When the United States became independent in 1776, Texas was far from the scene. However, one of the key figures of that era, Benjamin Franklin, still had an impact on Texas and its own independence decades later. Richard Bache, Jr., Franklin’s grandson, fought in the Texas Revolution, served in the Texas navy, and served in the first sessions of the Texas State Senate.
Richard Bache, Jr., was born in Philadelphia in 1784. His father, Richard Bache, Sr., was the second postmaster general of the United States, following Benjamin Franklin in the position and serving in the midst of the American Revolution from 1776 to 1782. He had married Franklin’s only daughter, Sarah, several years earlier and had eight children with her.
As a child, Bache had gotten to know his famous grandfather, who died in Philadelphia in 1790. His brothers and cousins achieved varying degrees of fame and success as engineers and publishers, following in their famous grandfather’s footsteps in one way or another. In 1798, he watched his older brother, Benjamin Franklin Bache, run afoul of the notorious Alien and Sedition Acts when his newspaper, the Aurora, printed articles critical of President John Adams. Unfortunately, he died before the case went to trial.
Bache attended Philadelphia schools and eventually enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania. He graduated in 1812 just before the War of 1812 erupted. Once this new war with Great Britain erupted, he organized a volunteer artillery unit. The Philadelphia-based Franklin Flying Artillery earned acclaim during the war, with Bache serving as captain. He also briefly served in the navy.
After the war ended, he served as postmaster of Philadelphia, serving from 1815 to 1828. It was this same position that his grandfather occupied from 1737 to 1753, making Bache part of the third generation in his family to serve as a postal executive.
Because of his family’s reputation, Bache maintained close connections with politicians across Pennsylvania. In 1805, he married Sophia Dallas, the daughter of United States Attorney Alexander Dallas. Alexander Dallas rose to become Secretary of the Treasury under President James Madison in 1814, while his son George, the namesake for the present-day City of Dallas, became vice-president under President James K. Polk in 1845. The Baches’ marriage produced nine children.
In 1832, Bache fled to Texas under a cloud of suspicion, leaving his family behind. The reasons were never clear. Some biographers suggested he fled debt collectors while others point to whispers of accusations that embezzlement had occurred at the Philadelphia post office during his tenure as postmaster. However, no charges of any illegal activity were ever filed.
He settled in the Brazoria area near modern-day Houston. When the Texas Revolution reached Southeast Texas in spring 1836, Bache joined the Louisiana Independent Volunteers to continue the fight. He was part of the San Jacinto campaign in April 1836 when Mexican Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was captured in the aftermath. Gen. Sam Houston made him part of the group of soldiers guarding Santa Anna in the aftermath.
Under the administration of Texas President Mirabeau B. Lamar, the Texas navy was re-established. In 1838, Bache served as chief clerk for the new navy. With the purchase of the steamship Zavala, Bache dusted off his experience from the United States Navy and served Texas on the high seas on the new vessel.
In 1842, he moved to Galveston to serve as commissioner of the navy yard and as customs collector. Shortly afterward, he was elected a justice of the peace, a small-claims court judge, for Galveston County.
By 1845, the question of annexation to the United States again emerged. Many people in the United States and Texas alike were excited about the prospect of the merger. Bache was selected as a delegate to the Annexation Convention. However, Bache was in the minority and voted against annexation; but his reasons were more personal than political. As his grandfather had a falling out with his own parents and his own son throughout his life, Bache periodically would find himself at odds with members of his own family. After his brother-in-law, George Dallas, became vice-president, Bache soured on the idea of annexation because he did not want to give him a political victory.
Nevertheless, Bache was a delegate at the state constitutional convention and helped craft the first state constitution in 1845. He was also elected to the first session of the new Texas State Senate, representing the Galveston area. He continued to serve in the senate until his sudden death three years later.
His children went on to lead impressive lives of their own. His eldest son, Alexander Bache, was a noted scientist and led what later became known as the U. S. Geodetic Survey. Three of his daughters married men who had considerable achievements. One son-in-law became a congressman while another became Secretary of the Treasury while a third, Gen. William Emory was a noted surveyor along the border between Mexico and the United States.
Bache died in Austin in 1848 at age 64.
Ken Bridges is a Texas native, writer and history professor. He can be reached at email@example.com. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.