Saturday, February 18, 2012

Erastus "Deaf" Smith--a Texas Hero

By Celia Yeary
Some called him Johnny-on-the-Spot.
Erastus Smith was born in Dutchess County, New York in 1787. In 1798, his family moved near Natchez, Mississippi. In 1821, at age 34, he moved on to Texas for health reasons. His health apparently recovered except for a partial loss of hearing, hence the nickname "Deaf" Smith, pronounced "Deef Smith."

In 1822, he married a Tejana, Guadalupe Ruiz Duran, a widow with three children. The couple also had four children together. Smith settled his family in Presidio San Antonio de Bexar where he became accepted as a member of the Tejano (Latino-Texan) community.

Smith, also known as "El Sordo," (the deaf man) appeared in many areas of Mexican Texas and was in most significant actions related to development of the region both under Mexico and during evolution of independence. At San Antonio de Bexar, he introduced a fine stock of Muley cattle from Louisiana to the Texas area, where the Longhorn breed was previously popular.

Erastus “Deaf” Smith, became an ace scout, soldier, spy, and hero of the Texas Revolution. He also commanded Sam Houston’s scouts at the Battle of San Jacinto. As a scout, he set up the Battle of Concepcion and the Grass Fight, and he brought the Widow Dickenson and her baby back to safety from the fallen Alamo. When Sam Houston wanted Vince’s Bridge destroyed, so that neither his Texans nor Santa Anna’s troops could escape the field of San Jacinto, he called on Deaf Smith. Smith also briefly captained a company of Texas Rangers after the War.

Erastus Smith died in November of 1837, when the Republic of Texas was barely a year old. Sadly, he lost his eyesight, too, before he died. Smith became a folk hero in Texas.

Deaf Smith County borders New Mexico in the far-flung Panhandle of Texas. The county is one of about fifty descendant counties from Bexar County in South Texas (San Antonio.)

Sunday, February 19, is Texas Statehood Day. On this day in 1846, the Lone Star Flag came down, and the government passed to the new state of Texas.

In a saucepan, combine: ¾ cup vinegar, ¾ cup corn oil, ¾ cup sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil—set aside to cool.

Prepare: 1 cup chopped green pepper, 1 cup chopped celery, ½ cup chopped green onions and tops. Place in a mixing bowl.

Drain: one 16-ounce can shoepeg corn, one 8-ounce can LaSeur peas, one 2-ounce jar diced pimentos.

Lightly mix the chopped and the drained vegetables. Pour the vinegar and oil mixture over vegetables and mix. Refrigerate several hours. The salad stays crisp for days.
(Disclaimer: Recipe from “Tastes and Tales of Texas,” but the same recipe can be found in numerous other cookbooks, and written on 3x5 recipe cards in many kitchens.)   

 Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas


Linda Swift said...

Good morning, Celia. What a great story. And what an inspiring man "Deaf" was. I love learning about these facts of your beloved state. No wonder you write such good Texas stories. And I'm going to copy and try out this recipe very soon. Thanks for including that. Happy weekend to all. Linda

Sarah J. McNeal said...

I am amazed that I have never heard of "Deaf Smith" before. Great Texas history kesson today. There is so much to learn about each and every state. I still don't know so much about my own state of North Carolina--except there is supposed to be some Big Foot roaming the mountains. LOL Thanks for the recipe, too. Liked your blog today.

Maggie Toussaint said...

Morning, Celia! I wonder how this deaf guy was able to do so much. I can see how he became a folk legend. I am always amazed at how folks rise to overcome obstacles. Thanks for brightening my morning with down home Texas truths.

Celia Yeary said...

Linda--you will love this salad. Even leftover in a tightly closed Tupperware, it stays crisp until every bite is gone.
Glad you enjoyed reading about this great man--I wonder how he did so much without hearing. Amazing. Thanks for commenting!

Celia Yeary said...

Sarah--just imagine how much history all the states combined has! Wow, what fodder for more novels--right???
I love North Carolina-although I was there only once, when asked "if you had to live somewhere else, what place would you choose? My answer? North Carolina! Honest!
I think you'll like the corn salad. Thanks so much for droppiing by this morning.

Celia Yeary said...

Maggie--I, too, just wonder at the man...I mean, how can you be a scout and be deaf? There's a little more to the story--it's been told that he had a sidekick at one time who helped him "hear." Good idea, huh?
Thanks for visiting!

Jillian said...

What a wonderful history lesson this morning. I'd never heard of this gentleman and his story is so intriguing. I'm going to dig further. Thanks for whetting my appetite, Celia.

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Great , Celia. I've heard of Deaf Smith, but not his life story. I live less than 10 miles from the San Jacinto Battleground and have visited it on occasion. They'll have the reenactment of that battle in April 21st this year.

Caroline Clemmons said...

I've always had a fondness for Deaf Smith. Thanks for sharing this great tale.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Isn't it something the spirit of someone who has a handicap to overcome can rise above it to great heights. You really have to admire them for what they accomplish. I loved hearing about Deaf Smith, Celia. Texas certainly has an abundance of heroes and heroines. :)

Tanya Hanson said...

Hi Celia , wonderful post as always. I never knew about this oh so interesting man, and I always love learning something new. I wonder if he used some kind od gesturing to communicate...paper and pen. Excellent job both him and you!

Virginia C said...

Terrific post! Recipe sounds nice & tangy!

Jacquie Rogers said...

I didn't know who you were talking about until you said it was pronounced "Deef," which tells me I learned from an oral source--probably my dad. I knew about his later exploits but not his life story, nor did I know he lost his eyesight. Do you know how that happened? What a tragedy for a deaf man to lose his sight. But what an amazing man.

Celia Yeary said...

Jillian--dig away. That's what I love about these historical figures. You can always learn more, and usually, they become even more entrancing. Thanks for commenting.

Celia Yeary said...

Anna--really? That's where you live? I'd love to see that reactment. Thanks for the note.

Celia Yeary said...

Caroline--you're welcome. Even the most obscure personality can become a great hero.

Celia Yeary said...

Paisley--I, too, marvel at the accomplishments of handicapped people. We really don't know out limits, do we, until we read about someone so much worse off and how much they did.

Celia Yeary said...

Tanya--I understand he had a slight amount of hearing, not enough for conversation or words, but loud sounds. Also, I believe he at one time had a sidekick who acted as his ears. Speculation, all around, but I did read that.

Celia Yeary said...

Virginia--not even close to your recipes! Thanks, though, for your comment.

Celia Yeary said...

Jacquie--wow, how interesting about your dad saying "Deef Smith." I do not know how he lost his eyesight, but I believe it happened close to the end of his life. Who knows the real facts? But he definitely was a great man.

Cheryl Pierson said...

Celia, what an interesting post--as always! You come up with some of the neatest things. I didn't know about Deaf Smith. I think that corn salad recipe looks fantastic, but will have to substitute something for the celery as we don't like that (I know, my mom always lamented the fact that I didn't like celery, but I met a man who didn't either and I married him!)LOL Thanks for a great post--loved learning about Deaf Smith!

Celia Yeary said...

Cheryl--it's funny how some foods turn us off. I love celery, and love to buy a big thick clump, cut it up, slice it into soup or salad, and I eat bits throughout the whole procedure.
Thanks for reading about this man...he was truly a Texas hero.