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Graham, George (1772–1830)

Marilyn M. Sibley Biography Entry

George Graham, lawyer, soldier, banker, and public servant, son of Richard and Jane (Brent) Graham, was born in Dumfries, Prince William County, Virginia, about 1772. He graduated from Columbia College (now Columbia University) in 1790 and practiced law in his native town. He represented his county in the Virginia General Assembly and raised and commanded the Fairfax Light Horse during the War of 1812. James Monroe appointed Graham chief clerk of the War Department in 1814, and he served as secretary of war ad interim from October 16, 1816, to December 9, 1817. He became known as a troubleshooter in the War Department. In 1815 he was appointed a member of a commission to treat with the British regarding the settlement of the War of 1812. Later he became a specialist in Indian problems.

In 1818 he was commissioned a special agent and sent on a confidential mission to Texas to determine the status of the Napoleonic exiles who had attempted to establish the colony of Champ d'Asile on the Trinity River. Graham arrived at Galveston in a smuggling boat in the late summer of that year. The French colony had already disintegrated when he arrived, but he took occasion to consult with Jean Laffite and to inspect the Texas coast on behalf of the United States. The United States claimed Texas at that time on the basis of the Louisiana Purchase, but little was known about it. Graham was impressed by what he saw and recommended that his government occupy Texas immediately. The following year, however, the United States and Spain signed the Adams-Onís Treaty, which settled the international boundary at the Sabine River. Graham's account of his mission stands as the first Anglo-American account of a sea voyage to Texas (from Calcasieu Lake, Louisiana, to Galveston Island, after an overland trip by horseback) and gives an interesting view of Laffite and Galveston Island in 1818.

Graham was first married to a widow, Elizabeth Mary Anne Barnes (Hooe) Mason; they had two children. His second marriage was to a Miss Watson, and they also had two children. Graham was president of the Washington branch of the Bank of the United States from 1817 to 1823. From 1823 until his death in August 1830 he served as commissioner of the general land office of the United States.

Appleton's Cyclopaedia of American Biography (7 vols., New York: Appleton, 1888–91). "The Brent Family," Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, July 1904, January 1911. Walter Prichard, ed., "George Graham's Mission to Galveston in 1818," Louisiana Historical Quarterly 20 (July 1937).

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

Marilyn M. Sibley, “Graham, George,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed November 25, 2020,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.