Sansom, John William (1834–1920)

By: Glen E. Lich

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: September 1, 1995

John W. Sansom, frontier militia officer and Unionist leader, was born in Dallas County, Alabama, on February 5, 1834, one of eleven children of William Greenbury Sansom and Mary ("Polly") Short. After his parents moved to the Republic of Texas in the winter of 1838–39, John Sansom lived, in succession, in Washington, Lavaca, Comal (later Kendall), Uvalde, and Bexar counties until his death in 1920. The Sansom family moved to Curry Creek in 1850, and John Sansom grew to manhood at Curry's Creek Settlement, in the area of present Kendall County, where his family engaged in farming and ranching. In 1855 he became a private in the local company of Texas Rangers, thus beginning nearly thirty years of public service. That year he took part in the Callahan expedition. By 1856 he was a captain. During the Civil War Sansom, from a staunch Unionist family, was invited to accept a position of leadership in the Union Loyal League, a militia organized to protect parts of Kendall, Gillespie, and Kerr counties from Indian raids and Confederate actions. After the battle of Nueces on August 10, 1862, of which Sansom wrote the authoritative account, Battle of Nueces River in Kinney County, Tex., Aug. 10, 1862 (published in 1905), the league was forced underground, and Sansom, along with many other Texas Unionists like Andrew J. Hamilton and Edmund J. Davis, went to New Orleans after that city was taken by Union forces. Sansom joined the First Texas Cavalry, U.S.A., and took part in the Rio Grande campaign. After the war Sansom continued his service as a captain and later major of ranger troops in the Hill Country. One episode during this time was the capture by the Indians of Sansom's young cousins Clint and Jeff Smith. In 1882 Sansom was invited by New Mexico to help organize the territorial troops of that state. In 1883 he retired to ranch holdings he had acquired earlier in Uvalde County, Texas. In 1904 he and his family retired completely from public and business life moved to a home at 1102 North Flores Street in San Antonio. Sansom married Helen Victoria Patton in Blanco County in 1860. They had one child, a daughter named Elizabeth. Preceded in death by his wife, Sansom died on June 19, 1920, in San Antonio and was buried in the Mission Burial Park, near San Jose Mission, in San Antonio.

Bob Bennett, Kerr County, Texas, 1856–1956 (San Antonio: Naylor, 1956; bicentennial ed., rev. by Clara Watkins: Kerr County, Texas, 1856–1976, Kerrville, Texas: Hill Country Preservation Society, 1975). Guido E. Ransleben, A Hundred Years of Comfort in Texas (San Antonio: Naylor, 1954; rev. ed. 1974). A Twentieth Century History of Southwest Texas (2 vols., Chicago: Lewis, 1907). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.


  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Texas Rangers

Time Periods:

  • Civil War

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

Glen E. Lich, “Sansom, John William,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 21, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 1, 1995

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: