RANSOM, JAMES BURCHETT (?–1843). James Burchett Ransom first appeared in Texas early in 1839. He served as private secretary to President Mirabeau B. Lamar from February until mid-November 1839 and as reporter to the Texas Senate until February 5, 1840. He rode express for the State Department in March of that year, and in June he escorted the wives and children of the deceased Cherokee chief Bowl back to the United States from Mexico. In the fall of 1840 Ransom served several weeks as quartermaster to the troops in northeastern Texas. On that occasion he declined an offer to become editor of a newspaper to be established at Clarksville. President Lamar sent Ransom to East Texas in April 1841 to recruit men for the Texan Santa Fe expedition. Ransom ran unsuccessfully for congress in 1841 and was again private secretary to Lamar, for two months, before the inauguration of President Sam Houston. Ransom seems to have spent some time in 1842 in Galveston and in Washington County. He was secretary to the Indian commissioners in late 1842 and was serving a second term in that office at the time of his death.
Ransom had published a novel, Osceola; or, Fact and Fiction: a Tale of the Seminole War (1838), before coming to Texas. He gained additional fame in Texas for his writings, which were published in the Austin newspapers of the period. These included "A Sketch of the City of Austin," in the Austin Texas Sentinelqv, January 15, 1840; "Antonette's Leap and the Death of Legrand, or, A legend of the Colorado," in the Austin City Gazette, March 18, 1840; "The Woodsman and his Wolf; or, the Spectre of the Mountain," in the Austin Texas Sentinel, September 12, 1840; and "The Spirit of the Fountain. A Tradition of the Comanches," in the Austin City Gazette, September 29, 1841. Two poems by Ransom, "Sunset at Austin" and "Ode to San Jacinto," were printed in the Austin City Gazette on May 27, 1840, and January 5, 1842, respectively. The latter was much admired and reprinted.
Ransom was accidentally killed by his own gun on March 3, 1843, as he was crossing a branch of Tehuacana Creek near the Waco village, while on a buffalo hunt. Frank Brown wrote of Ransom as "a general favorite, known as a writer of merit and elegance. His literary productions were much admired, especially a romance concerning the mount that bears the name of Bonnell. Other productions about the San Marcos, the San Antonio, and the Spanish missions, were from his pen." Ransom was also described as "a little erratic, but a man of genius and observation, and a pleasing and sprightly writer."
Frank Brown Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Charles Adams Gulick, Jr., Harriet Smither, et al., eds., The Papers of Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar (6 vols., Austin: Texas State Library, 1920–27; rpt., Austin: Pemberton Press, 1968).
A. E. Skinner
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.