Thomas Jefferson Rusk
[This account is taken from Hunter’s Frontier Times Magazine, September, 1929]
THOMAS JEFFERSON RUSK the soldier, jurist, and statesman, was of Irish descent, and born in Pendleton district, South Carolina, December 5, 1803. While yet a boy, bright and precocious, young Rusk attracted the favorable notice of the celebrated John C. Calhoun. Mr. Calhoun greatly assisted him in securing an education, and also in acquiring his profession. Soon after procuring his license as a lawyer Rusk moved to the State of Georgia, where he soon obtained a lucrative practice. In an unfortunate mining speculation he lost nearly all of his earnings. Dishonest agents seized the funds and fled to the West. Rusk followed some of them to Texas, but failed to recover his lost money. This was in 1834. He was so delighted with the country that he determined to make Texas his future home, dnd located at Nacogdoches, where he at once took an active part in public affairs, and the same year, as secretary of a vigilance committee, wrote an earnest protest against the further introduction of Indians from the United States. In 1835 the Executive Council elected him Commissary of the Army. He was in the Convention of 1836, and his name is signed to the Declaration of Texas Independence. At the organization of the government and interim he entered Burnet's cabinet as Secretary of War. By the direction of the President he joined the army on the Brazos river, and was the confidential friend and adviser of Houston. Arriving at Harrisburg, he made a most patriotic address to the men, assuring them that they would soon have an opportunity to avenge the butcheries of San Antonio and Goliad. He performed a most gallant part in the ever-gallant part in the ever-memorable battle of San Jacinto. It was to him that Colonel Almonte surrendered. After all resistance had ceased, Rusk exerted himself to arrest the killing of the fugitives. When General Houston resigned to go to New Orleans for surgical aid, Rusk was appointed commander-in-chief, and followed the retreating army of Filisola as far west as Goliad, where he had the remains of the men massacred with Fannin carefully collected and honorably interred.
In the fall of 1836, at the organization of the Constitutional government, Rusk was appointed Secretary of War, but he soon resigned to attend to his private business, which had been very much neglected during the stirring revolutionary times. The people would not permit him long to remain in private life, and in 1837 he was sent to the Texas Congress. A band of Kickapoos having become very troublesome, he collected a company of his neighbors and severely chastised them. Rusk was always ready to draw his sword to repel invasion, or to protect the frontier from the savages. In 1839 he commanded a regiment in the war with the Cherokees. . He was the same year appointed Chief Justice of the Republic, bu t soon resigned the office and resumed th e practice of law at Nacogdoches. His partners were J. Pinkney Henderson and Kenneth L. Anderson. in 1843 he was elected Major-General of the Militia. In 1845 his fellow citizens sent him to the Annexation Convention, and he was elected president of that body. At the first session of the Legislature of the State of Texas, General Rusk was elected to the United States Senate; a position he continued to hold until his untimely death, by his own hands, in 1867.