History Friday – Renaissance Man

Among those brawling, restless borderers drawn to Texas like a trout going upstream during the tumultuous decade of the 1830s was a tall, ambitious and somewhat eccentrically skilled young man from Tennessee named John Salmon Ford. Like fellow adventurers, James Bowie, William Barrett Travis, and Sam Houston, his personal life was already fairly checkered, including one divorce. Unlike the first two, Ford would live through the tumultuous affair that was the Republic of Texas. Like Sam Houston, he would survive all the vicissitudes that an active life on the Texas frontier could throw at him, and die in bed at the ripe old age (for the 19th century) of 82. I assume he was mildly surprised by this happy chance. He had survived the usual accidents and epidemics of an age which predated antibiotics and germ theory in general, any but the crudest of surgeries, and routine vaccination for nothing but smallpox. He had also survived service in two wars and innumerable campaigns along the borders and against various hostile Indian tribes, several rounds of frontier exploration, election to public office, and as a newspaper editor in the days when public discourse was conducted metaphorically with a set of brass knuckles.

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