Sam Houston was the fifth of nine children born to Samuel and Elizabeth Houston. Samuel, Sr. was a veteran of the American Revolution and a major in the Virginia militia. Sam Houston spent his early years in Rockbridge County, a Virginia frontier community settled by Scotch-Irish Presbyterians looking for a free and independent life. Many of the immigrants stayed only a short time before moving on to even more remote frontier country to the west. The Houstons were no exception. Major Houston died when Sam was 13, and the family pulled up stakes and moved to eastern Tennessee.
Young Houston's spirit was even more untamed than most of his peers. He was self-educated and loved books, especially classical literature. But he detested working on the family farm and in his family's store in Maryville. At the age of 15, Houston ran away from home and went to live with the Cherokee Indians. For the next three years he spent most of his time with the band of Chief Oolooteka. It was during this time that he received his Indian name, Colonneh, or "The Raven."