Mercer, Eli (1790–1872)

By: Vernon P. Crockett

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: April 8, 2020

Eli Mercer, early settler, was born in Georgia on June 28, 1790. His father, Thomas Mercer, was a Baptist minister in Wilkes and Hancock counties, Georgia, before 1803, when he moved his family to southwestern Mississippi. In Mississippi Eli Mercer married Ann Nancy Thompson on December 24, 1810. They became the parents of six children. Penelope, the oldest child, married Gail Borden, Jr. In 1829, probably through the influence of Borden, whose brother, Thomas H., was already in Texas, Eli Mercer, his wife, their five unmarried children, and three slaves traveled by boat to Natchitoches, Louisiana, and then overland by wagon to the Colorado River in what is now Wharton County. In February 1832 Mercer bought 500 acres of the James W. Jones League from Thomas H. Borden for $298. In 1837 he bought one quarter of the adjoining league from John P. Borden. In the early years the area was known as Mercer's Crossing because of the ferry that Eli Mercer operated there. Mercer's land on the Colorado became known as Egypt because of the abundance of corn produced there. Mercer was a delegate to the Conventions of 1832 and 1833 from the District of Mina. At the 1832 convention he voted to petition the Mexican government to make Texas a separate state. In 1836 he was appointed one of the commissioners for organizing the militia for the jurisdiction of Austin. During the Texas Revolution he supplied the Texas army with beef and other provisions and hid corn in the cane brakes so that the community had food and seed when peace came and the settlers returned to their homes. When Texans fled before the approach of Antonio López de Santa Anna's army, Gail Borden borrowed a wagon and team from Mercer, and he and Joseph Baker hauled their press to Harrisburg, where, on April 14, an edition of the Telegraph and Texas Register was being printed when the enemy arrived. The press was dumped into Buffalo Bayou, but some copies of the paper were saved. By February 1836 Thomas Rabb was organizing the men of the area into a company of "Citizen Soldiers." Eli Mercer joined on February 29 as a first sergeant. Both Mercer and his son Elijah participated in the battle of San Jacinto. Mercer is said to have been the first producer of sugar in Texas. In the Telegraph and Texas Register in November 1836, Borden praised the quality of sugar produced on the Mercer plantation. Eli Mercer served as postmaster at Mercer's from 1835 to 1837, by which time the town was called Egypt and was still part of Colorado County. He served again in 1841. In 1836 he was on the committee that selected Columbus as the county seat of Colorado County. He was elected justice of the peace for the Lower District in the first Colorado County election in 1837 and served on the first jury in 1838. In 1838 Thomas J. Rabb, William J. E. Heard, and Mercer were appointed to receive subscriptions for the Colorado Navigation Company to promote the use of the river for transportation, and in September 1850 Mercer and others organized a new effort to remove the great raft in the Colorado that for so many years obstructed navigation on the lower river. Mercer was a longtime member of the Baptist State Convention, and when Baylor University was established at Independence in 1845 he was a charter trustee. He died in Egypt, Wharton County, on December 7, 1872. His exact burial site is unknown.

Sam Houston Dixon and Louis Wiltz Kemp, The Heroes of San Jacinto (Houston: Anson Jones, 1932). Louis Wiltz Kemp Papers, Texas State Archives, Austin. Annie Lee Williams, A History of Wharton County (Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1964).

Time Periods:

  • Texas Revolution

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

Vernon P. Crockett, “Mercer, Eli,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 26, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

April 8, 2020