Rivers, Robert Jones (ca. 1806–1854)

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: June 1, 1995

Robert Jones Rivers, attorney and jurist renowned for his oratory and jocular wit, was born in Virginia about 1806, the son of Thomas and Elizabeth (Edmunds) Rivers. His rhetorical brilliance was legendary, but his speeches were not recorded, and little information about him is available. One of the stories told about him concerned a campaign speech he was asked to deliver in New Orleans in 1840 for the Whig presidential candidate, William Henry Harrison. Rivers agreed to speak but asked that his name not appear on the program. He arrived at the meeting, which was pitched toward the rivermen, in the guise of a flatboatman. He launched his testimonial for Harrison from his place in the crowd and then was invited to the platform to address the audience. Rivers was living in Tennessee in the 1840s. He moved with his family to Texas, probably in the late 1840s, and settled at Rivers' Spring, near Columbus. He traveled the circuit with Phil Claiborne as an attorney and judge. In 1851, when William E. Bourland and James B. Miller were appointed to investigate land titles west of the Nueces, Rivers was named attorney to the commission. That year his real property, valued at $150,000, made him one of the wealthiest residents of Colorado County. He was married twice, first to Amanda Cheatham and later to Susan Cheatham, who was listed as his wife in the 1850 census. He died in the Ake Hotel in Georgetown on December 14, 1854, and was buried in the Georgetown cemetery. Rivers was the great-grandfather of the explorer Richard E. Byrd and of Senator Harry F. Byrd. In 1886 the Texas Centennial Commission placed two memorials to him, one at Columbus and one on the courthouse grounds at Georgetown.

Colorado County Historical Commission, Colorado County Chronicles from the Beginning to 1923 (2 vols., Austin: Nortex, 1986). Galveston Daily News, June 4, 1911. Norman Kittrell, Governors Who Have Been and Other Public Men of Texas (Houston: Dealy-Adey-Elgin, 1921). David Montejano, Anglos and Mexicans in the Making of Texas, 1836–1986 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1987). Richmond Times-Dispatch, October 28, 1934. Harold Schoen, comp., Monuments Erected by the State of Texas to Commemorate the Centenary of Texas Independence (Austin: Commission of Control for Texas Centennial Celebrations, 1938). Virginia H. Taylor, The Spanish Archives of the General Land Office of Texas (Austin: Lone Star, 1955). Texas State Gazette, June 1, 1850. Williamson County Sun, October 26, 1934.


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

Anonymous, “Rivers, Robert Jones,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 17, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/rivers-robert-jones.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

June 1, 1995