John Howland Wood, soldier, rancher, merchant, and civic leader, son of Humphrey and Maria (DeCantillon) Wood, was born at the family home between Poughkeepsie and Hyde Park, New York, on September 6, 1816. He received his elementary education and early business training in the mercantile line in New York City. On November 21, 1835, Wood and other volunteers sailed from New York for Texas; they landed at Velasco about March 1, 1836, after having been held as pirates by the British for fifty days. Wood served under Col. Edwin Morehouse until the battle of San Jacinto and was then one of the mounted force of Thomas J. Rusk's army that followed up Vicente Filisola's retreat and buried James W. Fannin's men. Wood remained in the Texas army after the war and was quartermaster at Victoria. Being required to accept livestock and cattle as part pay, he accumulated a herd of his own and embarked in the ranching business, first in Jackson County at the site of present Edna and later in Refugio County. On February 1, 1842, at Victoria, Wood and Nancy Clark were married. In 1845 Wood contracted with the United States Army, then at Corpus Christi, to supply beef, and Gen. Zachary Taylor agreed to furnish protection against Indians if Wood would move his herds to the Nueces River, at that time the western boundary of Refugio County. Wood accordingly moved to the Nueces early in 1846 and fulfilled his contract. In August 1849 he bought a tract at Black Point on Copano Bay and moved his family and cattle there. Wood immediately became a strong political and civic leader. He participated in many Indian fights, including the rescue of Jacob Kring, and expeditions as far as the Rio Grande against Mexican outlaws. He served many terms, beginning in 1852, as member of the commissioners' court and during the Civil War was patrol captain, a member of home guard companies, and major of coast defense. He established a large mercantile store at St. Mary's and owned and operated the St. Mary's wharf. Wood built a magnificent home in Bayside in Refugio County in 1875; in 1983 the house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and it became a Texas Historic Landmark in 1998. After the storm of 1886 Wood retired from the mercantile business and turned his entire attention to ranching. He was noted for his philanthropies. He died at Rockport, Texas, on January 16, 1904.
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John Henry Brown, Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas (Austin: Daniell, 1880; reprod., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978). Lewis E. Daniell, Personnel of the Texas State Government, with Sketches of Representative Men of Texas (Austin: City Printing, 1887; 3d ed., San Antonio: Maverick, 1892). J. Frank Dobie, ed., A Vaquero of the Brush Country (Dallas: Southwest, 1929; new ed., Boston: Little, Brown, 1943).
Ranching and Cowboys
Activism and Social Reform
Patrons, Collectors, and Philanthropists
Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
Ranchers and Cattlemen
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“Wood, John Howland,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 23, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
September 1, 1995