John Henninger Reagan, son of Timothy and Elizabeth Lusk Reagan, was born on October 18, 1818, in Sevierville, Tennessee. He joined the Republic of Texas Army in 1839 and served in the Cherokee War. In the early 1840s, he held several public offices in Nacogdoches County, and in 1847 obtained a law license and was elected to the Texas House of Representatives. He moved to Palestine in 1851 and opened a law office in his home. He was elected Texas 9th Judicial District Judge in 1852.
Reagan, elected U.S. Congressman in 1857, resigned in 1861 over what he believed was a Federal takeover of states' rights. He served as Postmaster General of the Confederacy during the Civil War. He was captured by Federal troops in 1865 and imprisoned for 18 months. He returned to Texas in 1866 and established a family farm near Palestine at the former site of Ft. Houston.
During his later tenure as a U.S. Congressman (1876-1887) and U.S. Senator (1887-1891), Reagan led the fight that brought railroad monopolies under Federal control with the passage of the Interstate Commerce Act in 1887. In 1891, he became the first Chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission, a position he held until 1901.
Reagan died of pneumonia on March 6, 1905. The entire Texas Legislative Assembly attended his funeral.