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Texas | Columns | They Shoe Horses, Don't They?

Three Bean Salad
Tom Bean,
Peter Ellis Bean
& Judge Roy Bean

by John Troesser
One was a crusty character, one was a mysterious land Baron and one split loyalties between Mexico and the United States. It’s doubtful that they were related and about the only thing they had in common was the fact that all three were tied to a geographic location with the name Bean in it. Roy founded Beanville in San Antonio, Peter was from Bean Station, Tennessee and Tom Bean named Tom Bean, Texas.



Peter Ellis Bean

Born at Bean Station, Tennessee in 1783, Peter Ellis Bean – sometimes known as Ellis P. Bean, lived a full life in both Mexico and the United States.

At the age of seventeen, he joined Philip Nolan's expedition to Spanish Texas, and was captured by the Spanish near Waco in 1801. This encounter resulted in the death of Nolan and the imprisonment of the surviving members of the group.

In 1810 the Mexican revolutionary priest, José María Morelos was giving the Spanish fits. Bean had been released from jail to fight for the Spanish crown, but he decided to throw in his lot with Morelos. He became a Mexican officer and came back to the United States seeking assistance.

While in the U. S., he remembered his Tennessee roots and enlisted in Jackson's army, taking part in the Battle of New Orleans. He returned to Mexico and married, but when Morelos was killed, Bean fled Mexico leaving his wife. After returning to the states, he married a Tennessean named Candace Midkiff, and together they had three children. In 1823 Bean became an Indian agent for the Mexican Government and was instrumental in keeping the Cherokees neutral during the Fredonian Rebellion. Because of his seemingly “split loyalty” he wasn’t trusted by the Mexicans or the Texians. After Texas Independence he returned to Mexico and his first wife.

He died at Jalapa, Vera Cruz, in the fall of 1846.



Tom Bean

Tom Bean was a mysterious character that showed up in Grayson County one day – having just traded his horse and pistol for a wagon with a yoke of oxen carrying a barrel of whiskey. He had everything needed to open a saloon and so he did – naming it the White Elephant for what he considered his end of the trade. His profession other than saloonkeeper was said to be that of surveyor.

He bought or traded his services for so much land that it was said he could ride to Austin (a three day trip) and camp out every night on property he owned. Reportedly he owned 25,000 acres in Grayson County alone.

When asked where he hailed from – his usual reply was “from a Bean patch.” Bean carried books with him and volumes of Shakespeare and Dickens seemed to be favorites. He was a Mason and a clean-shaven man – rather unusual for that period. According to one source he had one blue and one brown eye. He was not married, although he had a woman with him and quite a few children running around the place. He was described as always carrying an umbrella and wearing a bee-gum hat – whatever that was.

He granted 100 acres of land to the railroad – having the town named in his honor in return. When he died, over 100 people filed claims against the estate, making it one of the most famous of Texas civil law suits. Tom Bean is buried in the Willow Wild cemetery in Bonham, Texas.

The Tom Bean Tom Cats are the local high school football team.



Judge Roy Bean

One of the most colorful characters in Texas history – Bean’s life corresponded with a relatively peaceful period in Texas history – which is probably why he lived as long as he did.

  • Ten Things Your Should Know About Judge Roy Bean

  • Ten More Things Your Should Know About Judge Roy Bean

  • © John Troesser
    "They shoe horses, don't they?" August 18, 2004 Column



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