Sibley, John (1757–1837)

By: Seymour V. Connor

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: March 2, 2019

John Sibley, physician and member of the Long expedition whose correspondence to various figures in the United States helped to shape the image of Texas there in the early nineteenth century, was born on May 19, 1757, at Sutton, Massachusetts, the son of Timothy and Anne (Waite) Sibley. He studied medicine, served in the American Revolution as a surgeon's mate, and later opened a practice at Great Barrington, Massachusetts, where he married Elizabeth Hopkins in 1780. He moved to Fayetteville, North Carolina, and established the Fayetteville Gazette. After his first wife's death in 1790, he married Mrs. Mary White Winslow in November 1791. In September 1802 Sibley moved without his family to Natchitoches, Louisiana. In March 1803 he made a journey up Red River and from that date became an authority on Indians of the Red River region and Spanish Texas. In March 1804 Sibley opened a correspondence with President Thomas Jefferson, who appointed him contract surgeon to the United States Army at Natchitoches. Late in 1804 he was appointed to the council of Governor W. C. C. Claiborne. From 1805 to 1814 Sibley was Indian agent for the Orleans territory and succeeded in keeping the Indians as far west as Matagorda Bay friendly to the United States, a fact that aroused Spanish authorities against him. His correspondence with the president and with the War Department reported on Aaron Burr, Gen. James Wilkinson, the Neutral Ground, and the Gutiérrez-Magee expedition. He contributed articles containing a wealth of information on Spanish Texas to various United States newspapers. After his dismissal as Indian agent in 1814, he entered local politics and became a captain of militia, a parish judge, and a member of the Louisiana Senate. His second wife died in North Carolina in 1811, and in 1813 Sibley married Eudalie Malique of Louisiana. He accompanied James Long to Texas in 1819 but soon returned to his home near Natchitoches, where he died on April 8, 1837.

Dictionary of American Biography. Julia Kathryn Garrett, "Dr. John Sibley and the Louisiana-Texas Frontier, 1803–1914," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 45–49 (January 1942-April 1946). G. P. Whittington, "Dr. John Sibley of Natchitoches, 1757–1837," Louisiana Historical Quarterly 20 (October 1927).

  • Health and Medicine
  • Physicians and Surgeons
  • General Practitioners

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

Seymour V. Connor, “Sibley, John,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 10, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

March 2, 2019

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