Veatch, John Allen (1808–1870)

By: Robert Wooster

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: July 20, 2016

John Allen Veatch, surgeon, surveyor, and scientist, son of Isaac and Lucinda (Ramsey) Veatch, was born in Kentucky on March 5, 1808, the first of eight children. He began his medical studies in 1827. After becoming a Mason in 1829 he moved to Louisiana, where he worked as a teacher. He came to Texas in 1834, securing land in the areas of present-day Hardin, Trinity, and Jefferson counties. He was elected as a delegate from the municipality of Bevil to the Consultation of 1835 and secured additional land in the Zavala grant through his surveying practice. The Texas Senate rejected Sam Houston's nomination of Veatch as notary public for Liberty County in 1840. During the 1840s Veatch practiced medicine in Town Bluff. In 1846–47 he was first lieutenant in Mirabeau B. Lamar's Independent Volunteer Company and served as a captain in the Texas Mounted Volunteers for frontier defense from September 1847 to September 1848. He also served as surgeon during part of this time. By 1850 he had moved to San Antonio and amassed $15,000 in real property. Having studied botany and mineralogy while in the Lone Star State, Veatch moved to California, where he discovered large deposits of borax in Lake County in 1856. He delivered several scientific papers, explored Carres Island in 1858, and was curator of conchology in the California Academy of Sciences from 1858 to 1861. He practiced medicine in Virginia City, Nevada, from 1862 to 1863 and was a geologist in San Francisco until 1869. Having made an unsuccessful attempt to secure a position as state geologist of Oregon in 1868, Veatch took a position as professor of chemistry, toxicology, and materia medica at the Williamette University Medical School in 1869. He died in Portland on April 24, 1870. John Veatch and his first wife, listed variously as Charlotte Sheridan and Charlotte Edwards, had two children in Louisiana and a third in Texas. After Charlotte's death Veatch married Anne Bradley and by 1850 had two additional children. He left his family in Texas when he went to California, and his second wife divorced him on grounds of abandonment in 1853. Veatch married his third wife, Samanthe Brisbee, in 1865. She died four years later. Veatch had once owned what would later be some of the most valuable land in Texas-acreage at Sour Lake and Spindletop oilfields, where oil was discovered fifty years after Veatch left to seek his fortune in California.

Chilton O'Brien, "John Allen Veatch: Early Gulf Coast Surveyor," Texas Gulf Historical and Biographical Record 18 (1982). Southwestern Historical Quarterly (Texas Collection, October 1942).

  • Health and Medicine
  • Physicians and Surgeons
  • General Surgeons

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

Robert Wooster, “Veatch, John Allen,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 20, 2022,

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July 20, 2016

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