Snively, Jacob (ca. 1809–1871)

By: H. Bailey Carroll

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: May 11, 2019

Jacob (Old Jake) Snively, Republic of Texas military officer, was born in Greencastle, Pennsylvania and moved at an early age to Hamilton County, Ohio. After training as a surveyor and civil engineer he moved to Texas by April 1835 as a surveyor for the Republic of Mexico. He made his home in Nacogdoches and located and surveyed many land grants for the firm of William G. Logan and Henry Raguet. In July 1835 he was granted land in David G. Burnet's colony. He served in the Texas Revolution as first lieutenant and acting commander of Capt. Henry Teal's Company A of Lt. Col. Henry W. Millard's First Infantry regiment. Snively was commissioned on March 26, 1836, and remained with Company A through the end of August, when he was promoted to captain and assigned to command of Company B of the First Infantry, then commanded by Amasa Turner. On January 24, 1837, Sam Houston appointed him an ambassador to the Shawnee Indians and instructed him to interview Chief Linney about the tribe's intentions during the ongoing struggle between the Republic of Texas and Mexico. On May 13, 1837, he was appointed paymaster general of the Army of the Republic of Texas with the rank of colonel, and during June and July of 1837 was acting secretary of war. Snively resigned from the army in September 1837, but in 1839 he once again served as paymaster general under Albert Sidney Johnston and in 1843 was quartermaster of the army and assistant inspector general of the republic.

In January of that year Snively petitioned the Texas Department of War and Marine for permission to intercept a party of Mexican traders who would reportedly be crossing Texas territory by way of the Santa Fe Trail and to appropriate their goods in retaliation for the Mexican raids on San Antonio in 1842 and for the alleged mistreatment of Texas prisoners captured at the battle of Mier (see MIER EXPEDITION) and on the Texan Santa Fe expedition. Snively was instructed not to violate the sovereignty of the United States and given authorization on February 16, 1843, to raise and command a partisan command for the purpose. During the campaign morale began to crack, and some of the men began to grumble against Snively, calling him "a coward" and "an incompetent." Snively resigned in disgust, and Charles A. Warfield was selected as his replacement, but when he proved incompetent Snively was reinstated in command on July 15 to lead the volunteers home. By August 3 he and his men were back in Nacogdoches. (see SNIVELY EXPEDITION)

When gold was discovered in California in 1848, Snively, then living in Corpus Christi, turned his interests over to his brother David and crossed northern Mexico in 1849, to sail from Mazatlán to the gold fields of California. He searched for gold there until 1858, when he moved to Arizona Territory, where he discovered the "Placers of the Gila" on the Gila River some twenty-four miles east of Yuma. He was also involved in the discovery of the Castle Dome silver mines in Yuma County and took a leading role in organizing the district in conjunction with Hermann V. Ehrenberg. After the first territorial election in Arizona, Governor John Noble Goodwin appointed Snively judge of Precinct Two of Council District Two. In the second half of the 1860s Snively prospected in New Mexico and Nevada, where he alternately found and lost small fortunes. Snively was exploring a route from the site of present-day Phoenix, near which he was then living, when his group was attacked by an estimated 150 Apache Indians at the White Picacho, a noted landmark near Wickenburg, Arizona, on March 27, 1871. Snively was mortally wounded and abandoned by his companions. His body, badly decomposed and partially devoured by wild animals, was buried near the sandy arroyo where it fell. His remains were exhumed eight years later and reinterred near the mining settlement of Gillett, Arizona. Gillett has since become a ghost town, and Snively's grave is said to be unmarked. Snively Holes, a watering place east of Bill Williams Mountains, Arizona, is named for him. Snively had a twin brother who moved to Nacogdoches in 1841, causing the locals a good deal of confusion and merriment.

Clarksville Northern Standard, September 14, 21, 28, 1843. H. Bailey Carroll, "Steward A. Miller and the Snively Expedition of 1843," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 54 (January 1951). Daughters of the Republic of Texas, Muster Rolls of the Texas Revolution (Austin, 1986). Archie P. McDonald, ed., Hurrah for Texas: The Diary of Adolphus Sterne (Waco: Texian Press, 1969; rpt., Austin: Eakin Press, 1986). Stephen B. Oates, ed., "Hugh F. Young's Account of the Snively Expedition as Told to John S. Ford," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 70 (July 1966). Stephen B. Oates, Visions of Glory: Texans on the Southwestern Frontier (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1970). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Time Periods:

  • Texas Revolution
  • Republic of Texas

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

H. Bailey Carroll, “Snively, Jacob,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 17, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 11, 2019