Agustus W. Sillivan (Sullivan)
# 3 - Sheriff Agustus W. Sillivan, or “Sullivan” (as name was eventually corrupted) was
born about 1806, possibly in South Carolina.
Agustus W. Sillivan came to Texas sometime in October 1835, probably after the first
skirmish between Texans and Mexicans.
After establishing himself at Port Sullivan, (east of present day Branchville) he was
elected Sheriff of Milam County on June 28, 1839 and records show he served until
February 1, 1841.
He did not receive a land grant in 1835, but he did acquire title to a plot of real
estate late in 1835. On December 12, 1835 Sillivan received title to one-fourth league
of land from Edwin Caruthers. The eastern part of this quarter league of land along the
Brazos became known as Sillivan’s or Sullivan's Bluff.
Little is known about Sillivan before his arrival in Texas, or even after his arrival.
He was about 29 years old at the time he came.
Sillivan, according to some sources, took part in the siege of Bexar in December 1835.
The muster rolls at the General Land Office of Texas do not list any Sillivan or
Sullivan in the Army in San Antonio at that time.
His purchase of Sullivan's Bluff from Caruthers took place within a week of the action
in San Antonio. In fact, after his purchase of land in 1835, his name does not appear on
any other records until February 2, 1837. He may have left the area until the times
became more settled.
The last part of 1835 and early part of 1836 saw trouble not only develop between Texans
and Mexicans, but also between the Texans and the nearby Indians. In April 1838, a
petition was sent to the Senate and House of Representatives of the Republic of Texas
from the "citizens of the County of Milam, a part of your Northern Frontier
inhabitants." The petitioners wanted the Congress either to call out the militia or to
create a "Corps of Mounted Volunteers" for their protection.
Several of those signing the petition lived around Nashville. A. W. Sillivan added his
signature to the petition also.
Sillivan was again in the neighborhood of his bluff in 1837. He purchased an additional
tract of land on February 2, 1837, which consisted of 1,107 acres situated in the fork
of the Brazos and Little rivers, on the west and north banks, respectively, and about
one mile from Sullivan's Bluff.
In the early part of 1838, Sillivan worked with the county surveyor as a marker or
On June 28, 1838, Sillivan was elected sheriff of Milam County. Sillivan was well known
by the few settlers in the area in the late 1830's.
In 1846, the Legislature of the State of Texas decided that Nashville was too far south
in Milam County to be the county seat. Only seven years before Nashville had been
described as the extreme northern populated area of the county. The Legislature
appointed a commission of seven members to locate a site for the permanent county seat.
Agustus W. Sillivan was one of the commissioners.
Sillivan by this service gained experience in choosing sites for towns. His bluff was
too close to Nashville and the southern and eastern boundaries of the county to warrant
The site for the county seat was selected along Little River about twenty miles west of
Sullivan's Bluff. Cameron, the name of the new town, was said to have been surveyed by
Sillivan and three other men late in 1846.
Port Sullivan was primarily established to be a port. The first attempt to establish
steamboat communication with Sullivan's Bluff appears to have been a failure. Early in
1851, a shipment from Washington was consigned to "Sillivan's Bluff," aboard the Brazos.
The cargo was to be delivered "in like order and condition at the port of Sullivan's
Bluff unto Hubby and Sillavan, who jointly owned a warehouse there. The subscriber
having completed their new warehouse at Sillivan's Bluff, are ready to receive and
forward freight, and solicit patronage from the public.
Port or no port, Port Sullivan was a boon to Agustus W. Sillivan, owner of the town
site. In 1847, the 1,107 acres in the Caruthers Survey owned by Sillivan was assessed at
$277. Ten years later this survey, minus the few acres devoted to the town, was assessed
at $5,485, or twenty-fold the previous mentioned value.
In 1858, Sillivan sold less than one-third of the land in the survey for $6,140. He also
made money from the sale of lots; and, in addition, he owned a combination store and
warehouse in the town.
The town made Sillivan fairly important in the area. After the town was built, he became
a county commissioner and a member of the County Democratic Committee.
The 1850 Federal Census shows him as being 44 years of age; a farmer; from South
In 1854, Sillivan was listed as a notary public for Milam County. Thus he was a man of
local respectability and standing, all of which, perhaps, aided him in making
transactions in Port Sullivan.
As mentioned, Sillivan owned a warehouse jointly with Caleb M. Hubby, a businessman in
Cameron and later in Waco. Hubby sold his interest in the warehouse to Sillivan on
October 1, 1851.
Sillivan continued in the warehouse business for a little over a year.
During this time he had trouble collecting debts owed him. A Justice of the Peace in
Milam County, L. H. Bolinger, advertised in a Washington paper for a certain John C.
Lewis to appear before him. Sillivan claimed that Lewis had failed to pay off a note of
Sillivan reported in 1852, "I have such an attachment for the place [Port Sullivan] than
I will never leave it." He did, however, soon leave the town which had been named after
him. A deed signed by him on December 22, 1858, reveals that he had become a citizen of
Prairie County, Arkansas.
Perhaps the town grew too big for him. Whatever the reason, Port Sullivan continued to
prosper without him.
NOTE: The present day community and former thriving town of Port Sullivan, in actuality,
should be named "Port Sillivan". A copy of his handwritten signature clearly shows the
spelling. It is found in an abstract book in the Milam County Clerk's Office which is
one of only a couple of books that were not burned in the 1874 fire at the Milam County
Courthouse. Greg Kouba