointment. He received a grant of one labor (177 acres) in January 1838.

Two of Gervais's sons-in-law were well known in the early days of the Republic. Claudinia married pioneer doctor Moses Levy of Matagorda, and Eliza Amelia married early publisher Joseph Warren Jenkins Niles. Gervais held the position of chief justice in Matagorda County until his death in 1838. His will was proved on November 10, 1838, in Matagorda, where he was buried.

Matagorda County Historical Commission, Historic Matagorda County (3 vols., 1986–88).

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

Margaret Belding de Wetter, “Gervais, Sinclair David,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 06, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 29, 2019