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Indian Agent

Peter Ellis Bean in Mexican Texas

By Jack Jackson

Publication Year: 2005

How can the life of one relatively unknown man change our understanding of Texas history and the American West? Peter Ellis Bean, a fairly minor but fascinating character, casts unexpected light on conflicts, famous characters, and events from the time of Mexican rule through the years of the Republic. Bean’s role in Mexico’s revolution against Spain and his service as an agent of the Mexican government, especially as Indian agent in eastern Texas, provide an unusually vivid picture of Mexican Texas, as well as new information about the Indians in his region. More explosively, Jackson’s research on Bean’s career as Indian agent casts doubt on the traditional characterization of Sam Houston as a friend to the Texas Indians. Bean’s career shows Houston as a rival for the loyalty of the Indians during Texas’ rebellion against Mexico, a rival who made false promises for military and political gain. After Texas independence, Bean acquired vast lands in Texas, at one point holding more than 100,000 acres. A good citizen and a good businessman, involved with real estate, sawmills, salt works, agriculture, and stock raising, he was also a bigamist. Meticulously researched, dramatically written, and embodying a unique understanding of Mexican Texas, Jack Jackson’s chronicle of Peter Ellis Bean not only rescues him from relative obscurity but also corrects key aspects of the history in which he was involved and brings to life an era more often consigned to myth.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Series: Canseco-Keck History Series

Title page

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

This study of the life and times of Peter Ellis Bean has been germinating in my mind for a number of years. It started in 1987 with a book called Philip Nolan and Texas and has continued through more recent books on the inspections of Texas carried out by Gen. Manuel de Mier y Ter

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pp. 3-5

Rarely can we follow all the major events of Texas history in the first half of the nineteenth century through the life of one man. Peter Ellis Bean was such a man. His life stretches like a fuse between 1800 and 1847 all the way from Nacogdoches to Mexico City. Once Bean’s fuse was ignited...

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Chapter 1. Bean’s Early Years

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pp. 6-12

Peter Ellis Bean was born in Grainger County, Tennessee, on June 8, 1783.1 He was the eldest of eight children, and his parents were William Bean and Elizabeth Blair; they, both widowers, married in 1782. Earlier Bean writers have been silent on his mother’s name, but it appears—from a recent genealogical...

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Chapter 2. Ten Years a Prisoner

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pp. 13-31

Extensive testimony was taken at Nacogdoches and San Antonio de Béxar to determine the motives for the expedition. Most of Nolan’s men swore that they had only come to help their leader bring out the horses he had already arranged for delivery. For this service Nolan had agreed to pay them in horses or slaves...

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Chapter 3. Back to Mexico

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pp. 32-52

In Mexico, meanwhile, events had been transpiring that would ease Bean’s goal of securing favor for his past services to the nation. The empire of Emperor Agustín de Iturbide had collapsed, and he had been forced into exile. A republican form of government was adopted, along with a national colonization law in August and a constitution in October 1824...

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Chapter 4. Questionable Marriage Status

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pp. 53-60

Bean remained in Saltillo until October 17, at which time he headed to San Antonio and arrived there at the end of November. It is unknown if, during this month’s stay in the state capital, he discovered that the governor had initiated an inquiry the past July 10 into his personal conduct...

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Chapter 5. The Fredonian Rebellion

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pp. 61-76

Colonel bean reached San Antonio near the end of November, just as open rebellion against the Mexican authorities at Nacogdoches was coming to a head. Empresario Haden Edwards received notification that his colonization contract with the Mexican government had been annulled by a letter from Governor Blanco dated August 23, 1826...

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Chapter 6. Aftermath of Rebellion

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pp. 77-87

Bean, from years of hard experience, was aware that gaining military distinction was different from receiving recognition for it. Consequently, he wrote a number of letters to people all along the pecking order to make sure they knew how his contribution had turned the tide. One of these letters to Commandant General Bustamante was even published in a Mexico City newspaper under Bean’s name, spreading the word that the rebellion...

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Chapter 7. A Multitude of Indians

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pp. 88-109

General anastasio bustamante had left his headquarters in Monterrey and traveled to Texas to be on hand in suppressing the Fredonian Rebellion should it flare out of control. By the time he reached La Bahía early in 1827, however, the revolt was on its last legs. This collapse left Bustamante in a position to devote time to his real interest, which was regulating the Indian affairs of Texas—whether it be through war or peace...

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Chapter 8. Ter

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pp. 110-136

The thing that occupied most of Bean’s time in 1828 was the arrival of Gen. Manuel de Mier y Terán and his Boundary Commission. Terán and his team members were charged with making observations of the line of limits between Mexico and the United States, reporting on Anglo-American penetration of the frontier zone, and gathering information on the situation with Indian tribes in Texas—especially those tribes who had emigrated...

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Chapter 9. Colonization Shuts Down

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pp. 137-154

Pres. vicente guerrero had more serious problems to worry about in December 1829 than any U.S. purchase scheme afoot. He was already en route to retirement at his hacienda when Bean planned to write him, and Bustamante was on his way to Mexico City to take control of the government...

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Chapter 10. Brief Interlude at Fort Ter

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pp. 155-161

On september 25, 1831, Piedras wrote Commandant Eloz

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Chapter 11. The Reign of Piedras Ends

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pp. 162-169

This brings us to the “disturbances” at Anáhuac and Nacogdoches in the summer of 1832. When General Santa Anna proclaimed his Plan de Veracruz against the Bustamante government at the beginning of the year, many states adhered to the Plan and the revolt spread northward. General Terán, sick and discouraged at this latest internal discord and convinced that it would result in the loss of Texas, killed himself in July...

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Chapter 12. Land Affairs Foremost

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pp. 170-186

The advent of 1833 brought another major shakedown of the federal government. Throughout 1832—since Santa Anna’s Plan of Veracruz—support for the Bustamante regime had been weakening. Members of his cabinet offered to resign in language that, if accepted, would have meant that Bustamante also had to step down. He rejected these offers and tried to rally the support of the military establishment...

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Chapter 13. Almonte’s 1834 Inspection

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pp. 187-193

Coinciding with austin’s arrest—and partially motivated by it—Vice President Farías authorized Col. Juan N. Almonte to go to Texas and gauge the rebellious sentiment of the foreign colonists. Almonte was the illegitimate son of Peter Ellis Bean’s revolutionary war mentor, Gen. José María Morelos, and an Indian woman. Bean had conducted thirteen-year-old...

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Chapter 14. Storm Clouds Gather

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pp. 194-214

If the year 1835 had its dark moments as revolution approached, it also had bright spots for Peter Ellis Bean. For example, he was notified on March 12 by the new commandant of Coahuila y Texas at Béxar, Col. Domingo de Ugartechea, that he had finally been named as the “Comandante Principal of all the Departments of these Frontiers.” It was a welcome development to a man who had been serving...

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Chapter 15. The Texas Revolution

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pp. 215-226

Historians have not been able to supply much definite information about Bean’s role during the revolution, except to say— as did Henderson Yoakum in 1855—that “neither party appeared willing to trust him.” It has also been said of Bean that, once revolution was an accomplished fact, he surrendered himself to rebel authority at Nacogdoches as a Mexican “prisoner of war” and was released on his parole of honor...

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Chapter 16. Indian Alarm in East Texas

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pp. 227-241

What was Col. Peter Ellis Bean doing at the time of the Runaway Scrape? Was he talking to the Cherokees and other tribes, as one might expect of him in such uncertain times, or was he lying low and rebuffing any efforts to draw him into the tempest? His actions are only vaguely understood in this period, when many whites at Nacogdoches were convinced that they faced imminent attack by every Indian tribe on the frontier...

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Chapter 17. Old Sam Jacinto’s “Big Ranch”

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pp. 242-258

Once general gaines had certain, but “unofficial,” news of Houston’s victory, he sent the details to Secretary of War Cass. The movement of the volunteers called on from various states could now be suspended, as the situation was well in hand. President Santa Anna was Houston’s prisoner, along with his officers and most of his troops, “the residue having been killed.”...

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Chapter 18. Alien Citizen of the Republic

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pp. 259-280

During 1838 pres. sam houston kept up his bold stance among the Cherokees with little benefit to them or himself. Why did Houston continue to fight a losing battle when most Texans —including some of his close political supporters—thought that the Senate had acted properly in rejecting his treaty with the Cherokees? The generous assessment of his motives...

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Chapter 19. Thoughts of Mexico

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pp. 281-290

Bean’s health was not good as the 1840s began. His bones were creaking, and arthritis in his hands made it difficult for him to hold a pen to write. All of Bean’s years of imprisonment in dank Mexican dungeons were beginning to catch up with him. Besides the chilling winters, where the temperature could...

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Chapter 20. The Legal Whirlwind

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pp. 291-299

As suggested by the actions of Debard, Blair, and their crew of legal representatives (including his old friend Tom Rusk), Bean was hardly out of town before litigation against him began to crowd the Nacogdoches court docket. These cases lasted for years, almost as long as he or his children held property...

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Chapter 21. Bean and the Historians

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pp. 300-314

Before bean’s memoir saw print in the mid-1850s, historians knew little of Philip Nolan’s exploits and even less of Bean’s. Books published in the 1830s, such as Mary Austin Holley’s Texas (1836) and David B. Edward’s...

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pp. 315-320

As with most historical figures, questions remain about Peter Ellis Bean and the people with whom he was intimately involved. Except for looking at microfilm church burial records in the city itself, I have made no attempt to search the archives around Jalapa for documentation about Bean...


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pp. 321-336


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pp. 337-338


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pp. 339-402


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pp. 403-414


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pp. 415-426

E-ISBN-13: 9781603446129
E-ISBN-10: 1603446125
Print-ISBN-13: 9781585444441
Print-ISBN-10: 1585444448

Page Count: 440
Illustrations: 15 b&w photos. 5 maps.
Publication Year: 2005

Series Title: Canseco-Keck History Series

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Subject Headings

  • Indian agents -- Texas -- Biography.
  • Bean, Peter Ellis, 1783-1846.
  • Indians of North America -- Texas -- Government relations.
  • Texas -- History -- To 1846.
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