to the Handbook of Texas Online, Hamilton was born a slave
on a Kentucky plantation owned by Singleton Gibson in 1840. Gibson
moved his family to Ft.
Bend County, Texas, in 1843. During this time, Gibson was killed
and his widow married James McKell, a man known to be a heavy drinker
and gambler who had a reputation of mistreating slaves. After his
marriage to the Gibson widow, McKell moved his family and slaves
to Trinity County.
In October 1853, the drunkard McKell needed money to pay a whiskey
bill and decided to sell Jeff Hamilton. The young boy was taken
from his mother and sent to an auction in Huntsville
to be sold. But as fate would have it, U.S. Sen. Sam
Houston was in town that day and when he saw the crying child,
he decided to acquire the youngster from the slave trader.
Hamilton into his home and the child was treated as a member of
the family. He played with the Houston
children and, when he grew older, became Houstonís
personal valet and driver. It has been written that he had a loving
and personal relationship with the Houston
family. During this time young Hamilton was taught reading, writing,
arithmetic, and was given lessons in religion.
was elected governor of Texas in 1859,
he appointed Hamilton as office assistant. During this time the
young man met many historical figures and attended many important
At the outbreak of the Civil War, Sam
Houston refused to take an oath to join the Confederacy and
Jeff Hamilton was there. When Houston
freed his slaves in October 1862, Hamilton stayed with the family.
died, Hamilton was by his side along with the family.
death, Hamilton moved with the family to Independence
where he remained until Mrs. Houston passed away.
It has been written that throughout his life Hamilton was an honorary
member of the Houston
family and attended all their reunions and special family events.
He worked for a while as a janitor at Baylor University and when
the female college (Mary Hardin-Baylor) moved to Belton,
he moved there as well.
I found especially interesting was how Hamilton was reunited with
his mother after the Civil War. The story goes that she recognized
him by an old burn scar on his left leg and she showed him an aged
Bible that had been given her by the woman who had been her former
owner in Kentucky. The Bible contained notes revealing when Hamilton
was born and his fatherís name.
Jeff Hamilton eventually married Sarah Maxey and that union produced
11 children. In later years Hamilton was honored on numerous occasions
for his association with leading historical figures during his lifetime.
He spoke at many historical events and was interviewed often by
reporters wanting to know about his life as a slave.
The man who was born into slavery and went on to become a trusted
friend of Sam Houston
died in Belton on
April 3, 1941. He was buried in the East Belton Cemetery. He is
honored by two Texas historical markers; one at his grave site and
one on the campus of the University of Mary-Hardin Baylor in Belton.
Star Diary August
27 , 2013 column