April 19 — A Lesser Known Birthday

Today, April 19 is remembered as the day the colonists in Massachusetts, alerted by Paul Revere, stood off British troops at Lexington and Concord, thus beginning the American Revolution. It is also, less fondly by most, remembered as the day of the 1993 Branch Davidian holocaust near Waco Texas, and the 1995 revenge bombing of the federal building that housed offices of the BATF, in Oklahoma City.

The day’s noteworthiness for those events overshadows many others. It is also the birthday of a number of celebrities and historical figures, notably at least here in Texas, that of Erastus “Deaf” Smith (1787-1837). During the Texas Revolution, Smith was a member of Sam Houston’s army, for whom he acted primarily as a scout or in modern times what we might call a combat intelligence operative, or less euphemistically, a spy. On instructions of Houston and the local commander William Barrett Travis, he left the Alamo carrying Travis’ noteworthy letter to Houston. He later returned after the fall of the Alamo and escorted survivor Susanna Dickinson to report the details of the fall to Houston. Smith fought at the battle of San Jacinto, and later led a company of Texas Rangers to fight a unit of the Mexican army near Laredo.

Smith did not long survive the Texas Revolution., dying at the age of 50 in 1837. He was survived by his wife Guadalupe Ruiz Smith, whom he had married in 1822, and their four children. Deaf Smith County in west Texas is named for him.

Smith nickname (pronounced in his day as “deef”) came from his partial loss of hearing from an illness he suffered around 1821.

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