Samuel Huston was born in Rockbridge County, Virginia, on March 2, 1793. His father, also named Samuel, served as a field grade officer in the Virginia Militia during the American Revolution. Sam's father died in 1806 and the following year, young Sam's mother, Elizabeth Paxton Houston, moved the family to Maryville, Tennessee. Sam attended school intermittently in both Virginia and Tennessee and worked briefly in the General Store in Maryville which was owned by his brother. He did not like the work and decamped across the Tennessee River to live with the Cherokee Indians for about three years. His Indian name was "The Raven." In 1812, Sam opened a school and operated it successfully for a brief period of time before enlisting in the Thirty-ninth Infantry as a private in March 1813. The commander of his regiment was then Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Hart Benton. Benton obviously recognized Houston to be a worthy member of his unit because Sam rose rapidly in rank - ensign in July and third lieutenant in December 1813.
In February 1814, the Thirty-ninth moved to Fort Strother in the Mississippi Territory for service in the Creek Civil War. Major General Andrew Jackson commanded the U.S. forces, which were primarily composed of militia units reinforced with Lower Creek and Cherokee Indians, in what turned out to be a successful effort to put down the rebellion of the so-called Red Sticks (aka Upper Creek Indians). Houston distinguished himself during the campaign and was severely wounded in the decisive battle at Horseshoe Bend. He was commended by Jackson and the two men initiated an acquaintance that was to morph into mentor/disciple over the years. Houston was promoted to second lieutenant in May 1814. He recuperated from his wounds in New Orleans, Virginia, and Tennessee and then, in May 1815, was transferred to Nashville, Tennessee, where he was assigned to General Jackson's headquarters.
In October 1817, Houston was appointed subagent to the Cherokee Nation by Andrew Jackson who was then engaged in moving the Cherokee from Tennessee to Arkansas. In 1818, Houston accompanied a Cherokee delegation to Washington to meet with senior governmental officials. During the trip, Houston offended the Secretary of War, John C. Calhoun, and was investigated for complicity in assisting slave smuggling. He managed to clear his name, but was so angry that he resigned his army and subagent commissions. Houston and Calhoun were to remain personal antagonists all of their lives.
In June 1818, Houston moved back to Nashville to study law with Judge James Trimble. Within six months he was practicing law in Lebanon, Tennessee, and in October 1818, he was appointed prosecutor in Nashville and given a command in the local militia. In 1821, he resigned his position as prosecutor and returned to private practice. That same year he was elected Major General in the Tennessee State Militia. In August 1823, with Andrew Jackson's support, he was elected to the House of Representatives from the Ninth Tennessee District. In the House, Houston worked for internal improvements of the national infrastructure by supporting canal construction in various parts of the country. He also championed the election of Andrew Jackson to be President of the United States.
Houston served in the House of Representatives until 1827 when he was elected Governor of Tennessee. While serving as governor, he stressed the importance of states rights, but also repeatedly cited his support for the Union of States. This was to become a defining philosophy for his life in politics. Jackson was elected President in 1928. Houston's future looked to be very bright. He married Eliza Allen in April 1829, but the marriage ended very shortly thereafter when Eliza accused him of having been emasculated by the injury that he had sustained at Horseshoe Bend.
Houston took the breakup very hard, resigned as governor at the end of April 1829, and traveled to Arkansas where he once again took up residence with his old Cherokee friends. In October 1829, he officially became a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. Shortly thereafter, he married Tiana Rogers under Cherokee law. In 1830, Tiana and Houston had a daughter, Margret Lewis Houston. During this period of his life, Houston came under attack for alleged improprieties in providing supplies to the Indians. He was also defeated in a bid to become a member of the Cherokee National Council. He fell into despair, drank heavily, and disgraced himself with all and sundry. In 1832, Houston attacked William Stansberry, Congressman from Ohio, with a wooden cane and was formally reprimanded by the House of Representatives.