Rightor, Nicholas (1792–1841)

By: James L. Glass

Type: Biography

Published: January 1, 1996

Nicholas Rightor (Richtor, Rieder, Riter, Ritor, Ryder, Writer), first surveyor of Texas, son of Nicholas and Catherine Cook(e) (McCullum) Rightor, was born at Cooperstown, New York, on June 24, 1792. He first appears as a surveyor under contract to the United States Government Engineer's office in St. Louis to survey in the Missouri and Arkansas territories beginning in 1815. His ability, however, is in doubt due to an 1826 rejection of his Arkansas surveys which were "subdivided by other surveyors, whose work is consequently affected by the errors of Mr. Rightor." By 1820 Rightor had founded and platted the town of Helena, Arkansas. In 1821 he went briefly to investigate the Spanish lands of Texas and arrived in New Orleans around November. He became friendly with Stephen F. Austin, who was outfitting his schooner, Lively, to take the first colonists to Texas. Austin, Rightor, David J. Marple, and an unknown number of others took the northern route up the Red River to buy supplies in Natchitoches before meeting the Lively on the Gulf Coast. Austin's party was recorded in Alexandria, Louisiana, on December 3; in Natchitoches on December 10; and at the mouth of the Colorado River on March 8, 1822. They waited for the Lively in vain, and when Austin decided to go to Bexar he commissioned Rightor to explore and map the area between the Brazos and Lavaca rivers. Rightor's small boat was later wrecked on what is now Morgan's Point. After living on the point for about eight months, he returned to Natchez to marry Minerva Putnam on December 30, 1822; they had eight children. Rightor was a member of the Protestant Episcopal Church and a writer of religious essays. He died at his home in Helena on August 18, 1841. Rightor's Texas trip resulted in a map entitled Map of the country between the Brassos and La Baca Rivers, By N. Rightor, A. D. 1822. He may also have collaborated with Austin on a second map, Mapa Geográfico de la Provincia de Texas por Don Estevan Austin, 1822, allegedly based upon an 1807 map by Fray José María Puelles. The coloring and line work are characteristic of Rightor's first map, although the handwriting is dissimilar. All three maps are in the archives of the library at the University of Texas at Austin.

Eugene C. Barker, ed., The Austin Papers (3 vols., Washington: GPO, 1924–28). Houston Chronicle, July 23, 1944. Adele B. Looscan, "Harris County, 1822–1845," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 18–19 (October 1914-July 1915). Robert Sidney Martin, "Maps of an Empresario: Austin's Contribution to the Cartography of Texas," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 85 (April 1982). Mary Alice Sanders, "Nicholas Rightor, Pioneer Citizen and Surveyor of Helena, Arkansas," Phillips County Historical Quarterly 3 (December 1964).

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

James L. Glass, “Rightor, Nicholas,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 10, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/rightor-nicholas.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 1, 1996