Rowlett, Daniel (ca. 1786–1847)

By: Raymond Estep

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: October 1, 1995

Daniel Rowlett, Fannin County pioneer and political leader, one of the nine children of William and Jemima (Owen) Rowlett, was born in Prince Edward County, Virginia, about 1786. His brother Joseph, also a physician and a farmer, served in the Kentucky House of Representatives from 1838 to 1850. His oldest sister, Ann, who married George Smoot, was the mother of Abraham Owen Smoot, an early Mormon missionary, who later was mayor of Salt Lake City and of Provo, Utah. Reed Smoot, Abraham's son, was a United States senator from Utah from 1903 to 1933. Rowlett moved with his parents to what became Owen County, Kentucky, in the early 1790s and grew up near Gratz, thirty miles north of Frankfort. By 1819 his reputation as a land surveyor led the Kentucky legislature to employ him to survey the future Calloway County. He left Wadesboro, Kentucky, in the autumn of 1835 and spent some months in Tennessee before boarding the steamboat Rover in Memphis shortly after Christmas. He arrived at Jonesboro in what is now Red River County about March 1, 1836, and settled near the mouth of Pepper Camp Creek in the Tulip Bend of the Red River, where Lake Fannin is now located. After leading a five-man militia unit in a week-long visit to Kickapoo, Shawnee, and Caddo camps in what is now the Sherman-Denison area in May, Rowlett joined Capt. John Hart's Red River cavalry company on July 20, 1836. When the unit reached Nacogdoches on its way to join the Texas army at Victoria, Gen. Sam Houston appointed Rowlett quartermaster on August 5. Rowlett was discharged at Columbia on October 24. In subsequent years he continued to serve with the local militia in Fannin County and was reported to have taken part in a military expedition far up the Red River. For his military service Rowlett received a bounty warrant grant of 320 acres, which he located northeast of McKinney in what is now Collin County. For having arrived in Texas before the signing of the Texas Declaration of Independence, he received a league and a labor of land, about one-half of which surrounded the site of his original home, at the junction of Pepper Camp Creek and the Red River north of Bonham; the remainder was located on Rowlett Creek southwest of McKinney and is now part of Collin County.

From his first days in Texas, Rowlett took a leading role in the organization of its political institutions. He represented Red River County in the lower house of the Second Congress (1837–38) and introduced the petition that led to the formation of Fannin County on December 14, 1837. He also served as a Fannin County representative in the Fourth and Eighth congresses (1839–40, 1843–44). In Fannin County he served on the board of land commissioners in 1839 and again in 1840. In 1838 he served as an attorney before the commissioners' court sitting as a probate court. In the October 1838 term he was county attorney pro tem. In addition to managing a large plantation, acting as postmaster at Lexington, and practicing law, Rowlett also practiced medicine over an area larger than some states. In 1841 he established a ferry across the Red River between his home at Lexington and Indian Territory. He was a long-time member of the Masonic order and had served as worshipful master of Mount Moriah Lodge No. 39 in Dover, Tennessee, before moving to Texas. At the organizational meeting of Constantine Lodge No. 13 at Warren on November 3, 1840, he was installed as worshipful master, a position he held until March 1844. Rowlett was a member of the Baptist Church since his early years in Kentucky, and he continued to take an active role in the church in Texas. From 1844 to 1847, while serving as an agent and surveyor of the Mercer colony, Rowlett prepared the map that Charles Fenton Mercer used in promoting the project. Rowlett suspended his surveying activities early in 1847 after his life was threatened during an expedition east of the Trinity River. He married Nancy Ellis on November 20, 1807, in Franklin County, Kentucky; they had three daughters. After her death about 1815, Rowlett returned to Prince Edward County, Virginia, to marry Martha Penick, on November 18, 1817. Their only child died in infancy. After his second wife's death, about 1820, Rowlett remained a widower until June 5, 1833, when he married Mary (Polly) Ann Jones in Calloway County, Kentucky. They had four children, three of whom grew to maturity. Rowlett died on December 2, 1847, and was buried in the Inglish Cemetery, now at Bonham. The Masons of Constantine Lodge No. 13 held a funeral ceremony for him on June 4, 1848.

Nancy Ethie Eagleton, "The Mercer Colony in Texas, 1844–1883," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 39–40 (April-October 1936). Charles Adams Gulick, Jr., Harriet Smither, et al., eds., The Papers of Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar (6 vols., Austin: Texas State Library, 1920–27; rpt., Austin: Pemberton Press, 1968). Floy Crandall Hodge, A History of Fannin County (Hereford, Texas: Pioneer, 1966). Rex Wallace Strickland, "History of Fannin County, Texas, 1836–1843," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 33, 34 (April, July 1930).

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

Raymond Estep, “Rowlett, Daniel,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 05, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

October 1, 1995