October 18, 1835. At the camp on the Cibolo today, Austin named Dr. William P. Smith surgeon of the army. On October 7, while the volunteers were yet at Gonzales, the entire medical fraternity joined in a memorial to Col. John H. Moore, offering its services: You are hereby requested to accept the medical services of the undersigned who without any discussion of grade have, with a special eve to the good of their country, constituted themselves a board for the volunteer army of Texas with sentiments of highest consideration. We subscribe ourselves. Yours sincerely, William P. Smith, Thomas J. Gazely, T. Kenney, Joseph E. Field, Amos Pollard.
From Weyand and Wade, The History of Fayette County. Now we have come to the story of one of the most remarkable men who ever lived in Fayette County, not only that, but he was also one of our best loved and most influential citizens, and in addition was one of the most energetic men the writer ever heard of. In proof of this last statement we wish to call our readers' attention to the fact that, according to Dr. Smith's own admission, he served us in turn as coroner, as Alcalde, as postmaster, as Notary Public, as Post Surgeon of an established army post, as Regimental Surgeon with the army on the march. In addition to all this he was a regularly ordained Methodist preacher, and after working all the week at his many other vocations spent the Holy Sabbath preaching and teaching Sunday school; however, from any or all of his many different jobs he was liable to be called any minute to answer to a call from the "stork" or from some good citizen who was sick or had accidentally got shot, for our good old Dr. Smith was a practicing physician of considerable renown, especially in the line of surgery and operation cases. And we must not loose sight of the fact that Dr. Smith was a great educator of his day, it was he who was one of the prime movers in the organization, founding and chartering of old Rutersville College; a casual inspection of papers relative to this institution will prove this truth beyond a doubt.
It must not be overlooked that Dr. Smith also took a "flyer" at the newspaper game and served as editor of the "Texas Monument," and he held that position until it was found that he was worth too much to the Monumental Committee to be wasted on editorial work, so he was transferred to the road with instruction to raise money to carry on the work outlined by this organization. During his leisure moments and while time was hanging heavy on his hands, especially during the long winter evenings, we find that our energetic hero occupied his time by visiting almost every Masonic Lodge within a radius of one hundred miles. His companion on these visits seems to have been John Murchison, who was the father of Fayette County Masonry. While Dr. Smith was a member of Florida Lodge No. 46, of Round Top, we find him registered repeatedly as a visitor in the other Masonic bodies of our county. Whatever faults Dr. Smith may have had, he surely possessed one virtue; he was a great believer in "tooting his own horn," and due to this peculiarity of his, there is left to us today several records of value that otherwise we would not have.
The first record we have of Dr. William P. Smith is the day he was born; this date we copied from his tombstone and reads as follows: "Born January 15, 1795," these figures are verified on his Headright Certificate which shows, that in spite of the universally common name of Smith, we have here the right man and that this is not another case of duplicate names so common in history. The next trace of our hero is in the War of 1812. He tells us himself that he fought at the Battle of New Orleans, and further states that he served under General Jackson and under Coffee and Carroll. We have applied to the War Department at Washington, D. C., for the official records covering this point but they have not yet reached our hands; however, we do not doubt but that Dr. Smith told the truth in this statement of his. The records of the Methodist Church as shown in the book, "Methodism in Tennessee," V. 3, pp. 362-363, prove that our preacher hero was officially ordained a Minister of the Gospel at Franklin, Tennessee, in the month of November 1829.
Then we have no record of him until he hit Texas; in his Headright Certificate, mentioned above, he tells us that he emigrated to Texas in January 1835, just in time to par. ticipate in a red-hot rebellion and a bloody conflict, for all of which his previous army experience, medical and relig ious training, particularly well fitted him to play a leading part, as we shall presently see. It is not clear to us just how Dr. Smith occupied his time between January and October 1835, the only thing we know for a fact during this nine months prior is that our hero made the acquaintance of Dr. A. P. Manley who was destined to be his lifelong friend; we know also that he located in Fayette County and must have occupied himself with getting himself established, in making new friends and studying the political situation of Texas and in making up his mind as to the right and wrong of the proposition in order to determine where he stood and what he should do. This brings us to late September 1835, and to the town of Gonzales, known as the "Lexington of Texas." This was the spot where the first shot of the Texas Revolution was fired by Eli Mitchell on October 2, 1835.
It will be remembered that Texas was, figuratively speaking, "setting on a powder keg" just at this time, and it needed only a spark to start the conflagration of war and desolation. Here was the situation briefly: Mexico realized that she would have to do something about Texas and do it quickly; she conceived the idea that it might be a good plan to disarm her American children before they injured themselves or hurt somebody else, and they decided to start in at Gonzales by demanding the return of the little cannon that had been given to the citizens of this town as a protection against the Indians; to enforce this demand a detail of soldiers was sent; however, the people of Gonzales did not take kindly to this move on the part of Santa Anna and decided that while they had no serious objection to giving up the worthless little gun, still they were opposed to the principal of the thing and made up their mind that they would hold on to it at any cost. In keeping with this decision our Gonzales brethren found it necessary to do several things right quick, first they told the Mexican officer that their Alcalde, Andrew Ponton, was out of town and for that reason they could not officially surrender the little cannon, next they dispatched Mathew Caldwell (Old Paint) for help; this ride made him. famous for life as the Paul Revere of Texas. Next, our good people of Gonzales took the offending little four-pounder and buried it down in Mr. Smith's peach orchard and then ploughed up the ground over it to conceal the spot. Next they took the ferry-boat and ran it up into a slough and hid it to keep the Mexicans on their side of the Guadalupe river. Now a storekeeper named Albert Martin organized his neighbors into a little company and made himself captain; these men he stationed as pickets to watch the enemy and guard the river crossing. After this there was no more to be done until the help Caldwell had been sent to fetch began to arrive, and here and now our hero enters into the picture and takes charge.
The Battle of Gonzales, which occurred on October 2nd, 1835, and this incident goes down in history as paralleling a similar occurrence in our American Revolution and is known as the "Lexington of Texas." There is still another historical duplication in this first beginning of hostilities. It will be remembered that just before the Battle of Bunker Hill the Colonial Army remembered that before undertaking any great or laudable undertaking they should first invoke the aid of Deity and accordingly a prayer was offered up to God just before the engagement commenced. This is just exactly what Reverend William P. Smith did before the Battle of Gonzales, for he tells us all about it himself. When we last saw him he, no doubt, had his Bible in one hand and his old flintlock rifle in the other, preaching to the Texas army assembled just before it started on the march for San Antonio; he even goes so far as to tell us what his text was and that he was riding a mule and all about it. This soldier-surgeon-chaplain also mentions the fact that he was appointed Surgeon-General by Stephen F. Austin, who had arrived on the scene and been elected Commander-in-Chief, after the reconciliation between himself and William H. Wharton which took place at Gonzales just at this time and was by far the most important event in the affairs of Texas up to this date as the adjustment of the difference between these two, previously enemies, united for the first time the opposing parties in Texas and enabled us to present a united front to our Mexican foes.
Dr. William P. Smith give his own version of this affair in his own words signed as "An Old Soldier" in the Texas Almanac in 1861. Weyand and Wade in History of Fayette County state there was no doubt that the source of this treatise was William P. Smith.
"No time was lost in sending an express to the Guadalupe, the Colorado and the Brazos, for aid. Volunteers from each of these points turned out and hastened to the rescue. On the arrival of Captain Goheen from the Guadalupe, Captains Moore and Coleman from the Colorado, and Captain Smith from the Brazos, with their companies, the citizens informed the Mexican commander their Alcalde had returned and that he had determined not to give up the cannon. The Texians completed their organization by electing Colonel John H. Moore and Lieutenant-Colonel J. W. E. Wallace to the command. There were seven physicians in the army---they formed themselves into a medical board by electing Reverend William P. Smith, M.D., President, and Thomas J. Gazeley, M.D., Secretary. Orders were issued on the same day (Oct. 1, 1835), in the evening, that the army take up the line of march, cross the Guadalupe, form on the west bank and await orders. The army having crossed and at about the hour of eleven at night, being formed into a hollow square, Colonels Moore and Wallace, with Rev. William P. Smith, rode into the square, when the latter, being seated on his favorite mule, addressed the army as follows:
SONS OF DEWITT COLONY TEXAS