Hanks, Wyatt (1795–1862)

By: William M. Hanks

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: January 1, 1995

Wyatt Hanks, judge, Texas patriot, and member of the General Council, the oldest of nine children of Peter and Isabella Hanks, was born in Kentucky on November 27, 1795. His father, Peter Hanks IV, was killed in the battle of Tippecanoe, and his grandfather, Peter Hanks III, fought in the American Revolution on the Pennsylvania frontier. Wyatt Hanks served in the War of 1812 and in 1818 moved to Miller County, Arkansas, where he was common pleas judge at Pecan Point in 1820. About the same time he married Hannah Gates Mabbitt, daughter of William Gates and widow of William Mabbitt, an Indian trader. Judge Hanks worked with other settlers at Pecan Point to secure clear title to their land, but an 1825 treaty with the Choctaws allocated the land to the Indians. In 1826 Hanks, his wife, and their children moved to the Ayish Bayou settlement in Texas, where he built a water-powered sawmill, the first of its kind in Texas, a mile above the crossing of the Old San Antonio Road on the Ayish Bayou. His mother and three brothers soon moved to the settlement.

In 1832 Hanks participated as captain and camp adjutant in the battle of Nacogdoches. This engagement resulted in the permanent removal of all Mexican federal forces from East Texas. Hanks's brother Horatio was one of seventeen men who pursued 300 Mexican troops to the home of John Durst near the Angelina River. The federal soldiers, mistaking the East Texans for a much larger force, surrendered and were eventually marched back to San Antonio with a company led by James Bowie.

Wyatt and James Hanks were chosen by the settlers of Ayish Bayou to select the site for the town of San Augustine. Judge Hanks was elected a delegate from that district to the Convention of 1832, where he served on five committees, including the committee to recommend a uniform organization for the state militia and the committee on schools, which first attempted to establish a public school system in Texas. Hanks was granted a league of land in Lorenzo de Zavala's colony in 1834, and he operated a ferry where the Coushatta Trace crossed the Neches River. He later established the settlement of Town Bluff at that site. He was elected a delegate from the Bevil District to the Consultation of 1835, where he served as one of the committee of twelve that drafted the Declaration of November 7, 1835. Hanks was also selected to the General Council of the provisional government of Texas. He, Don Carlos Barrett, and Daniel Parker wrote an appeal, widely distributed by newspaper and handbill, to the people of Texas to come to the aid of their country. On the General Council Hanks was chairman of the Military Affairs Committee and the Finance Committee. Because of the difficulty of maintaining a quorum to conduct the business of the provisional government, he returned to the Bevil District and served as quartermaster for the Jasper Volunteers during the remainder of the Texas Revolution.

Hanks continued to support education in Texas as a trustee of San Augustine Female Academy and in 1840 made a donation of 1,200 acres to Wesleyan College in San Augustine. He was affiliated with Masonic lodges in San Augustine, Jasper, Town Bluff, Victoria, and Woodville. He and his wife had nine children, seven of whom lived to maturity. In 1849 he owned 18,898 acres of land and lived in Tyler County. By 1854 he owned over 29,000 acres of land and twenty-three slaves. He died in 1862 and was buried in a family cemetery on George Hanks's farm in Liberty County. His name is on a historical marker for regional pioneers on the courthouse square in Jasper.

Adin Baber, The Hanks Family of Virginia and Westward (Glendale, California: Clark, 1965). George L. Crocket, Two Centuries in East Texas (Dallas: Southwest, 1932; facsimile reprod. 1962). Linda Ericson Devereaux, Tales of the Old Stone Fort (Lufkin, Texas: Pineywood Printing, 1976). Hans Peter Nielsen Gammel, comp., Laws of Texas, 1822–1897 (10 vols., Austin: Gammel, 1898). Madeleine Martin, More Early Southeast Texas Families (Quanah, Texas: Nortex, 1978). William E. Smith, ed., Memoirs of a Methodist Circuit Rider: Francis Wilson (Austin, 1983). Telegraph and Texas Register, February 20, 1836, July 22, 1840, February 9, 1842. Time, March 29, 1952. Villamae Williams, Stephen F. Austin's Register of Families (Nacogdoches, Texas: Ericson, 1984).


  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Politics and Government
  • Judges

Time Periods:

  • Texas Revolution

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

William M. Hanks, “Hanks, Wyatt,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed November 28, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/hanks-wyatt.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 1, 1995