Seco Smith & "Big Foot" Wallace
Recently, these blogs have been focusing on early Texas history, and how God impacted it through the early pioneers. I have tried to find stories about the better known patriots, but also the lesser known heroes of Texas. William Densley "Seco" Smith was one of those wonderfully complex people that God eventually used to change Texas for the better. Seco was born in Franklin County Mississippi in 1836. But he was destined to be buried in 1927 in Oak Rest Cemetery, Bandera County, Texas.
When Seco was very young, his father took the family to California as part of the historic Gold Rush. They joined thousands of immigrants from all over the United States and foreign countries to satisfy their “gold fever.” It is said that in 1848, San Francisco had 1,000 residents. By 1850, its’ population had grown to over 20,000! The territory of California swelled from a few thousand, to over 100,000 people in just a few years. Though some got rich, most did not. The Smith family did not find wealth, so they circled back to settle in San Antonio, Texas.
Though Seco met his first wife in San Antonio, he eventually moved to Bandera County. However, due to the rough conditions of pioneer life, Seco had three wives — Amanda Coker, Julia Long, and Elizabeth Akin —and fathered 15 children. In 1857, Seco married Amanda Emily Coker, and they had three children. Amanda died in 1863 due to complicated health problems. He then married Julia Anna Long on April 28, 1867. Her father, Samuel Long, had fought in the Battle of San Jacinto, and was then living in Hondo. Together, Seco and Julia had seven children. She died in 1873 of a massive stroke. In 1898, Seco married Tabitha Elizabeth Akin, daughter of J.T. Akin, a well-known settler in Bandera County. They had five children, and Lizzy lived until 1949.
Seco was a good husband and father, but was often out west fighting Indians and protecting settlers. He was one of the original Texas Rangers, and was known as an amazing scout that could lead a posse of men through the dense woods and never lose his bearings. He was strong, healthy, and always in a good sense of humor. In his younger days, Seco drank heavily. He would give the local peace officers a lot of trouble, but they all enjoyed his unique “warhoop” that he made with his bellowing voice.
Seco was often asked how he got the nickname “Seco.” He explained it to historian Marvin Hunter in this way, “There were three different Smiths in that region. W. L. Smith lived on the Frio; he was known as Frio Smith. Rube Smith lived on the Hondo; he was called Hondo Smith. I lived on the Seco, and ever since I went there people called me Seco Smith. These are all Spanish names. In that language, frio means cold, hondo means deep, and seco means dry. I do not know which is most distressing, to be cold, deep, or dry."
One of Seco’s best friends was William Alexander Anderson "Bigfoot" Wallace. They often travelled together on the frontier and shared many exciting experiences hunting Indians and living off the land. Wallace became a famous Texas Ranger, and was known for his humorous stories of early Texas. In fact, the town of Big Foot was named after him, though it is now incorporated into the city of Devine, Texas.
As Seco aged, he began to consider his life and where he was headed. His life had been rough and tumble, but when he married Tabitha Elizabeth “Lizzy” Akin, he became less interested in the world and more interested in the things of God. Lizzy loved the Scriptures and encouraged Seco to do the same. Eventually, Seco and Lizzy helped found a new Methodist church in Medina, Texas, before his death in 1927. Their daughter Beulah Smith Moore, served the church for over forty years as the pianist and Sunday School teacher. Seco left a fine legacy for his family to follow.
It is always amazing to see lives being captured by love for God. As the Bible says, “For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light." (Ephesians 5:8 ESV)