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2016-01-07

Courier's History Corner

By Carol Wier

A glimpse at some of Bandera County's history. A view of history on the West end of the county.

Ben Highsmith memorialized
in Jones Cemetery



Benjamin F. Highsmith
Served in Army of Texas 1835-36
A Ranger under Capt. John C. Hays
A Member of the Somervell Expedition 1842
Born in Missouri Sept. 11, 1817
Died Nov. 20, 1905

What an epitaph this man's tombstone reads in a small cemetery just outside Utopia in western Bandera County. But who was Ben Highsmith? How did he end up here? His gravesite marker reads like "Cliff Notes" for a book, but you miss the real story, the real adventure - the one that truly tells not only about a man but also about the birth of Texas.
Ben Highsmith was born in Missouri in 1817. His father had been in the War of 1812 and served as a scout and ranger. Young Ben was destined to follow much the same path. He first came to Texas by wagon train with his father in 1823, crossing the Sabine River on a raft with family members.
Briefly settling around La Grange, they were run out by Indians.
In 1830 at the age of 13, he first visited San Antonio out on the "frontier" which was made up mostly of grass covered houses. Two years later (at 15 years of age) he ran away from home to fight in the Battle of Velasco. Later he joined in the Battle of Gonzales and the Mission Concepcion Battle.
At the age of 18 he found himself at the storming of San Antonio in the company of Captain Ware (founder of Waresville - later Utopia) and "Deaf" Smith where those two were wounded. Ben Milam was killed during the same battle.
Highsmith stayed at the Alamo with Colonel Travis, but as the Mexican Army under Santa Anna approached, was sent out with a dispatch to Colonel Fannin. He was only gone five days but upon return was unable to re-enter the Alamo as it was already surrounded. He was pursued by the Mexican cavalry men all the way to Cibolo Creek where they gave up on the chase. It was here that he heard cannon fire as the Alamo seige had begun.
Highsmith then reported to General Houston who sent him again to Colonel Fannin at Goliad with orders to desert the fort but Fannin refused. The rest is history.
Highsmith went into battle again (with Captain Ware) in the Battle of San Jacinto. By age 21 he was a veteran of several wars for Texas Independence!
In 1838, during a surveying party he was part of, he was introduced to Indian fighting and later became a Texas Ranger. He fought with Jack Hays at the Battle of Bandera Pass, the Battle of Salado and the Fight on the Hondo.
Later marrying, he settled on Blanket Creek west of Utopia and is buried in Jones Cemetery there.