King, John Rhodes (1816–1898)

By: John T. King

Type: Biography

Published: June 18, 2002

Updated: June 18, 2020

John Rhodes King, legislator, Texas Ranger, Confederate officer, and first mayor of Seguin, son of William and Rachel (Petty) King, was born in Stewart County, Tennessee, on March 24, 1816. He and his younger brother, Henry, joined a group of immigrants to Texas from Paris, Tennessee, in August 1837. The group crossed the Sabine River into Texas on September 13 and arrived in Gonzales on October 6. Finding prejudice in Gonzales against selling lots to new immigrants, King participated in forming a joint-stock company to purchase and survey land for a new town, named Seguin on February 25, 1839, in honor of Juan N. SeguĂ­n.

On March 16, 1839, King joined a newly raised ranger company as second sergeant to protect settlers from Indian raids. He served under the famed "Old Paint," Matthew Caldwell. After discharge six months later, he joined the Texas Auxiliary to help the Federalist forces in the Mexican civil war, who had promised the Texans recognition of their independence in exchange for furnishing 1,500 volunteers to the Federalist army. Upon returning to San Antonio on March 18, 1840, King joined a company of minute men to protect the area from the Indians. During the Mexican Invasions of 1842, he was named lieutenant under Capt. John Coffee (Jack) Hays for the Texas forces in San Antonio, which despite defense was captured by the Mexican army on September 11. Reinforcements arrived, and a number of battles ensued, with the Mexicans retreating to Mexico on October 1.

In June 1846, after the outbreak of the Mexican War, King joined a company of Col. John Hays's First Texas Regiment of Mounted Troops under Gen. Zachary Taylor. Back in Seguin in 1849, King served as deputy county clerk for Guadalupe County. On November 5, 1850, he was elected first lieutenant of a company of Texas Rangers formed to protect the state from Indian incursions. He returned to Seguin the following year, opened a grocery store, and married Ruth Eliza Wheeler.

An act incorporating Seguin was approved by the legislature on February 7, 1853, and in March, King was elected first mayor of the town. He organized several Masonic lodges dedicated to encouraging education and regulating the use of liquor. In June 1855, he was elected to the Sixth Legislature and appointed to the committees on Public Lands, Indian Affairs, Military Affairs, and Claims and Accounts. In the fall of 1859 he moved to Cibolo Creek in Eastern Bexar County. He was active in the movement to create Wilson County, and carried the petition to Austin.

Following the Secession Convention in Austin on January 28, 1861, Capt. John R. King joined the staff of Col. Henry McCullough, commander of the Texas Mounted Riflemen, C.S.A., and served in Texas and Arkansas. After resigning due to illness in December 1862, he moved first to Seguin and then to his ranch on Cibolo Creek in Wilson County, where he operated a steam sawmill, gristmill, and cotton gin. On February 15, 1876, King was elected a county commissioner, and in 1877 Stockdale was laid out as a townsite on land partially belonging to him. On November 7, 1882, he was elected to the Eighteenth Legislature, where he served on the committees on Stock and Stockraising, Military Affairs, and Indian Affairs, and as a member of a joint House-Senate committee to report on the condition of the Governor's Mansion. After being reelected in 1884, he served on the committees on State Affairs, Judicial Districts, Counties and County Boundaries, Private Land Claims and Public Roads, and Bridges and Ferries. After retiring from public life in 1886, he chaired the building committee for the construction of the Stockdale Methodist Church on land that he and his brother-in-law had donated. John R. King died on May 17, 1898, and is buried in Stockdale Cemetery.

Betty Sue Bird, The Life and Times of John Rhodes King (M.S. thesis, Texas A & I University, 1970). John Rhodes King Papers, Texas State Archives, Austin.

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

John T. King, “King, John Rhodes,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 05, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

June 18, 2002
June 18, 2020