Sylestine, Bronson Cooper (1879–1969)

By: Howard N. Martin

Type: Biography

Published: September 1, 1995

Updated: February 24, 2021

Bronson Cooper Sylestine (Tic-ca-Itche), principal chief of the Alabama-Coushatta Indians from 1936 to 1969, was born on this tribe's reservation in Polk County, Texas, on March 7, 1879. His parents were Washington and Cissie (Thompson) Sylestine; his grandfather was Colabe Cillistine, a subchief of the Alabama Indians during the first half of the nineteenth century. Sylestine was named after United States Congressman S. Bronson Cooper of Tyler County. He attended a brush-arbor school on the Alabama-Coushatta reservation through the fifth grade and then was foreman for the construction of county roads in the vicinity of the reservation, worked in the timber industry, and did some farming. He was six feet, three inches tall. On July 1, 1905, he married Mozanne Thompson; they had six children. Three of their children earned college degrees. Sylestine was a loyal, dedicated member of the Alabama-Coushatta Presbyterian missionary church and encouraged other tribal members to join and be active members. He was elected a deacon of the reservation church in 1916, became an elder in 1917, and represented this church in district conferences of the Brazos Presbytery of East Texas. At every opportunity he stressed the importance of education-especially in English and mathematics-for all the Alabama-Coushatta children so they could compete in the world outside the reservation. He served several terms as a trustee of the reservation school.

Alabama-Coushatta members elected him chief (mikko choba) in November 1935, and he was inaugurated on January 1, 1936, in a ceremony attended by approximately 3,000 persons. In his address on this occasion, he promised "to walk in the paths of those who preceded me and lead my people to a better life." Among other gifts he received during this event was a large bronze medal, made by order of the Texas legislature to commemorate 100 years of peace between the Alabama-Coushattas and the White residents of Texas. Sylestine served as a member for life of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribal Council. He personally represented the tribe at all religious and social functions and at all official meetings. His last public appearance was in January 1969, at the dedication of a historical marker at the grave of one of his predecessors, Chief John Scott. Sylestine was widely respected for his leadership and influence among the Alabama-Coushattas. In 1961 Governor Marion Price Daniel, Sr., issued a proclamation to honor Chief Sylestine on his twenty-fifth anniversary as chief of the Alabama-Coushattas. He died on February 23, 1969, and was buried in the cemetery on the Alabama-Coushatta Reservation. After his death, the Texas Senate honored him in a resolution dated February 25, 1969.

Houston Post, February 24, 1969. Polk County Enterprise, January 1, 1936, October 22, 1959, February 25, 1969. San Antonio Express, January 1, 1936. Mary Donaldson Wade, The Alabama Indians of East Texas (Livingston, Texas: Polk County Enterprise, 1931; rev. ed. 1936).

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

Howard N. Martin, “Sylestine, Bronson Cooper,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 19, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 1, 1995
February 24, 2021