A Guide to the Andrew Jackson Sowell Family Papers, circa 1880-circa 1954
Andrew Jackson Sowell was in some ways a third-generation Texan, although he was a member of the first generation of his family born in the state. His paternal grandfather John Newton Sowell (1780-1838) moved his family from Tennessee to Missouri and then to Texas, settling in Green DeWitt’s colony near Gonzales in 1830. During the Texas Revolution, he was one of the “Old Eighteen” in Gonzales and aided the Texan cause by making and repairing guns. Sowell’s uncle, also named Andrew Jackson Sowell (1815-1883), participated in several engagements during the Texas Revolution, serving at the Alamo garrison but departing to obtain supplies prior to its fall. Members of the Sowell family were among the earliest settlers in Guadalupe County, Texas.
Sowell’s maternal grandfather William Suddarth Turner (1787-1871) arrived in Texas with his wife and children in 1837 September. A veteran of the Creek War and War of 1812 who served under Andrew Jackson, Turner served in the Vasquez and Woll campaigns in Texas in 1842. He eventually settled in Seguin and was elected coroner of Guadalupe County in 1846. Sowell wrote in his History of Fort Bend County that his grandfather was a descendant of James Turner, the twelfth governor of North Carolina, an assertion that further research indicates may be incorrect.
Sowell’s father Asa Jarmon Lee Sowell (1822-1877) was born in Davidson County, Tennessee, near the Hermitage, the home of President Andrew Jackson. Although too young to fight in the Texas Revolution, Asa later served with Capt. Jack Hays’ Texas Rangers. He also served as a district clerk (1846) and chief justice (1870-1874) in Guadalupe County. Asa Sowell married Mary Mildred Turner (1829-1873), also a native of Davidson County, Tennessee, on 1844 August 29 in Seguin, Gonzales (later Guadalupe) County, Texas. The couple had nine children.
Andrew Jackson Sowell was born near Seguin on 1848 August 2. From 1870 November until 1871 June, he was a Texas Ranger in Company F of the Frontier Battalion, serving under Capt. David P. Baker. During his service, he participated in the Wichita Campaign in northwest Texas, enduring a harsh winter and participating in several Indian fights.
Drawing on his own experiences as a Texas Ranger, events in his relatives’ lives, family history, and interviews, Sowell wrote numerous books and articles about the early history of Texas. His books include Rangers and Pioneers of Texas (1884), Life of Big Foot Wallace (1899), Early Settlers and Indian Fighters of Southwest Texas (1900), History of Fort Bend County (1904), and Incidents Connected with the Early History of Guadalupe County, Texas (undated). Sowell also wrote feature articles for various publications, and in the 1910s he contributed the “Frontier Days of Texas” column to the San Antonio Light newspaper.
Andrew Jackson Sowell married Mary Lillian Tinsley (1855-1902) in Seguin on 1872 February 15. The couple had five children: Fountain Lee (1873-1930); Almedia Mildred (1875-1899); Adaline Willis (1877-1968), who married J. J. T. Hill; Emma Henriette (1882-1902); and Franky (1884-1884).
Although he traveled extensively around Texas, usually to visit relatives, in his later life Sowell lived near his daughter Adaline Sowell Hill in Center Point, Kerr County. Andrew Jackson Sowell died at Santa Rosa Hospital in San Antonio on 1921 July 4.
Ashton, Dorothy C. "Andrew Jackson Sowell." Handbook of Texas Online. http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fso07.
Baumgartner, Dorcas. "John Sowell Family." In The History of Gonzales County, Texas, by the Gonzales County Historical Commission. Dallas: Curtis Media, 1986.
Cox, Mike. Introduction to Life of “Big Foot” Wallace, by A. J. Sowell. Austin, Texas: State House Press, 1989.
Daughters of the Republic of Texas. Daughters of the Republic of Texas Patriot Ancestor Album. Paducah, Kentucky: Turner Publishing, 1995.
Sowell, Andrew Jackson. History of Fort Bend County, Containing Biographical Sketches of Many Noted Characters. Houston, Texas: W. H. Coyle and Co., 1904.
Sowell family biographical files, DRT Collection at Texas A&M University-San Antonio.
Sowell, Russell Lee, comp. Genealogical Record: Ancestors, Descendants, Relatives. Castroville, Texas, 1983.
The collection is primarily comprised of handwritten and typed drafts of Andrew Jackson Sowell’s works.
Included is a manuscript copy of Life of Big Foot Wallace (1899) written entirely in Sowell’s hand, with minimal corrections or emendations made by him. Although they appear in the draft, the second half of Chapter 30 and the entirety of Chapter 31 do not appear in most, if not all, published editions of the book; these chapters describe Wallace’s life after the Civil War, with particular emphasis on his visit to Dallas in 1898 to attend a Texas Ranger reunion, accompanied by Sowell. A greatly condensed version of this section of the manuscript appears in the chapter on Wallace in Early Settlers and Indian Fighters of Southwest Texas. Other differences in the text and variations in chapter titles distinguish the manuscript from published editions; the draft also includes a list of all of the survivors of the Mier Expedition that is omitted in published versions. A 1934 edition of The Life of Big Foot Wallace, believed to have belonged to Andrew Jackson Sowell, is also included in the collection.
In addition to this manuscript are approximately fifty short works on early Texas history, most of them describing various conflicts and battles between Native Americans and Texas settlers. Of these shorter works, eleven are manuscripts in Sowell’s hand and twenty-five are typescripts that contain corrections written by Sowell’s granddaughter, Frances Alta Hill Brown Meadows (1903-1978). Thirteen of the pieces have both a manuscript and typescript copy and six have two typescript copies. Most, if not all, of the essays were incorporated into Sowell’s books and his “Frontier Days of Texas” articles in the San Antonio Light. These essays have been arranged alphabetically by title.
Andrew Jackson Sowell’s miscellaneous writings include an undated general history of early Texas in the hand of Sowell’s granddaughter Frances; notes; and two typescript copies of an index for an unidentified work. Also included here are two lists of essays, one compiled on an envelope by Frances. Each list includes some of the short works contained within the collection; some works are listed on both. Neither list appears to match the tables of contents in Sowell’s published books.
Sowell family material includes two pages of a story by Frances Alta Meadows and a canvas-bound “Day Book” containing Sowell’s listings of his various accounts, notes on Bible verses, and short work “Early Days in Texas.” The book also contains recipes written by Sowell’s granddaughter Frances and notes by her sister Twila Truetta Hill Spears (1906-2000).
With the exception of some entries in the ledger book, none of the other documents in the collection are dated. Based upon the publication dates of his works and the year of his death, it is estimated that the Andrew Jackson Sowell writings date from approximately 1880 to Sowell’s death in 1921. Using San Antonio city directories, it is estimated that the undated typescript by Frances Alta Meadows was written around 1952-1954, the years she resided at the address listed on the draft.
No restrictions. The collection is open for research.
Please be advised that the library does not hold the copyright to most of the material in its archival collections. It is the responsibility of the researcher to secure those rights when needed. Permission to reproduce does not constitute permission to publish. The researcher assumes full responsibility for conforming to the laws of copyright, literary property rights, and libel.
[Identification of item], Andrew Jackson Sowell Family Papers, circa 1880-circa 1954, Col 14817, Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library, San Antonio, Texas.
Gift of Weldon Lee Howard, 2011 January.
Gift of Lisa K. Westkaemper and Sarah Westkaemper Lake in honor of their mother Joyce Brown Westkaemper, 2011 January.
Processed by Caitlin Donnelly, 2011 February.
Finding aid encoded by Caitlin Donnelly, 2011 February.
Updated to EAD3 by Leslie Stapleton, 2021 March.
Detailed Description of the Collection