James Norman Smith, pioneer teacher, churchman, and county surveyor, was born in Richmond County, North Carolina, on September 14, 1789. From 1808 until 1840 he lived in Tennessee, where he farmed and taught school; James K. Polk was one of his students. In 1840 he arrived at Indianola, Texas, and made his way to the Upper Cuero Creek Settlement in what is now DeWitt County. There he began a long career of political and social leadership. He was among the organizers of the Cumberland Presbyterian church there and was the first elder in the region. At Clinton he continued his church work as elder, Sunday school organizer, and recruiter. Smith's school at Upper Cuero Creek was the first organized in the vicinity. After surveying the nearby town of Concrete in 1846, he moved first to Cameron, then to Clinton, where he took up the duties of county clerk, a position he held from 1846 to 1865. He also operated a store in conjunction with his duties as county surveyor, Masonic leader, and schoolmaster. He died on March 21, 1875, and probably was buried beside his second wife, Elizabeth Hungerford Moorehead Smith, in the Old Clinton Cemetery. He left four volumes of memoirs that illuminate antebellum life in North Carolina, Tennessee, and the Guadalupe valley of Texas.
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Nellie Murphree, A History of DeWitt County (Victoria, Texas, 1962). James Norman Smith Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Robert W. Shook,
“Smith, James Norman,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 22, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
June 1, 1995