McGehee, Thomas Gilmer (1810–1890)

By: Roy L. Swift

Type: Biography

Published: April 1, 1995

Thomas Gilmer McGehee, early settler, son of Thomas and Elizabeth Thornton (Gilmer) McGehee, was born on September 27, 1810, in Oglethorpe County, Georgia. When he was five the family moved to northern Alabama two miles from the Tennessee line. He married Minerva Hunt of Lincoln County, Tennessee, on October 9, 1832. In 1833 he and his older brother, John, chartered a schooner, loaded it with lumber in Florida, and sailed it to the mouth of the Brazos, where they disposed of their cargo with profit. After scouting out the countryside, they were so impressed that they organized a colony. Thomas arrived at his destination, Bastrop, with his young wife and infant daughter early in 1835. When the Mexican army threatened in early 1836, McGehee joined Capt. Jesse Billingsley's company and was kept on duty between the settlements and San Antonio. At the time Antonio López de Santa Anna's army reached San Antonio and besieged the Alamo, McGehee was in charge of a unit of Billingsley's company on the Old San Antonio Road five miles east of the site of present New Braunfels. As the sound of the enemy's cannons came rolling over the prairies, he posted a courier to Bastrop to warn the people of the approaching danger. His unit was soon ordered to concentrate with others on the Brazos River. He remained there on scout duty until after the battle of San Jacinto. Meanwhile his young wife and two infant children were experiencing the agonies of the Runaway Scrape. She and a slave girl loaded a two-wheeled cart with as many household goods as it would hold, hitched to it an ox, and joined the streams of the aged and infirm, mothers, and children struggling to stay ahead of the Mexican army. After McGehee was at last able to rejoin them, they spent several months in Washington County. They returned in the fall of 1836 to their farm on the west bank of the Colorado River three miles from Bastrop.

In November 1846 McGehee took up his headright for service in the revolution. He moved his family to the junction of the San Marcos and Blanco rivers, where he established the first permanent farm in what later became Hays County. During the final years of the republic, he served from time to time as needed in the ranger company of Capt. John Coffee Hays. Thomas and Minerva had nine children. Minerva McGehee died on July 9, 1877. Mcgehee was married again in 1877 to Mrs. Mary B. McGee, of Paris, Texas. There were no children from this marriage. McGehee remained on the extensive farm he had developed until his death. Sources differ as to the exact date of his death, but it was on or near November 1, 1890. He was one of the founders and original members of the Methodist church in San Marcos and a Mason. His eldest son, George T., was the subject of J. Frank Dobie's lead chapter in his book of essays Out of the Old Rock (1972).

Dudley Richard Dobie, A Brief History of Hays County and San Marcos, Texas (San Marcos, 1948). San Marcos Daily Record, October 12, 1988. Frances Stovall et al., Clear Springs and Limestone Ledges: A History of San Marcos and Hays County (San Marcos: Hays County Historical Commission, 1986).

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

Roy L. Swift, “McGehee, Thomas Gilmer,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 20, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

April 1, 1995