Smeathers, William (ca. 1766–1837)

By: Elsie M. Smothers

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: June 13, 2020

William Smeathers (Smithers, Smothers), Texas pioneer and veteran of the War of 1812, was born in either Pennsylvania or North Carolina, the son of a young man named Smither. He was twice married. He married his second wife, Mary Winters of Tennessee, about 1788. In 1782 Smeathers was one of the first settlers of the Rough River area of Kentucky where he built Smeathers Station. In 1794 he and his family were living in Tennessee where he enlisted in the Tennessee Militia. Smeathers was in Hardin County, Kentucky, in 1795. In 1797 he built a home on the Ohio River, at a site that became known as Yellow Banks, now Owensboro, Kentucky. He was appointed land commissioner of Ohio County, Kentucky, in 1808, to distribute land and settle land disputes. In 1809 Smeathers was accused of murdering a man named Andrew Norris in Ohio County. According to History of Daviess County, Kentucky, Smeathers was tried in the Ohio Circuit Court and was acquitted. He most likely traveled to Texas around 1810 and may have spent a month on Galveston Island. He was soon back in the United States, and in the War of 1812 he served under Major Touisant Dubois as a captain in the Kentucky Mounted Spies. He was discharged in October 1812 at Vincennes, Indiana.

On his second trip to Texas, in 1821, he joined Stephen F. Austin and his band of a dozen men in exploring the coastal region to decide on a location for Austin's first colony. Smeathers and four other men were left on the Brazos to build Fort Bend while Austin returned to Natchitoches, Louisiana, for his first group of settlers. Smeathers is listed as one of the Old Three Hundred. The following year he lived on Caney Creek in present Matagorda County. In 1824 he received his land grant on the Brazos, and a large lake nearby was named for him. The 1826 Austin Colony census listed him as William Smithers, single, in present Bastrop County. In 1828 he joined DeWitt's colony and settled on the west bank of the Lavaca River, where he was joined by his two sons, John and Archibald. The census listed him as a widower. In 1834 he received land in Lavaca County on Rocky Creek. Smeathers died at Columbia, Texas, on August 13, 1837. His four daughters remained in Indiana. Several historical markers stand in his honor, one in Texas (in Lavaca County), and two in Kentucky; Smothers Park in Owensboro, Kentucky, is named in his honor. His grandsons Andrew Jackson Berry, John Bate Berry, and Joseph Berry distinguished themselves in the Texas Revolution.

Historical Marker Files, Texas Historical Commission, Austin. History of Daviess County, Kentucky (Chicago: Inter-state Pub. Co., 1883). Texas and the American Revolution (San Antonio: University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures, 1975).

Time Periods:
  • Mexican Texas

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

Elsie M. Smothers, “Smeathers, William,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 30, 2022,

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June 13, 2020

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