Samuel Augustus Maverick, land baron and legislator, was born at Pendleton, South Carolina, on July 23, 1803, the son of Samuel and Elizabeth (Anderson) Maverick. He spent his earliest years primarily in Charleston, but in 1810 the family moved to Pendleton, where Maverick's father established a plantation and devoted much of his energy to buying land in South Carolina, Alabama, and Georgia. Maverick was educated at home until age eighteen, when he left South Carolina and spent a summer studying under a tutor at Ripton, Connecticut, in preparation for entry to Yale University. He entered the sophomore class at Yale in September 1822 and graduated in 1825. He returned to Pendleton, started handling some of his father's business affairs, and developed an eye for land and a careful business sense. In 1828 he traveled to Winchester, Virginia, and studied law under noted jurist Henry St. George Tucker. Maverick received his Virginia law license on March 26, 1829. He returned to Pendleton in 1829 and opened a law office. He ran for the South Carolina legislature in 1830, but his antisecession and antinullification views contributed to his defeat and led him to leave the state in 1833. He settled temporarily in Georgia, then on a plantation in Lauderdale County, Alabama, before moving to Texas in March 1835.
Maverick arrived in Texas eager to start building his own land empire, but the Texas Revolution was rapidly developing. He reached San Antonio shortly before the siege of Bexar began and was soon put under house arrest with John W. Smith and A. C. Holmes on the orders of Mexican general Martín Perfecto de Cos. Forbidden to leave the city, Maverick kept a diary that provides a vivid record of the siege. He and Smith were released on December 1 and quickly made their way to the besiegers' camp, where they urged an immediate attack. When an attack was finally made on December 5, Maverick guided Benjamin R. Milam's division. He remained in San Antonio after the siege and in February was elected one of two delegates from the Alamo garrison to the independence convention scheduled for March 1, 1836, at Washington-on-the-Brazos. He left the embattled garrison on March 2 and arrived at the convention on March 5. While serving there, Maverick contracted a severe attack of chills and fever. After the delegates dispersed, he made his way to Nacogdoches; then, ill and aware that he was needed on family business, he departed for Alabama about the time of Sam Houston's victory at San Jacinto.
In Alabama, Maverick met Mary Ann Adams (see MAVERICK, MARY ANN), and married her on August 4, 1836, at her widowed mother's plantation near Tuscaloosa. The couple divided their time between Alabama and Pendleton until late 1837, when with their first-born, Samuel Maverick, Jr., and a small retinue of slaves, they started for Texas. In June 1838 they established a home in San Antonio. Maverick obtained his Texas law license, engaged in West Texas land speculation, and served as the city's mayor in 1839. He followed his term as mayor with a term as treasurer and continued to serve on the city council until the Mavericks joined the "Runaway of '42," a move based on rumors of pending Mexican invasion of San Antonio. They settled temporarily near Gonzales, but Maverick returned to San Antonio for the fall term of district court and was one of the prisoners taken by Mexican general Adrián Woll. He was released from Perote Prison in April 1843 through the intervention of United States minister to Mexico Waddy Thompson. Upon his return, Maverick, who had been elected to the Seventh Congress of the Republic of Texas, served in the Eighth Congress and was a strong advocate of annexation to the United States. In late 1844 he moved his growing family to Decrows (Decros) Point on Matagorda Bay, where they lived until October 1847.
When he returned permanently to San Antonio with his family, Maverick left a small herd of cattle originally purchased in 1847 on Matagorda Peninsula with slave caretakers. It was this herd that was allowed to wander and gave rise to the term maverick, which denotes an unbranded calf. In 1854 Maverick and his two eldest sons rounded up the cattle and drove them to their Conquista Ranch near the site of present Floresville before selling them in 1856. During the years between Maverick's return to San Antonio and his death, he expanded his West Texas landholdings, which in 1851 totaled almost 140,000 acres. By 1864 they had burgeoned to more than 278,000 acres, and at his death they topped 300,000 acres. Maverick gained land primarily by buying such land certificates as headright certificates and bounty and donation certificates. In the 1850s and 1860s he was one of the two biggest investors in West Texas acreage, and Maverick County was named in his honor.
He served as a Democrat in the Fourth through Ninth state legislatures (1851–63). There he worked to ensure equal opportunity for his Mexican and German constituents, to foster fair and liberal laws for land acquisition and ownership, to develop transportation and other internal state improvements, to provide protection for the frontier, and to ensure a fair and efficient judicial system. He also worked until the outbreak of the Civil War to stem the tide of secessionism, but, seeing that a conflict was inevitable, threw his support to the Confederacy. He was one of three secession commissioners appointed by the Texas Secession Convention, and the three successfully effected the removal of federal troops and the transfer of federal stores in Texas to the state government. During the war he was elected chief justice of Bexar County and served a second term as San Antonio mayor. After the war he received a presidential pardon and was active in attempts to combat the radical Republican regime in Reconstruction Texas. He died on September 2, 1870, after a brief illness. Surviving him were his wife and five of his ten children. Maverick, an Episcopalian, was buried in San Antonio's City Cemetery Number 1.