Smith, Morgan L. (1800–1884)

By: Randolph B. "Mike" Campbell and Brett J. Derbes

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: November 17, 2021


Morgan L. Smith, soldier, merchant, politician, and Brazoria County planter, was born in Dutchess County, New York, on September 9, 1800. Smith served as an officer of the militia in Dutchess County from 1818 to 1825. He founded the firm Smith and Schultz of Poughkeepsie in 1824 and relocated the business to New York City in 1827. He was appointed adjutant of the Washington Guards in 1828 and elected lieutenant colonel in January 1830. Smith was a member of the Chamber of Commerce and elected to the New York Board of Alderman from the Fourth Ward in 1833 and 1835. While in New York he was an incorporator and director of the Leather Manufacturers’ Bank, as well as a director of the Bank of the State of New York, the Farmers’ Loan and Trust Company, and the Erie Railroad. He was promoted to colonel in the New York Seventh Regiment in February 1835 and represented the First District in the New York Senate in 1836. Smith joined a committee to receive donations and relief for the citizens of Texas under threat from Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. He subsequently became United States Consul to the Republic of Texas, and served in that capacity for ten years in support of annexation. He then relocated his businesses to Texas following the financial panic of 1837.

After arriving in Columbia, Texas, Smith became a merchant in partnership with Thomas J. Pilgrim and John Adriance. The business concern, under the name of Smith and Adriance, sold family and plantation supplies for which cotton was frequently received in exchange and extended credit to families, planters, and local dealers throughout the settlements west of the Trinity River. From 1841 to 1847 Smith and Adriance were joint owners of Waldeck Plantation in Brazoria County, which Smith developed into one of the largest sugar plantations in Texas. In 1842, when cotton receipts fell off, he began to accept other security and added to Waldeck’s slaves, acreage, and equipment. The partnership dissolved by 1845, and from 1842 to 1846 Smith used the plantation as a self-sustaining camp, to which he sent slaves and work animals that he accepted in trade. In 1852 the plantation produced 520 hogsheads of sugar. Smith was a devoted Baptist who donated assorted books to churches in Texas to aid the moral and spiritual development of the state. He married Elizabeth B. Brower in Brooklyn, New York, in 1853. The family returned to Texas for several years, but Smith moved his wife and daughter Margaret back to New York in 1859. Smith remained in Texas and operated Waldeck until the end of the Civil War, when he sold it to Hamlin Bass. He did not participate in the war, but he received an official pardon from President Andrew Johnson on September 13, 1865.

After the war Smith returned to New York City, where he joined the Veteran Corps of the Seventh Regiment of New York. He gave $50,000 to fund twenty-five scholarships at Madison University, and served as a trustee of Vassar College, the Peddle Institute, and Madison University. By the 1880 census Smith was living in Newark, New Jersey. He died at Newark on August 13, 1884, and was buried at the Mount Pleasant Cemetery.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 15, 1884. Brooklyn Union, August 15, 1884, August 23, 1884. Emmons Clark, History of the Seventh Regiment of New York, 1806-1889 (New York: Seventh Regiment, 1890). James A. Creighton, A Narrative History of Brazoria County (Angleton, Texas: Brazoria County Historical Commission, 1975). Abigail Curlee Holbrook, “Cotton Making in Antebellum Texas,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly 73 (April 1970). Magazine of History with Notes and Queries Volume 22 (Tarrytown, New York: William Abbatt, 1922). New Orleans Times Picayune, August 18, 1884. Frank Wayland Norcross, A History of the New York Swamp (New York: Chiswick Press, 1901). Poughkeepsie Eagle News, August 16, 1884. Benjamin Franklin Riley, History of the Baptists of Texas (Dallas: s.p., 1907). Abner J. Strobel, The Old Plantations and Their Owners of Brazoria County (Houston, 1926; rev. ed., Houston: Bowman and Ross, 1930; rpt., Austin: Shelby, 1980). The Sun (New York, New York), August 15, 1884. 

Time Periods:

  • Antebellum Texas

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

Randolph B. "Mike" Campbell and Brett J. Derbes, “Smith, Morgan L.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed December 04, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/smith-morgan-l.

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1976
November 17, 2021

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