Pilgrim, Thomas J. (1804–1877)

By: Samuel B. Hesler

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: May 1, 1995

Thomas Pilgrim, early Baptist teacher and promoter of Sunday schools, the son of Thomas and Dorcas (Ransom) Pilgrim, was born at East Haddam, Connecticut, on December 14, 1804. He was licensed to preach and entered Hamilton Literary and Theological Institute at Colgate University at eighteen. His health was delicate; it failed from too much studying, and he headed for Texas after finishing school. He landed at Matagorda, Texas, in 1828 and later became interpreter and translator of Spanish for the Austin Colony.

He founded the Austin Academy, a boys' school, at San Felipe early in 1829. He also organized the first Sunday school in Texas, which was discontinued because it violated Mexican law against Protestant worship in the colony. In 1836 Pilgrim helped to capture a Mexican vessel near Matagorda.

He married Lucy M. Ives on November 15, 1839, and they settled at Gonzales in 1840. That same year he fought in the battle of Plum Creek. After his first wife's death in 1840, he married Sarah Jane Bennett, on April 3, 1841. They had thirteen children, but only seven survived childhood.

In 1846 or 1847 Pilgrim organized a Sunday school that endured about thirty years at Gonzales Baptist Church, where he was a deacon. During the 1850s and 1860s he served as chairman of the Committee on Sunday Schools for the Baptist state conventions. He was also an active Democrat and served as county treasurer and as justice of the peace for three terms. He died on October 30, 1877, and was buried in Gonzales.

DeWitt Clinton Baker, comp., A Texas Scrap-Book (New York: Barnes, 1875; rpt. 1887; facsimile rpt., Austin: Steck, 1935). James Milton Carroll, A History of Texas Baptists (Dallas: Baptist Standard, 1923). Texas Historical and Biographical Magazine, 1891.
  • Religion
  • Baptist

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

Samuel B. Hesler, “Pilgrim, Thomas J.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 02, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/pilgrim-thomas-j.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 1, 1995