MCMANUS, ROBERT ORSON WILLIAM (1812 ~ 1885). Robert O. W. McManus, surveyor, soldier, and planter, the son of William and Catherine (Kuntz) McManus, was born in Troy, New York, on December 12, 1812. His father was a prominent attorney and member of the United States House of Representatives from New York, 1825-27.
McManus was educated at Troy High School and at Rensselaer Institute, which he left without graduating after a quarrel with the president. As assistant engineer for the Troy and Bennington Railroad, McManus surveyed the route of that line in 1830 and then returned to civil practice for two years in Troy. He was drawn to Texas by the lure of land speculation and immigrated with his sister Jane McManus Cazneau, landing at the mouth of the Brazos in December 1832. He settled in Liberty and served as a surveyor for the government of Coahuila and Texas. In this role he surveyed grants in the colonies of David G. Burnet, Lorenzo de Zavala, and Joseph Vehlein before the closing of the land office on November 13, 1835. When the citizens of Liberty received Col. William B. Travis's appeal for aid, Capt. William M. Logan formed a company of volunteer infantry that McManus joined on March 6, 1836.
Unaware of Travis's fate, the company marched to the Colorado River, where it joined Gen. Sam Houston's army on its retreat into East Texas. After observing McManus in a skirmish with Mexican cavalry, Erastus (Deaf) Smith selected him as one of four scouts-the others being Henry Wax Karnes, Washington H. Secrest, and Fielding Secrest-to maintain contact with Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna's army and report its strength and movements to Houston. Although these spies were reattached to the army before the battle of San Jacinto, McManus's name does not appear on Logan's muster rolls. He was discharged on June 6, 1836. After the revolution he served in the militia company of Capt. Newton Swinney of Beat Number Nine, Liberty County, but the period of his enlistment is not known.
On July 18, 1838, he married Sarah (Isabella) Spinks, daughter of Baker M. Spinks. The couple had six children. As a surveyor McManus had accumulated an estimated 100,000 acres of land, and in 1840 he owned 320 acres in Liberty County. There he established a prosperous plantation at Moss Point, some fifteen or twenty miles below Liberty on the east bank of the Trinity River. In 1860 he owned twelve slaves. Although never himself a candidate for political office, on August 15, 1853, McManus published a broadside addressed "To the Freemen of Liberty County" attacking William Fields's candidacy for the House of Representatives. After the death of his first wife in 1879, McManus, on May 3, 1880, married Mary E. Turner, a native of Texas; this couple had no children. McManus died at his Liberty County plantation on September 10 or 11, 1885, and was buried in the State Cemetery at Austin. He was a member of no religious communion.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Jane Cazneau Papers, New York Historical Society, New York City; Barker Texas History Center, University of Texas at Austin. Daughters of the Republic of Texas, Founders and Patriots of the Republic of Texas (Austin, 1963-). Daughters of the Republic of Texas, Muster Rolls of the Texas Revolution (Austin, 1986). Sam Houston Dixon and Louis Wiltz Kemp, The Heroes of San Jacinto (Houston: Anson Jones, 1932). Galveston Daily News, September 12, 1885. William S. Speer and John H. Brown, eds., Encyclopedia of the New West (Marshall, Texas: United States Biographical Publishing, 1881; rpt., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978). E. W. Winkler, ed., "Checklist of Texas Imprints, 1846-1876," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 47 (October 1943).
Thomas W. Cutrer
"MCMANUS, ROBERT ORSON WILLIAM." The Handbook of Texas Online. [Accessed Mon Feb 17 14:52:47 US/Central 2003].