As the reader of this esteemed business magazine you probably consider yourself something of an independently minded person as opposed to a stray, unbranded calf wandering the wild prairie of the business landscape. Samuel Augustus Maverick, the man whose name has come to represent the free-thinking, unbranded, unaffiliated, independent spirit was an Old West lawman, gunslinger, pioneer, politician and land baron. He never had much of an interest in cattle ranching, having acquired 453 head to service an old debt. He stuck the herd on a peninsula under the care of some of his slaves and promptly forgot about them. As a 1939 Time magazine article puts it, "when their unbranded offspring wandered ashore other cowboys would whoop, 'There's a Maverick!' and rope it."
Soon Texas cowboys called all unbranded cattle by the same name. But the history and character of Samuel Maverick enhanced and cemented the term to mean quite a lot more.
Samuel Augustus Maverick was born in 1803 in Pendleton, South Carolina, the son of Samuel and Elizabeth Maverick. His ancestor, another Samuel Maverick arrived in New England with the first wave of European settlers in 1624 and quickly established himself near Boston. The family soon branched out and moved down to New York where they worked as masons and builders. His great grandfather served in the American Revolution and died soon after, impoverished. Samuel Maverick senior thus started life penniless, but soon rose to the position of clerk at a Charleston business. He matured into quite a businessman owning three separate businesses. Eventually he took his fortune and moved his family to Pendleton, South Carolina where he involved himself in local politics and land speculation.
According to historian Andrew Gill, "Samuel senior cherished his son, an affectionate relationship that would last the remainder of his lifetime, and was pleased to see that his son had inherited his intelligence and business prowess."
According to Paula Mitchell Marks' biography, Samuel Augustus was home-schooled until the age of 18. He then left South Carolina to study under a tutor in Ripton, Connecticut in preparation for studying law at Yale University. He graduated from Yale with a law degree in 1825, returned to Pendleton and took on some of the family's business affairs. He quickly cultivated a sense for business deals and land speculation, but he wanted to further his law career and in 1828 he relocated to Virginia to study under noted jurist Henry St George Tucker. He returned to Pendleton in 1829 and started a law practice. Being an ambitious young man, he ran for the South Carolina legislature in 1830 but was defeated due to his anti-seccession and anti-nullification views. At the time South Carolina was a hotbed of political antagonism with the Federal United States government over a series of tariffs imposed on them. South Carolina had a largely agrarian economy and relied heavily on the slave trade and slave labour. There was a constant fear of slave uprisings and rebellion. The Nullification question was one of the major political stepping stones in the build up to the American Civil War. Important to note that Maverick was not opposed to slavery. He owned many slaves and his father ran a plantation in Pendleton that relied on slave labour. It was the dissolution of the power of the fledgling Union of States that so irked Maverick in this regard.
According to the Eulogy on the life and character of Samuel Maverick, given by Dr George Cupples before the Alamo Literary Society of San Antonio in 1870, which Maverick himself founded: "His father on one occasion, after having answered Mr Calhoun [a pro-slavery and nullification politician] in a speech of great power, was made the subject of some intemperate remarks, which his son resented and challenged the utterer of them."
It is not reported whether the duel was fought with pistols or swords but as Dr Cupples continues: "In the encounter he wounded his antagonist and afterward nursed him until his recovery."
This was a turning point for Samuel Augustus Maverick. At odds with the politics and tensions of South Carolina, he decided to seek his fortune elsewhere. As a well educated man with independent means and a prestigious law degree he was free to do pretty much as he damn well pleased. He settled first in Georgia and then tried Alabama before being lured to the lawless and tumultuous theatre of the frontier. Samuel Maverick arrived in San Antonio Texas in March of 1835, keen to start building his own land empire. To Maverick the Texas frontier glistened and twinkled as a huge real estate opportunity. Unfortunately he arrived in Texas at the most tumultuous time of the state's history. Mexico had just won its War of Independence from Spain in 1821, and laid claim to large swathes of Western Texas, bordering on the sleepy adobe centre of San Antonio. The land was settled by two dominant groups: Tejanos , Mexicans of Spanish descent and an increasing number of Anglo-American settlers moving in from the West. Along with independence Mexico had outlawed slavery and wanted to charge duty on goods imported from the United States. This irked the Anglo-American settlers deeply and there had been several skirmishes and fights in the build up to the American-Mexican war. San Antonio was an important strategic and economic stronghold - prized by both Texan independents and Mexico. At the time of Maverick's arrival the city was controlled by Mexico but was soon under siege by the United States led by General Sam Austin. Maverick and several other high profile Anglo-Americans were placed under house arrest and ordered not to leave the city under orders of Mexican general Martin Perfecto de Cos. According to historian Andrew Gill, "Maverick, in his captivity had come to thoroughly know the geographic topography of San Antonio and the location of the Mexican divisions."
Dr Cupples picks up the narrative. "During their incarceration they contrived to keep up intelligence with General Burleson who commanded the Texas army investing the town. On one occasion these three gentlemen [Maverick and a two others] were sentenced on suspicion to be shot."
As they were being marched to the firing squad a Mrs Smith begged the Mexican commander for further investigation into their case. "The investigation was finally granted resulting in the clearing of the prisoners."
Maverick was allowed to leave San Antonio after promising to return to the United States. He and his fellow accused immediately went to join the Texan forces ten miles below San Antonio.
According to Maverick's grandson Maury Maverick, "Upon reaching the main Texan force our grandfather stood on a tree stump and addressed the men. (He was not tall, lacking more than an inch of six feet). He encouraged the troops to storm the town, gave them the number of the enemy forces, assured them that the Mexican soldiers were poor shots - usually aiming too high. And offered to guide them into the city."
The Texan forces deliberated for some time before General Ben R. Milam stepped forward, according to historian Henry Brown, "and cried aloud: 'who will follow old Ben Milam into San Antonio?'"
Three hundred and one men decided to go, with Samuel Maverick acting as their guide. What followed was one of the grimmest and hardest fought battles of the Mexican-American war. Milam was shot through the head and died in Maverick's arms. Samuel Maverick told his son, reported in the Maverick Family papers (housed in the New York Public Library): "There Ben Milam was shot - as he staggered back I caught him in my arms." Pointing to another spot he said: "There during the fight I helped to cut off a man's shattered leg and we saved his life."
Four days later, after fierce fighting from house to house, Mexico's general Cos raises the white flag and surrenders San Antonio to the Texan forces. The next day he and General Burleson agree on the articles of capitulation. Thus setting the stage for Mexico's revenge attack on The Alamo.
Samuel Maverick remained in San Antonio after the siege and was elected one of two delegates from the Alamo garrison in San Antonio to sign the Texas Declaration of Independence in Washington de Bravos. This act saved his life, for soon after they left, the Mexican Army attacked the Alamo and massacred everyone inside. Had he not been dispatched to sign the declaration, Maverick surely would have perished along with others like Davey Crockett and his close friend Jim Bowie. The battle of San Jacinto followed, and with General Sam Houston's victory over the Mexicans, a sense of relative security was ensured. For a little while, at least.
As Andrew Gill reports: "In any case, the Maverick family business required attention, necessitating his departure to Alabama after hostilities in Texas abated. While riding en route to this destination, Samuel Augustus came to the aid of a young woman who had dropped her handkerchief from atop her horse."
Cue sweeping Ennio Morricone Western love theme.
"Picking up and returning this article proved to be very significant to the gentlemanly Maverick, for its owner was Mary Anne Adams, his future wife. From this moment the two grew very close to one another and were married a few months later in August 1836."
Several days after his death in 1870, "Mary would discover her old handkerchief, the very article responsible for their meeting, amongst a collection of his most prized possessions."
Wipe that tear from your eye.
His descendent Maury Maverick gives us a bit more perspective. "Sam's wife was a Tuscaloosa, Alabama girl, six feet tall and eighteen years of age when she married her thirty three year old husband. Formally educated, she was one of the few Anglo women, if not the only one, in the San Antonio of 1838 who could fully read and write English."
The couple migrated between Pendleton, South Carolina and Tuscaloosa, Alabama for two years before returning to San Antonio in 1838. Soon after returning to Texas, Maverick got his Texas law license and started practicing. He served as San Antonio's mayor in 1839, and again in 1862. He was as an alderman in 1841 and was the city treasurer from 1841-1842. He was also one of the local 'Minute Men' who often followed the trail and delivered 'restorative justice' to what were then described as 'marauding Indians'.
According to Brown, "When he returned permanently to San Antonio, Maverick left a small herd of cattle on the Matagorda Peninsula with slave caretakers. It was this herd that was allowed to wander and gave rise to the 'maverick'".
"During the same year , however, Mexico mounted a military campaign in the San Antonio area in hopes of re-annexing Texas." Reports Andrew Gill. "This time led by General Adrian Woll, surrounded and invaded the city on September 11, 1842."
The American families living in San Antonio made their escape with the remaining American troops, before the invasion. However a few American citizens decided to make a stand against the Mexicans. Dr Cupples picks up the narrative thread:
"Mr Maverick, who was urgent in favour of this course, declaring that they ought to set and example of resistance, and whatever might be their fate, they would at least check the advance of the enemy, and give time for succor to arrive from the few scattered settlements which existed at that day in Western Texas."
The Texans repulsed the initial attack and according to Cupples "fourteen were slain outright and twenty seven wounded". The superior Mexican force soon prevailed and Maverick among about 30 other Texans were taken prisoner. Maverick later claimed in a letter to the Mexican Secretary of State that many of the Texans believed the Mexicans to have been a band of robbers, and that organised outlaws were known to frequent the area. Other reports claim that the Mexicans advanced with a military band. And as you know from living in South Africa, not many bandits do that.
All things being equal, and some downright unfair, Maverick was frog marched from San Antonio to Castle Perote, Mexico - a distance of more than 1000 miles. As Dr Cupples exclaims: "On arrival at Perote they were subjected to the most humiliating and cruel treatment, being confined to cells and frequently chained two together."
While in Perote Maverick wrote to Waddy Thompson the American minister to Mexico. Cupples again picks up the narrative:
"Mr Maverick was a young man of large fortune, with a young wife and three or four interesting children. When he arrived at Perote prison he wrote to Gen. Thompson, informing him that he was there, and in chains, but said that he neither asked nor expected any interposition from Gen. Thompson, as he considered such interposition might not be proper, and only asking the General to convey some letters to his family. Gen. Thompson, nevertheless, set about obtaining his release."
On release Maverick travelled back to his family at LaGrange Texas. Finding them ill he moved them to Decrows Point and returned to South Carolina, according to Cupples, "to procure means to meet obligations which he had assumed in many instances for the relief of his more necessitous companions in captivity."
From now on Maverick gradually sold his holdings elsewhere and invested in Texas properties. He returned to San Antonio in 1847. Unwilling to sit still he soon volunteered for an expedition to explore the country and open a road between San Antonio and El Paso. According to Brown this was "an enterprise then touching the popular heart of Texas, and deemed of the utmost importance... At the time it was regarded as a hazardous expedition into terra incognito . The party became lost and underwent the pangs of thirst and hunger. Snakes, lizards and terrapins were eaten to prevent starvation; but the expedition was successful, and returned to San Antonio after an absence of three months. The same trip will be made, inside of one year, on the iron horse, in four days."
Another source claims that the expedition was saved by a group of Indians who guided them to food and water at San Elizario, on the Rio Grande. Funny that that bit never made it into his eulogy.
Perhaps his greatest feat - beyond coining the term that has come to name and represent this fine magazine you are clutching - was his role in the build up to the American Civil War. As Cupples puts it:
"In February 1861 he was charged with the delicate duty of procuring the removal of the United States troops from the State of Texas - and that all this was effected without bloodshed, and with so little of inconvenience or humiliation to the officers and men who had so long been friends among us, constitutes one of his highest titles... Texas owes it that no blood was then shed within her borders, and that she escaped the horrors of war which devastated her sister States."
As historian Paula Mitchell Marks reports, "After the war he received a presidential pardon and was active in attempts to combat the radical Republican regime in Reconstruction Texas."
Maverick is obviously a Texan hero, honest, hard working, patriotic and brave but he was also a slave owner, politician, soldier and a killer of men. A man of his fractured time. But perhaps the jingoistic old Dr Cupples hints towards the generation of the "Maverick myth" in his eulogy: "I verily believe he passed from earth without leaving on its surface a single personal enemy. Not that he courted popularity, for no man ever lived more independent of the prejudices and fashions of the world, and many personal peculiarities stamped him with an individuality all his own."
So there are two sides to every Maverick. On the one hand you've got the fiercely independent, unbranded and unsullied free thinker - willing to act directly and with courage. On the other hand you've got a stray bit of livestock ready to be claimed by unscrupulous cowboys.
Coining phrases must run in the family genes, because, interestingly enough his grandson Maury Maverick while serving in the House of Representatives during World War 2 coined the word "gobbledygook". He invented the term to describe the impenetrable bureaucratic jargon he encountered while overseeing factory production for the war effort. Such was his hatred for political doublespeak he was also quoted as saying: '"Anyone using the words 'activation' or 'implementation' will be shot."
Take that to your next board meeting.