Murphree, David (1811–1866)

By: Thomas W. Cutrer

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: October 25, 2019

David Murphree, farmer, jurist, and army officer, was born in Tennessee in 1811. He came to Texas from Randolph County, Tennessee, in 1835 as a lieutenant in Capt. John W. Peacock's company of volunteers and took part in the siege of Bexar. He was discharged on February 10 and then took up duties as a clerk to Green B. Jameson, the engineer in charge of fortifying the Alamo. On March 16, 1836, he reenlisted in the army and was elected first lieutenant of Capt. William H. Patton's Fourth Company-the so-called "Columbia Company"-of Col. Sidney Sherman's Second Regiment, Texas Volunteers. When Patton was appointed aide-de-camp on Gen. Sam Houston's staff on the eve of San Jacinto, Murphree took command of the company and led it in the battle. He was still in the army, stationed at San Jacinto, as late as May 3, 1836.

In 1837 and 1838 Murphree served as chairman of the board of land commissioners in Bexar County. There he married Margaret Patton of Kentucky, the niece of his old commander, and the couple moved to Victoria, where he became a successful merchant. On January 30, 1840, he was appointed chief justice of Victoria County. At that time he owned 2,756 acres in Bexar County as well as two town lots in Victoria. In May 1842, in response to Rafael Vásquez's raid, Murphree volunteered for military service and was appointed quartermaster of the Texas army with the rank of captain. Later that year, in the wake of Adrián Woll's invasion, he rejoined the army and on November 12 was elected major of Col. James R. Cooke's First Regiment, Second Brigade, of Brig. Gen. Alexander Somervell's Army of the South West. He accompanied the Somervell expedition to the Rio Grande but returned to San Antonio on December 10.

On January 8, 1845, Murphree married William H. Patton's sister, Margaretta Patton, in Brazoria County, Texas. In 1848 Murphree moved his family to a farm on Prices Creek in DeWitt County and helped to found the Prices Creek community. In 1850 he owned $8,000 in property in Victoria and DeWitt counties, and by 1860 he owned $26,000 in real estate and $25,500 in personal property in DeWitt County. During the Civil War his wife died, and his eldest son, Alexander, was killed at the battle of Mansfield (see RED RIVER CAMPAIGN). In 1866 he and his two surviving sons visited Virginia. Subsequently, Murphree returned alone to southern Missouri, where he held interest in a horse herd. There he was murdered, presumably for his money, and his body was later discovered beside a road.

Compiled Index to Elected and Appointed Officials of the Republic of Texas, 1835–1846 (Austin: State Archives, Texas State Library, 1981). Daughters of the Republic of Texas, Muster Rolls of the Texas Revolution (Austin, 1986). Sam Houston Dixon and Louis Wiltz Kemp, The Heroes of San Jacinto (Houston: Anson Jones, 1932). John H. Jenkins, ed., The Papers of the Texas Revolution, 1835–1836 (10 vols., Austin: Presidial Press, 1973). Joseph Milton Nance, Attack and Counterattack: The Texas-Mexican Frontier, 1842 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1964). Victor Marion Rose, History of Victoria (Laredo, 1883; rpt., Victoria, Texas: Book Mart, 1961). San Antonio Daily Herald, July 17, 1866. William S. Speer and John H. Brown, eds., Encyclopedia of the New West (Marshall, Texas: United States Biographical Publishing, 1881; rpt., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978).

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

Thomas W. Cutrer, “Murphree, David,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 19, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

October 25, 2019