Newcomb, Samuel Pierce (1839–1870)

By: William R. Hunt

Type: Biography

Published: May 1, 1995

Updated: June 6, 2020

Samuel Pierce Newcomb, pioneer West Texas settler, was born at Mansfield, Connecticut, on November 10, 1839. He moved to Missouri with his family in 1865 and went to Texas a year later. His father had opposed his leaving and had given him no money, so he subsisted for a time on odd jobs and a job in the printing office of the Birdwell Union. In 1859 he went to the frontier for his health. He was among those who helped in 1860 to organize Stephens County (then Buchanan County), where he served as the first county clerk and in 1861 surveyed Breckenridge town lots. Newcomb married Susan Emily Reynolds in 1862. The couple had one child. In 1862 Newcomb was made district collector of the Confederate war tax. The same year he enlisted at Palo Pinto and was elected first lieutenant. The company later broke up and never went into service. The Civil War left the frontier without military protection against Indians. In 1864 Newcomb served on the state frontier militia when 500 to 1,000 Comanches and Kiowas raided the Elm Creek valley (see ELM CREEK RAID). The Newcombs, together with the families of John G. Irwin, Henry Anderson, John Selman, John Hittson, and others, "forted up" for mutual protection on the banks of the Clear Fork of the Brazos River in northwestern Stephens County, twenty miles northeast of Albany. Over 100 settlers moved to Fort Davis (not the same as the Fort Davis in Jeff Davis County), and built homes within an area of 300 by 325 feet. A surrounding stockade and blockhouses were planned but not built because the Indian threat diminished soon after the homes were finished, between October 1864 and January 1865. In February 1865 residents began building a schoolhouse, and Newcomb, "a man of some culture and a strict disciplinarian," was made the teacher. His diary entry for the school's opening reflected his uneasiness: "This day I commenced a school in this place for a term of fourteen weeks. I have only nineteen schollars at present and most of them very rude and wild unacquainted with school disciplin."

News of the war's end reached Fort Davis on May 20, 1865, and most residents moved out. The Newcombs moved to Stone Ranch with Susan's parents, Barber Watkins and Anna Maria Reynolds, and other family members, including Susan's brothers William David and George Thomas Reynolds. In 1867 the Newcombs moved again, this time to build their own home on Collins Creek a mile west of Stone Ranch. Sam Newcomb established a store at a community called the Flat that developed near Fort Griffin. A 200-mile round trip to Weatherford was necessary to buy store stock. Newcomb caught measles during an epidemic and died on April 23, 1870. A creek near his home still bears his name. Like his wife, Newcomb is best remembered as a diarist of the travails of pioneer West Texas families during the Civil War. Few firsthand observations of the period were recorded by pioneers. His diary, which is in the Southwest Collection at Texas Tech University, covers January 1865 through August 21, 1866. It includes his observations about Fort Davis, frontier customs, food, and ranch life and his description of a trip from the Clear Fork to the San Saba River in 1864 to recover stolen horses from Indians.

Mrs. L. E. Farmer, "Fort Davis on the Clear Fork of the Brazos," West Texas Historical Association Year Book 33 (1957). Sallie Reynolds Matthews, Interwoven: A Pioneer Chronicle (Houston: Anson Jones, 1936; 4th ed., College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1982). Samuel Newcomb, Diary (MS, Southwest Collection, Texas Tech University).

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

William R. Hunt, “Newcomb, Samuel Pierce,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 25, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 1, 1995
June 6, 2020