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Texas | Columns | All Things Historical

Peter Ellis Bean

by Archie P. McDonald, PhD
Archie McDonald Ph.D.
The American frontier produced many colorful characters, including Peter Ellis Bean.

Bean was born in Bean Station, Tennessee, on June 8, 1783. As a youth of seventeen, Bean joined Philip Nolan on expeditions to the Texas central plains to capture mustang horses, then drive them to the Mississippi River for sale to a nation whose mobility depended on horsepower. Nolan's extra activities, whatever they really where, attracted the attention of Spanish authorities. Apparently they did not mind his pilfering their wild horses so much as his cozy talks with American General James Wilkinson and other US government authorities when back in the United States.

Spanish soldiers encountered Nolan—and Bean—on their last expedition to Texas on March 21, 1801, in an area that became McLennan County. Nolan was killed and Bean and nine others captured, taken to Nacogdoches, and held in Antonio Gil Y'Barbo's old stone house (Old Stone Fort), before transferring them to Mexico. The men were sentenced to death but had their punishment reduced to decimation. They threw dice to determine the unlucky loser, and Ephraim Blackburn threw the unlucky low dice and was executed. Bean and other survivors were moved from town to town until he talked his Royalist captors into releasing him to help them fight a nationalist movement led by José María Morelos y Pavón. Soon after Bean began fighting for the Royalists, he defected and joined Morelos and the cause of Mexican nationalism.

Bean returned to the United States, attempting to raise men and money for Morelos' independence movement, but he had little success in the endeavor, but while there he served under General Andrew Jackson in the successful defense of New Orleans against the British attack on January 8, 1815. The next month Bean returned to Mexico, where he remained until Spanish forces finally captured and executed Morelos. Bean returned to the United States just in time to avoid similar fate.

While fighting under Morelos, Bean married Magdalena Falfán de los Godos. Forced to leave her in Mexico, Bean remarried—apparently without benefit of divorce—Candace Midkiff, with whom he produced three children. They lived in Arkansas and also in East Texas, where Bean served as an Indian agent for the now independent government of Mexico and for a time served in the Mexican army, but did not have an active role during the Texas Revolution for either side. Eventually Bean returned to Mexico and to his first wife. He died in Jalapa on October 6, 1846.
© Archie P. McDonald, PhD
All Things Historical
April 28, 2008 column
A syndicated column in over 70 East Texas newspapers
(The East Texas Historical Association provides this column as a public service. Archie P. McDonald is director of the Association and author of more than 20 books on Texas.)

 


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