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Texas History: How the term ‘maverick’ originated

Photograph of T. L. Sparkman, Jr.'s cow standing in a field.
Photograph of T. L. Sparkman, Jr.'s cow standing in a field. (University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History)

HOUSTON – The term “Maverick” is more than just an NBA sports team or popular TV series. It has several meanings and the origin dates back to a land baron and legislator from San Antonio.

According to Collins English Dictionary, the term is defined as a lone dissenter who takes an independent stand apart from his or her associates. It is also defined as an unbranded calf, which traces back to the 1860s, to prominent San Antonian, Samuel Augustus Maverick.

Maverick was a politician, land baron and signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence. Born in South Carolina, Maverick arrived in Texas in 1835 just weeks before the Texas Revolution.

Maverick served as the mayor of San Antonio, treasurer, representative of congress of the Republic of Texas and state legislator.

As for the term “maverick,” it is believed that he allowed his cattle to roam freely. Cowboys would often find them with no brands on them and identify them at Maverick’s cows. As a result, it created the term “maverick.”

The politician wasn’t just known for wandering unbranded cattle, Maverick heavily invested in land in West Texas. He purchased about 300,000 acres. In fact, Maverick county was named in his honor.