James Steen Montgomery, soldier and planter, was born in May 1788 in Tennessee, the son of Samuel and Eleanor (Steen) Montgomery. In 1802 his family moved to Mississippi. On June 6, 1814, Montgomery married Frances Gilbert, also from Tennessee, with whom he had at least seven children. He came to Texas in 1836 and on June 10 of that year enlisted in the Army of the Republic of Texas, Company D, First Regiment, Permanent Volunteers. Although furloughed on June 2, 1837, he seems to have remained in the service as late as December of that year. In the summer of 1836 Montgomery was advanced as a candidate for the vice presidency, in opposition to Mirabeau B. Lamar. Henry W. Millard, one of those urging Montgomery's candidacy, predicted that the army would support him overwhelmingly. Montgomery's name appears to have been withdrawn, however, before the election. On February 3, 1838, Montgomery received a conditional grant of land in Matagorda County. In the same year he reportedly served as chairman of the Banking Trust Committee in Matagorda. In June 1838 he chaired a meeting of Matagorda County citizens that nominated Lamar for president and William Harris Wharton for vice president.
By 1840 Montgomery had moved to Colorado County, where he owned 6,666 acres of land and personal property that included 200 cattle, 20 horses, 65 slaves, and a carriage. In 1842 he delivered beef to the troops of Col. Clark L. Owen, for which meat he was still seeking compensation in 1857. Montgomery represented Colorado County in the House of Representatives of the Eighth Congress (1843–44). In the late 1840s and early 1850s he was a member of the board of directors of the Colorado Navigation Company. On July 31, 1849, a meeting of Colorado County citizens chose him as one of six representatives to the Memphis Rail Road Convention in October. The delegates were to lobby for a southern transcontinental rail route. When the Gulf Coast and Austin City Rail Road Company was incorporated in Texas on February 9, 1854, Montgomery was one of its commissioners. By 1860 he was one of the wealthiest men in Colorado County, with eighty-seven slaves, a total of $84,000 in personal property, and $12,000 in real property. After suffering from ill health for five years, Montgomery died on May 1, 1864, at his plantation on Caney Creek near Matthews.