Thomas I. (often J.) Smith, Texas Ranger and Indian agent, was born on May 30, 1800, in Montgomery, Virginia, the son of Bird B. Smith and Rhoda Ingles. He reportedly experienced his first combat as a young boy during the War of 1812. He married Rebecca Hogsett in Tennessee in 1828 and the couple had three children. Smith and his family immigrated to Texas in 1836 after the battle of San Jacinto as a volunteer in Brig. Gen. Felix Huston's Army of the Republic of Texas. He first served as a ranger under Capt. George Erath in 1840 and volunteered with Captain Eli Chandler and the Robertson County Militiamen in May 1841. In response to the raids of Rafael Vásquez and Adrián Woll on San Antonio in 1842, Smith enlisted as a private in Capt. John Rugeley's company of volunteers in Col. Clark L. Owen's regiment; he served from March 6 through April 13, 1842. He was wounded at the battle of Salado Creek on September 18, 1842. On October 17, 1842, with the announcement of the Somervell expedition, Smith enlisted as a private in Capt. Samuel Bogart's company of Col. James R. Cooke's First Regiment of the South Western Army. On November 9, 1842, he joined Capt. William S. Fisher's company of the Second Regiment and was elected third lieutenant. He accompanied the expedition to the Rio Grande but returned to San Antonio with Gen. Alexander Somervell and thus did not participate in the battle of Mier and was spared capture on the Mier expedition. In 1843 Smith was appointed by Governor Sam Houston to organize and take charge of the party that removed the archives from Austin to Houston (see ARCHIVE WAR). Later that year he moved to a farm on Chambers Creek in Ellis County. In 1844 he led a scouting party into the Wichita Mountains in search of hostile Indians. From February 16 through December 16, 1845, Smith served as lieutenant commanding the Robertson County Rangers.
On September 8, 1845, Smith, James Clinton Neill, and Edwin Morehouse were appointed to meet with representatives of the Comanche, Caddo, Cherokee, Delaware, Ionie, Lipan, and Tonkawa tribes to work out a treaty of peace. After a series of councils on the Brazos River from September 12 through 21 the Indians agreed to return stolen property and discontinue their raids on settlements. Later that season Smith and George Whitfield Terrell were appointed commissioners to the Waco, Wichita, and Keechi Indians. The treaty of "peace, friendship, and commerce" that resulted from their efforts was signed on Tehuacana Creek near Waco on November 16, 1845, the last Indian treaty formulated by the Republic of Texas. On August 2, 1846, with the outbreak of the Mexican War, Smith raised a company of volunteers. In April 1847 he defeated Henry E. McCulloch in the election for command of the battalion and the rank of major. Smith's Battalion, Texas Mounted Volunteers, spent the war defending the western frontier against Indian raids. The battalion mustered out of federal service on August 17, 1847. After the war Smith continued in ranger service, commanding a company on Richland Creek. Following the death of his first wife in 1847, he married Mary Louise (Bartlett) O'Neill, the widow of John C. O'Neill, and they had one son. Smith died in Austin on March 28, 1848.