John James was a native of Ireland who came to Texas as a member of the Power and Hewetson colony. He received his headright grant on October 25, 1834. He was married twice. His first wife, Mary, died in Refugio; they had three sons. His second wife was Elizabeth Hart; they had no children. He was síndico procurador of the ayuntamiento of Refugio in 1835–36, and was one of the Refugio colonists who reinforced Goliad on October 10, 1835. He served in Philip Dimmitt's garrison at La Bahía until it was disbanded on January 10, 1836, when he joined Ira Westover's company. His civil duties in the ayuntamiento caused him to be furloughed at Refugio, where he also served in Hugh McDonald Frazer's militia. He remained at Refugio after Lt. Col. William Ward's evacuation of Nuestra Señora del Refugio Mission on March 15, 1836, upon the advance of the Mexican army under Gen. José de Urrea. As the Mexican force approached, James tried to save the ayuntamiento archives by taking them on a circuitous route to Goliad, but he was captured near the San Antonio River by a party of Karankawa Indians and some of Capt. Carlos de la Garza's rancheros. It is said that the archives were scattered over the prairie. James was turned over to Urrea, who had him incarcerated with James W. Fannin's men after the surrender of Goliad. With Nicholas Fagan he was guarded by Mexicans who befriended them. Unlike Fagan, James refused the aid of their Mexican friends to escape; he is reported to have said, "There is some treachery and I must see what it is. Let Fannin's fate be what it will, I am ready to share it." He was murdered in the Goliad Massacre on March 27, 1836. His heirs received almost 3,200 acres of Texas land by 1870 for his service and sacrifice.