Get to know our county’s namesake, Alexander Somervell
This bit of the history of Somervell County tell us of who we are and how we got here.
The history of Somervell County is exciting and colorful. From the first settlers to today, many people have found their roots and their “stories” at our library.
The Somervell County Heritage Library is open and visitors are welcome.
Our facility is a great place to visit and to learn the old stories of Somervell County. We provide family histories and research for all the states and counties.
We are a full service facility and have volunteers who can help you get started with family research and history. The county provides free access to Ancestry on our public computers.
Alexander Somervell was born in Maryland on June 11, 1796. He moved to Louisiana in 1817 and in 1832 to Texas, where he was granted land in Stephen F. Austin’s second colony. He engaged in the mercantile business at Brazoria with James F. Perry.
Somervell enrolled in the Texas army on March 12, 1836 and on April 8, was elected lieutenant colonel of the first regiment of Texas Volunteers, succeeding Sidney Sherman.
He participated in the battle of San Jacinto and remained in the army until June 7, 1836 when he became secretary of war in David G. Burnett’s cabinet.
Somervell represented Colorado and Austin counties in the Senate of the First and Second Congress, Oct. 3, 1836. Shortly thereafter, he moved to Fort Bend County. On Nov. 12, 1839, he was elected brigadier general.
In 1842, he was appointed collector of customs for the post of Colhoun. Reappointed after annexation, he held this position until his mysterious death on Jan. 20, 1854. His body was found lashed to the timbers of the capsized boat in which, carrying a considerable amount of money, he had started from Lavaca to Saluria.
THE SOMERVELL EXPEDITION
The Somervell Expedition was a punitive expedition against Mexico in retaliation for three predatory raids made by Mexican armies upon Texas in 1842.
Two regiments of Texas militia had been ordered to San Antonio and on Oct. 3, 1842, President Sam Houston ordered Alexander Somervell to organize the militia and volunteers and invade Mexico if the strength, equipment and discipline of the army indicated a reasonable hope of success.
Volunteers poured into San Antonio, eager to pursue the enemy and invade Mexico for glory and for plunder. Numbering approximately 700 men, the expedition left San Antonio on Nov. 25 and it numbered 683 men when it reached Laredo, which they captured on Dec. 8. Joseph L. Bennett and 185 men returned home on Dec. 10.
Somervell, with a little over 500 men, forced the capitulation of Guerrero, on Dec. 19. Somervell, recognizing the failure of his expedition and fearing disaster, ordered his men to disband and return home by way of Gonzales.
Little energy had been shown in prosecuting the campaign, which apparently was undertaken as a political move to appease demands for an invasion of Mexico and to reveal the futility of sustaining an attack upon Mexico without adequate supplies, equipment and discipline.
The Texans were so displeased with the disband that only 189 men and officers and men obeyed; some 308 men under 5 captains and commanded by William S. Fisher continued to Mexico on the Mier Expedition. (Southwestern Historical Quarterly 1919-1920).
Somervell County was created from Hood and Johnson counties and organized in 1875. The original act creating the county, passed in March, was amended in September to correct the spelling from “Somerville” to Somervell, honoring Alexander Somervell. With an area of 197 square miles, Somervell is the second smallest county in the state.
Altitude varies from 600 to 1250 feet; annual rainfall is 34 inches; mean annual temperature is 65 degrees. The terrain, out by the Brazos River and Paluxy Creek, is rough with eroded plateaus and ravines. Perennial springs made the area attractive as a hunting ground to Indians, with the Lipan-Apache, Anadarko, Tonkawa, Ki chai, Comanche and Biloxi being associated with the section.
Soils are gray and dark on the uplands with loams and alluvia’s in the lowlands. Beef and dairy cattle are raised as well as a few sheep and goats, and there is a considerable poultry industry.
Brick clay limestone and road materials are the only minerals. Timber includes blackjack, mesquite, cedar, live oak, post oak, elm, cottonwood and pecan. Cutting and marketing of post from the dense juniper growth is an important industry. Crops include grain sorghums, oats, peanuts, forage and some peaches and pears. The picturesque topography and mineral springs make the county attractive as a health and pleasure resort.
The first settlement in the county, Springtown, founded by L.B. McCalahan in 1859 was supplanted by Barnard’s Mill, named for George Barnard. Barnards Mill was a post office in 1859, but the name was changed to Glen Rose in 1872; other early trading posts included Wilcox, Rainbow, Glass and Nemo.
The population was 3,071 in 1940 and 2532 in 1950. Glen Rose, the county seat, is the only incorporated town in the county today.
Somervell County is the home of descendants of those early pioneers who braved the unknown and migrated from faraway places. Once you’ve live here you always come back…