Announcing New Works…and a Change

92060017BACK FROM VACATION…WITH Research and Notes for MY NEXT BOOK IN HAND…


They’re quite a departure from the Texas History stories I’ve been writing:9781626195981 (2) Tx Ranch Women cover

Texas Ranch Women and Texas Dames, both by Carmen Goldthwaite; published by The History Press,

THE NEW. One’s a dolphin allegory–inspired by sailing  the Gulf — A story arc that travels from greed to generosity. Seems to be a timely message given current events. And since dolphins are “old souls” perhaps their story is not such a reach from the history of heroes and heroines of Texas I’ve been writing and telling stories about for years.

THE OTHER…a suspense or thriller–also a Gulf Coast of Texas story about  trafficking of young girls (teens) and their escape to a new freedom. A lot to learn yet about the details so this will be the “second” book.

WHAT THIS MEANS? I’ll be letting my blog posts “go dark” while I `hole up’ to write these tales.

BUT…we can stay in touch via my web site: and email: [email protected].

AND…I can add you to my newsletter mailing list–“Scribblers’ Note”–that comes out not only with writing tips but a Texas story or stories (every 4 – 6 weeks). Hope to see you there!

Then, when these books are written…I’ll return to and Thanks for joining me these last 2+ years!

Carmen Goldthwaite – cropped-barn.jpg

Author –

Storyteller –

Writing Teacher

P. S. (I still like “p.s.” notes, don’t you?) I’ll still give programs (though not as many) on both Texas history and writing (conferences and classes, too). Schedule these by contacting: [email protected] or my web site,


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Texas First—a Woman Leads in Marble Falls

Now that the nation’s witnessed an historic first in witnessing the nomination of a woman for president, perhaps it’s an occasion to remember a “Texas First”—the election of a woman mayor when only men could vote.

11-2012 November Calendar Birdie Harwood

Mayor Birdie Harwood, dressed for the parade. (Courtesy of Marble Falls Museum)

As she saw it, with her three sons grown, her husband’s medical practice thriving and a family legacy of public service, it was her time to serve.  Ophelia (Birdie) Harwood tossed her hat into the ring for mayor of Marble Falls in January, 1917, three years before women won the right to vote.

NOTE: The Texas legislature convened June 23, 1919, to consider the 19th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution. The House voted the next day to ratify the amendment, 96 to 21. The Senate approved the amendment on June 28.

Birdie Harwood surprised local Marble Falls’ power brokers.

“In casting around for some wide-awake progressive citizen to offer for the office we had not dreamed there was a lady in our midst,” said one. He added, “there is no objection if she can ‘deliver the goods’.”

Birdie (Mrs. George) Harwood campaigned hard, buttonholing men on town streets, riding into their fields and pastures to convince them she could do the job, saying, “A woman’s first duty is to her home and children: when she has raised them up to take their place in the world, it is then her duty to turn to her State and there help make and enforce the laws that will make it a fit abiding place for them.  No good woman is out of place doing those things which are so vital to the welfare of her children and her home,” she said.

Either inspired by President Woodrow Wilson or latching on to his embrace of women’s suffrage, she quoted the President in her announcement.  He said, “I believe every step in that direction (the right of women to vote) should be applauded.”

To her fellow Texans, Birdie Harwood pronounced, “The president of our United States who is recognized all over the world as the grandest man in it today, endorses just this first step I am making in my home town.”


A PERSONAL NOTE: My mother often told the story of her mother taking them to the courthouse square—in Floydada– to vote for the first time. The family stayed to watch the tally on a large chalk board, my grandmother’s first vote, my Mom a 5-year-old but deeply impressed.


Birdie challenged her neighbors. “So gentlemen you see Equal Suffrage is widely recognized as one of the great principals of Democracy, and in making this step I am backed by every broadminded progressive man in our Lone Star State, and in Marble Falls.”

Campaigning for “a bigger town, a better town, a cleaner town, and a more progressive town,” Birdie championed financial prudence. “We are going to try to make two nickels grow where only one grew before.”

She proposed opening the books for public scrutiny and publishing receipts and expenditures in the newspaper. “It is the peoples’ money and they should know what becomes of it,” she said.

Texas Dames by Carmen Goldthwaite

To Read more about Texas’ First Woman mayor `Mayor Birdie’ see her story in my book, TEXAS DAMES: SASSY AND SAVVY WOMEN THROUGHOUT LONE STAR HISTORY. (Available from Amazon, and The History Press of Charleston,

Seventy-nine men voted for Birdie Harwood compared to 33 for the incumbent.

She “delivered the goods.” Counted among her accomplishments was a $40,000 bond issue to purchase the water and light plant and secure for Marble Falls, “one of the finest water powers in the South.”

That deal included a 20-acre tract; a pecan tree shaded park fronting Marble Falls Lake. Mayor Harwood gained lighting, “by electricity,” for the town and the new public park.  Later, she oversaw construction of a bridge to the park spanning the quicksand that had deterred visitors, and she opened the park to camping, establishing Marble Falls’ destiny as a resort town.

“I am very proud at the age of 70” she saidwhen she led the annual parade as former mayor in the 1940’s–“to represent a womanhood that helped to fight the Indians…while their men made the grandest state in the Union—what it is today.  My mother was one of those lovely characters that lived through an epoch that has added much to the luster and glory of our beautiful Texas,” she continued.

Born in 1872, Mayor Harwood lived until 1954.

THANK YOU for joining me today in a 97-year look back to the first woman mayor on the heels of a major political party nominating a woman for president. Please join the discussion at


Carmen Goldthwaite with her two books on Texas women: TEXAS DAMES…and TEXAS RANCH WOMEN: Three Centuries of Mettle and Moxie, both from The History Press.








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Early Anglos arrive in Texas in 1814…or Before

Early Anglos…along the Red River

Early arrivals in Texas drifted into lands along the Red River, rich lands occupied by the Caddo, Kickapoo, Shawnee and Delaware Indians—rich in Timber, in fish, in buffalo, bear and dear, rich in grasslands.

They joined French trappers and hunters who followed the buffalo and other game south to Texas, some from as far off as Canada. For the most part, these transient emigrants–as well as those who came to farm and ranch–arrived without the sanctions of the Spanish governor and without the pledge to become Catholics. These men and women came into a corner of the state too far from government and priests. They were not colonists.

But the Anglos who set foot here tended to settle, take up residence and form communities. They were men like James Burkham, his brother Charles and his wife Ann Abbet and Posey Benningfield, numbered among the first, settling in 1816.



Once this foothold settled up, others came and the growing, next door community of Pecan Point became the “foothold of Anglo-American colonization” in the area, opening the lands for “large-scale settlement” of Northeast Teaxs in the “1820’s and 1830’s.”

At this point I should mention that the meandering Red River shifted its boundaries, its banks, periodically so that some communities, perhaps like Burkham, would be in Arkansas during one period, the “foreign land of Texas,” another.

Pecan Point, however, seemed fairly stable and therefore its growth and influence among early Anglo settlers, its founder, a man named Claiborne Wright, in 1816, when he stopped and unloaded his family and keelboat at the Wetmore and Mabbit Trading Post. Later, Wright’s sons established a plantation, still existing, along the shifting banks of the Red.


EARLY ANGLO PERSONAL NOTE: As a child I visited the Wright Plantation on what once were Kiamichi lands at the invite of my late and beloved cousin’s–Betty Young Player– best friend Margaret, graduates of Paris High School and long-lived friends. We picnicked and played along the river, long before my interest in Texas history was whetted.


Today, it’s well known the Wright family set down roots along the Red several generations deep, contributing much to this Northeast corner of Texas—in blood, sweat, tears and large measures of business and political acumen. The town of Paris, Texas, grew as a result.

Another village nearby, though, has claimed the distinction of “being one of the first entry

Jane Chancler Gill, Jonesboro, one of earliest Anglo women buried here.

Jane Chancler Gill, Jonesboro, one of earliest Anglo women buried here.

points for Anglo settlers into Texas.” Jonesboro was a “pass through” village, a port more than a settlement, a place where men like Houston and Crockett would pass through on the way to the Alamo and the defense of Texas. The men and families who stayed, though, would create a settlement above the Delaware Indian Settlement that would become the town of Clarkesville. Before Clarkesville, though Jonesborough shifted, like Burkham, from the geographical lines of Arkansas to those that would become Texas.

Jonesborough’s role as a major Texas port lasted until 1843. In that year a flood hit the Red River demolishing the old port, businesses washed away or heavily damaged and moved the river bed “almost a mile north, leaving Jonesborough high and dry.

By this time, Clarkesville had snagged the county seat and folks were moving there “in large numbers.”

Of the early Anglos, James Clark, founder of the town with his name, had first moved to Jonesboro to “supply food and other supplies to the Choctaws and Chickasaws.” He married Isabella Hadden Hopkins Hanks and they are said to have entertained Sam Houston for several days. Mrs. Clark described Houston and his men as “very well behaved…gentlemen.”

Settlement and civilization along the “Red” flourished despite a several-hundred year navigational impediment, 150 to 200 mile long log jam, “The Great Raft,” that existed from Spanish exploration times and lasted until 1871.

Northeast Texas gave us early county organizations and shipping points for the growing cotton plantations in Texas. There in Red River County (later broken into 11 counties), the TX Damesrecords documentation of Republic of Texas land grants, are dutifully recorded in large red binders. There, my mother and I found the land grant for our early ancestor, Rachel DeSpain (signed with her “X,” grandmother of TCU founders, Addison and Randolph Clark) that I’ve written about in earlier posts. I got to tell Rachel’s story among other unsung women in Texas Dames: Sassy and Savvy Women Throughout Lone Star History.

Thank you for joining me today for this conversation about a corner of Texas. If you have information, please share, either in the comment box or send a note to me at [email protected]. Of course, my web page offers more contact info,

Also, huge thanks to one of my favorite Texas authors, and fellow TCU alum, Keith Guthrie, for information on these communities in Texas Forgotten Ports, Vol. II. No thanks are complete when I write about Texas history without mentioning the source of so much, The New Handbook of Texas, from the Texas State Historical Association.








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`San Jacinto Day’ – 180 years ago – A New Nation!

 180 Years Agoon Peggy’s League, the McCormick League…

…the beginnings of `San Jacinto Day’


After the battle, Sam Houston received injury and casualty reports from his men while resting beneath this tree on Peggy McCormick’s League south of Houston. Photo courtesy of San Jacinto Museum.

On the banks of the San Jacinto River, near the dark lagoon waters of Buffalo Bayou, on April 21, 1836, about 3 in the afternoon, nearly a thousand Texians stepped off to the tune of a ditty, not a martial song, “Come to the Bower.” They caught the 1200-plus Mexican Army and its President and General napping. Gen. Sam Houston, atop his white stallion Saracen, drew his sword about 20 yards from the Mexican camp. Col. Sidney Sherman, leading the Second Regiment of the Texas Army yelled. “Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad! Remember the Alamo.” They charged.

Eighteen minutes later, at last on this long march of defeats by the Mexicans, the Texians won. 2014-03-05 10.36.06The San Jacinto Battle victors were men fighting for their homeland, for freedom and for a piece of land. Unorganized and ill-equipped, all but demoralized on the winter-spring march, they whipped a force that outnumbered them, a force that fought with the discipline of organized units, well-armed, a larger force.

Between the mid-day victory and dusk, Texas soldiers clubbed and killed, collected prisoners and reveled in the long sought win. Near sundown, Col. Juan N. Almonte surrendered several hundred frightened and demoralized men of his Mexican Army. Santa Anna would not be found and captured until the next day.

Harsh statistics tell the tale: 700 Mexican prisoners of war, 200 of them wounded; 630 Mexicans dead compared to two Texans killed, six mortally wounded and 24 others wounded. Earlier Texan casualties mounted to about 800 in the battles of the Alamo and Goliad.


Many Texas men who fought on this day 180 years ago did so not knowing the fate of  families and home. Some women and children made it to the Sabine River and safety. Others camped near at hand.

One of those following the army, probably with nowhere left to go was a 16-year-old mom with a baby. Her husband soldiered in the Texas Army.


TALES SWELLED in the victorious recounting of events on that April 21 night in 1836 and the days, weeks and months that followed. Most by and about men, but some interesting snippets about women I found while researching Texas Dames: Sassy and Savvy Women throughout Lone Star History and Texas Ranch Women: Three Centuries of Mettle and Moxie.

Stories roll out in my books such as:

  • Texas Ranch Women by Carmen GoldthwaitePeggy McCormick. The battle took place on her McCormick League where she had lived since 1822. The carnage of slaughtered Mexican soldiers met her, surrounding her home upon her return from the Runaway Scrape. One of Austin’s Old 300, her older son rode courier between President David Burnett and Gen. Sam Houston. (See the post of Feb. 19 2015 for more.) Peggy would go on to become the largest rancher in what became Harris County, her land just south of Houston, named, of course, for Sam Houston. (Her story is in both books.)
  • Dona Patricia Deleon, the Tejanos gun-running grandma. She and her husband Martin, their two year old boy and a string of donkey-pulled carts crossed the Rio Bravo (later we know it as Rio Grande) heading north into a country ruled by Indians who didn’t want them there. But they persevered. And they persevered at haggling for a long-dreamed of colonization grant. Finally won after Mexico’s flag flew over Texas, they established the only Mexican colony in Texas–42 Mexicans and 8 Anglos. But the time came when these DeLeons supported the cause for Independence. And so did Patricia, a widow in 1835-1836. She purchased guns in New Orleans, cached them on her ranch and then sent them upstream to Goliad and points north. Oh. The colony they founded? It’s the town of Victoria. (I love to tell her story and so have used parts of it in both books!)
  • TX DamesSophia Suttonfield Aughinbaugh claims to have rushed to and tended Gen. Houston when the fighting ceased and he lay wounded from “a copper musket ball” that he took in his ankle. Under a tree on Peggy’s McCormick League he fielded reports from the field. img652There, Sophia, bathed Houston’s face and combed his hair. Yet, theirs would become a friendship that spanned the state from San Jacinto to the Red River and for the rest of Houston’s life. A teenager when she arrived, she flitted among the politicians and ended up reigning along the Red River for 58 years, earning heroine status as the “Confederate Paul Revere.” Sophia’s story, rolls out in Texas Dames: Sassy and Savvy Women Throughout Lone Star History.
  • “The Yellow Rose of Texas,” Emily D. West. Rumor and legend puts her in Santa Anna’s tent, distracting him. Historians nix that account. She was on the battlefield, captured by Santa Anna. In Texas, bonded to work a year for Henry Morgan, a fund-raiser for Texas, she lost her

    Original lyrics to “The Yellow Rose of Texas” housed in the Archives of the Republic in Austin.

    papers during the battle that proved she was a free woman. Morgan’s officer verified her status and arranged for new papers. It’s believed that a slave around Morgan’s plantation sang “The Yellow Rose of Texas” about Emily D. West, the lyrics preserved in Texas’ archives. Her story also is told in Texas Dames: Sassy and Savvy Women Throughout Lone Star History.

THANK YOU FOR JOINING ME today at … Texana on Thursdays, a front porch chat. If you have stories about this great land of ours, and would like to share, please pass them along through the comment box here or Facebook, Carmen Goldthwaite; @WritingTxDame or [email protected]


IF YOU’D LIKE A PROGRAM on Texas History, especially her women, I have a number of stories to tell and would love the opportunity. By phone you can reach me at 817 726 0412.

For the information here, I’ll thank T. R. Fehrenbach for his book, Lone Star and the countless resources I’ve listed in my books.




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‘Goliad’…`Remember Goliad’

Goliad Joins War Yells During Texas March toward Independence

goliad flag

Col. James Fannin’s Flag at Goliad

Once a sleepy mission known as La Bahia for The Bay and then re-named Goliad, a slaughter took place on Palm Sunday, March 27, 1836.

The Goliad Campaign of 1836 for Texas Independence was led by Col. James Fannin. On March 12, he ignored Gen. Sam Houston’s order to abandon Goliad and take up a position at Victoria (believed easier to defend). On March 14, a cavalry force of 52 Texans arrived from Matagorda and the lower Colorado River  to reinforce Col. James Fannin’s men, bringing the total to 300.

A nearby colony San Patricio had been slaughtered by the Mexican army, those who had not yet fled in the Runaway Scrape. One of the women I wrote about in Texas Ranch Texas Ranch Women by Carmen GoldthwaiteWomen: Three Centuries of Mettle and Moxie, survived along with her mother and siblings. This Irish family spoke fluent Spanish, were tanned by the Texas sun. They passed for Mexicans and cautioned each other not to speak English. Their father had been killed earlier.

March 17, a scout arrived notifying Fannin about the large enemy force in the area, Mexico’s Gen. Jose Urrea, next, Col. Morales’ army of 1,500 would  unite with Urrea’s.

Fannin had 300 soldiers pulled together from recent emigrants like the Mobile Grays, Georgia Red Rovers, colonists and other recruits.

Not until then did Fannin begin to obey Houston’s order. On March 19, under cover of a dense fog that masked their retreat, Fannin’s soldiers moved out of Goliad along the road to Victoria.

Brave But More Folly than Military Might

Amid a cascade of folly–food forgotten, carts and oxen debilitated, troops split up, orders confused, ammunition left behind, mis-identified men–the Mexican Army, charging through the woods, surrounded the Texas army and fired on the troops caught in open prairie. After a day of skirmishes and night falling without water, food, replacements or ammunition reserves, the Texans took stock.

  • 7 men killed
  • 60 wounded
  • 40 disabled
  • Ox teams killed or scattered

Sunday, March 20, Col. Fannin ordered a white flag hoisted. “Answered by one from the enemy,” according to Dr. Barnard, one of the doctors Gen. Urrea saved to treat the wounded (at first the Texans but then the Mexicans).

Gen. Urrea and Col. Fannin met, drafted “articles of capitulation” (later denied by Urrea and Santa Anna), but vouched for by Dr. Barnard: The Texans would lay down their arms; the wounded would be cared for; private property respected.

According to Dr. Barnard, the soldiers from Goliad would be sent to New Orleans “under parole, not to serve against Mexico again.” As they handed in their guns and ammo, the Texans  were told, “well, gentlemen, in ten days, liberty and home.”


The Texans were marched back to Goliad; the wounded carted in over the next few days.



On Palm Sunday, March 27, according to Dr. Barnard: “It appears that the prisoners of war marched out of the fort in three different companies: one on the Bexar road, on of the Corpus road, and one toward the lower ford. They went one-half or three-fourths of a mile, guarded by soldiers on each side, when they were halted, and one of the files of guards passed through the ranks of the prisoners to the other side, and then all together fired upon them. It seemed the prisoners were told different stories, such as they were to go for wood, to drive up the beeves, to proceed to Copano, etc., and so little suspicison had they of the fate awaiting them that it was not until the guns were at their breasts that they were aroused to a sense of their situation.”

The rouse worked. Three hundred Texas soldiers, died that Palm Sunday. A monument marks the site where months later the remains were buried.

And the cry, “Remember Goliad,” joined the war cry “Remember the Alamo,” fueling Texas soldiers’ fervor at San Jacinto.

If you’re interested in other stories about Goliad see: REMEMBER GOLIAD’…A Battle Cry Reaps Independence March 26 2015; `Remember Goliad’ Fired Revolutionary Support across U.S. sept 25 2014, and IS IT `LA BAHIA’…or GOLIAD? WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE? Feb 5 2015.

Thanks for riding along on this journey, one of tragedy before the victory that set Texas free and independent as a nation for the next dozen years. Glad to have you read Don’t forget to subscribe, it’s free, and leave a note in the comment box or contact me at [email protected] to join the conversation about Texas!

Carmen Goldthwaite


A proud descendant of one of the Mobile Grays who died at Goliad, Randolph D.Spain.

AuthorTexas Dames: Sassy and Savvy Women Throughout Lone Star History & Texas Ranch Women: Three Centuries of Mettle and Moxie 

Storyteller: Of Texas history programs. Contact [email protected] for a program on Texas history–her women and her icons.

Writing Instructor: Teaching in my Fort Worth home; SMU’s Writing Path and various conferences and conventions.

I drew significantly on ranch woman Kathryn Stoner O’Conner’s book, Presidio La Bahia, for material in this piece as well as information from The Handbook of Texas. My thanks to those Texana historians—professional and amateur—who’ve made my research easier!

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While Sam Houston gathered the rag tag army of the New Texas Republic, setting up camp at Gonzales about March 11, Stephen F. Austin set out to promote and cajole United States residents to support the oncoming battle for Independence.

Houston sent out missives seeking food for his troops and the massive flight of settlers—the Runaway Scrape—fleeing Gen. Santa Anna’s declaration to “kill all Anglos.” Volunteers stormed into Gonzales, ready to fight. They festered festering there since October, growing anxious and irritable. Some of the volunteers sent Impresario Stephen F. Austin a message to bring “all the aid you possibl[y] can.” They sought powder and led…and his power and influence to quell the squabbling among the men and the officers.

Houston recognized that as Major General of the Texas Army he would have to unite the volunteers serving under Austin with those now signing up for the regular Army.


Stephen F. Austin, Impresario

But Austin would carry out another role. It fell to him to lead a commission to the United States beseeching help. Although ill and road weary, he left. But he knew the mission would be futile without a Declaration of Independence. Slow mail service existed and he knew not of the March 2 Declaration.

On March 7, 1836, Austin, still not knowing of the declaration, spoke for more than an hour to “’a very large audience of Ladies and Gentlemen’ at the Second Presbyterian Church of Louisville, Ky.”

       Austin pitched the war in Texas as, “the cause of light and liberty;–the same holy cause for which our forefathers fought and bled:–the same that has an advocate in the bosom of every freeman, no matter in what country, or by what it may be contended for.” He outlined Texas’ history as a Mexican province and then the difficulties that led the colonists to break with Mexico.

Traveling on to Lexington for a visit with his cousin, Mary, Austin spent the evening with her and “old friends who pledged their support to the Texas cause,” before boarding stage for Cincinnati.

He and his fellow commissioners “were confident that both diplomatic recognition and substantial loans would be forthcoming if only they could hear from Texas.”


Austin tackled fundraising in New York and Baltimore while the other commissioners took on Richmond and Washington. Meanwhile, what news filtered East from Texas was grim, beginning with the fall of the Alamo.

Without more positive news, continuing on the trip would be futile. New York financiers and Washington D.C. politicians would not bet on the Texas war that seemed to be wallowing in despair.

first-postMeanwhile, Sam Houston gathered his troops in a copse of trees along the Brazos River near Washington-on-the-Brazos. Swollen above flood stage, he waited for the river to drop and access to Harrisburg and the Galveston area coastal prairies open up. There he would make a stand. (To read more about this period, enjoy the post of January 22, 2016, “Steam Boat Yellow Stone Saves Texas.”

Two leaders, two missions, both undergoing much travail, handicapped often by an Army with independent minds and skinny resources and halting communications with the outside world.

Between Houston and David Barnett, the president, horseback couriers such as Mike McCormick kept  information flowing. I wrote about his mother in both Texas Dames:


Sassy and Savvy Women throughout Lone Star History and Texas Ranch Women: Three Centuries of Mettle and Moxie. And you can read more about Mike in the post of Feb. 15 2015, “Boys Become Men on the Battlefield.”

               Thank you for joining me in this week’s post on Texas’ Route to Independence. I also wish to thank Greg Cantrell and his book Stephen F. Austin, Empresario of Texas that lifted the curtain on Austin’s pursuits.

SCHEDULE UPDATE: I’ll be talking about “Texas Ranch Women…Three Centuries” at UTA’s Friends of the Archives meeting, Friday, March 11, 7 pm. Join us if you can. They’re a great group!

         Carmen Goldthwaite

AuthorTexas Dames: Sassy and Savvy Women Throughout Lone Star History & Texas Ranch Women: Three Centuries of Mettle and Moxie 

Storyteller: contact [email protected] or visit for a program on Texas history–her women and her icons.

Writing Instructor: Teaching in my Fort Worth home; SMU’s Writing Path and various conferences and conventions. Contact: [email protected] or visit and a blog for writers.

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ALAMO STAND-OFF for Texas Independence


On this day 180 years ago, a band of Texians hunched into crevasses, weapons aimed through gun ports of the fort, the Alamo; food sometimes regular, sometimes scarce.

They stood off the Mexican Republic’s Army for eleven days while representatives gathered in Washington, today known as Washington-on-the-Brazos, for the usual amount of arm twisting and prevails about whether to declare, or not, Texas’ independence from Mexico.

While some Texans battled and others cajoled, Sam Houston took an emergency ride to convince the Cherokee not to side with the Mexicans. (See posts, “Sam Houston: A Life of Trial and Tribulation” on Feb. 6 2016. and “Sam Houston, “Colonneh,” and “The Bowl” of the Cherokee,” of Feb. 18 2016).

Independence Day—March 2—Houston returned from his East Texas mission to neutralize the Cherokee. He made it back in time to sign the Declaration of Independence on his 43rd birthday, March 2, the date we celebrate for Texas Independence. Two days later he took command of the Republic of Texas Army as Major General.

Already, though, a significant battle had taken place that threatened Texas’ independence:The Battle of the Alamo.



I hope you’re planning to celebrate Texas’ Independence with me at the Texas State Historical Association convention—Thursday March 3 – Sunday March 6. (Every year it’s held on the weekend


Carmen with her books on Texas women

nearest the anniversary of Texas Declaration of Independence.)This year it’s in Irving. See www. for further information.

If you’re there, join me Thursday, 9 a.m. for a panel on Texas women. I’ll be talking about those women who stood at the gates of Texas portals welcoming newcomers. My talk is titled:”Welcome Strangers, Texas’ Earliest Tradition Projected by her Women.” Hope to see you there for three days of Texas `talk’.



On Feb. 23, the week before the declaration, William Barret Travis wrote the following to Andrew Ponton:

033-_DSC2046, The Alamo

The enemy in large force is in sight. We want men and provisions. Send them to us. We have 150 men and are determined to defend the Alamo to the last. Give us assistance.

On the same day, Travis and James Bowie joined in another plea:

We have removed all our men into the Alamo, where we will make such resistance as is due to our honour, and that of the country, until we can get assistance from you, which we expect you to forward immediately. In this extremity, we hope you will send us all the men you can spare promptly. We have one hundred and forty-six men, who are determined never to retreat. We have but little provisions, but enough to serve us till you and your men arrive. We deem it unnecessary to repeat to a brave officer, who knows his duty, that we call on him for assistance.

                                           Communications preserved by Henry Stuart Foote in Texas and the Texans, Vol. II (n.p., 1841)

Tensions Tighten.

On the same day, an aide to Mexico’s President and General Santa Anna wrote to James Bowie:

As the Aid-de-Camp [sic] of his Excellency, the President of the Republic [of Mexico], I reply to you according to the order of his Excellency, that the Mexican army cannot come to terms under any conditions with rebellious foreigners to whom there is no other recourse left, if they wish to save their lives, than to place themselves immediately at the disposal of the Supreme Government from whom alone they may expect clemency after some considerations are taken up. God and Liberty.

–Preserved in the Archivo General de Mexico Papers and translated in John H. Jenkins, Papers of the Texas Revolution Vol. IV, 415.


THE NEXT DAY: February 24, 1836: Travis wrote:

`I am besieged by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna. I have sustained a continual Bombardment & cannonade for 24 hours & have not lost a man. The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken. I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, & our flag still waves proudly from the walls. I shall never surrender or retreat. Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid with all dispatch. The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily & will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible & die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor and that of his country. Victory or Death.

               P.S. The Lord is on our side. When the enemy appeared in sight we had not three bushels of corn. We have since found in deserted houses 80 or 90 bushels & got into the walls 20 or 30 head of Beeves.

William B. Travis to the People of Texas and All Americans in the World, 24 February 1836; Texas State Archives


Obviously, Travis had not yet learned of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, for on March 3, after “repulsing the enemy” on Feb. 25, he wrote about his Alamo defenders, a body of 145:

I am still here, in fine spirits…Let the convention go on and make a declaration of Independence, and we will then understand, and the world will understand, what we are fighting for. If independence is not declared, I shall lay down my arms, and so will the men under my command. But under the flag of independence, we are ready to peril our lives a hundred times a day, and to drive away the monster who is fighting us under a blood-red flag, threatening to murder all prisoners and make Texas a waste desert. I shall have to fight the enemy on his own terms, yet I am ready to do it, and if my countrymen do not rally to my relief, I am determined to perish in the defense of this place, and my bones shall reproach my country for her neglect…”

William B. Travis to a friend, 3 March, 1836, printed in the Telegraph and Texas Register 24 March 1836


 MARCH 6, 1836, a letter from Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna:

Victory belongs to the army, which at this very moment, 8 o’clock a.m., achieved a complete and glorious triumph that will render its memory imperishable. [His force], divided into four columns of attack and a reserve, commenced the attack at 5 o’clock a.m. They met with a stubborn resistance, the combat lasting more than one hour and a half, and the reserve having to be brought into action…

               The fortress is now in our power, with its artillery, stores, etc….

Among the corpses are those of Bowie and Travis who styled themselves Colonels, and also that of Crocket, and several leading men, who had entered the Fortress with dispatches from their Convention.

Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna to Jose Maria Tornel, 6 March 1836; Jenkins, Papers, Vol. V, 11-12.


A lot of gratitude to go around for those who fought, those who parlayed unrest into independence–particularly for those of us who trace our roots to the brave early Texians.

(AND for all the references,for those who would like more, let me refer you to a wonderful but small book by a Western Writer friend of mine, Bill Groneman, Eyewitness to the ALAMO. Thank you Bill for the collected letters that allow me to present, in brief, this pivotal battle and its correspondence in Texas history!)

And, thank you, readers for your readership, for enjoying the history—both facts and folk tales—of Texas as we spin them out on

Any questions? Any discussion? Leave a comment in the comment box and join the  “Texas Talk.” Subscribe to’s free. Would love to have you as a reader and a contributor to the conversation.

Carmen Goldthwaite

Author: Texas Dames: Sassy and Savvy Women Throughout Lone Star History & Texas Ranch Women: Three Centuries of Mettle and Moxie 

Storyteller: contact [email protected] for a program on Texas history–her women and her icons.

Writing Instructor: Teaching in my Fort Worth home; SMU’s Writing Path and various conferences and conventions. Contact: [email protected] or visit and a blog for writers.

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SAM HOUSTON, “Colonneh,” and ‘The Bowl” of the Cherokee

SAM HOUSTON. Hero, Rebel, General, President, Adopted Son of the Cherokee

Had it been almost anyone else in Texas, in February, 1836, a treaty by which Anglos sought Cherokee loyalty and aid in the fight with Santa Ana’s army and securing Cherokee lands, it could have been considered a duplicitous move.

Cól-lee,_a_Band_CHEROKEE Chief

Cól-lee a CHEROKEE Chief, also known as Chief John Jolly. Painting by George Catlin in the public domain.

But not with Sam Houston. The Cherokee adopted him and he grew to consider Chief Oolooteka (Chief John Jolly) as his father, for when Houston’s natural father died, his mom and siblings moved and his brother wanted him to work the family farm and store, Sam Houston fled. In 1809, at age 13, he rushed right into the Tennessee River village, Hiwassee Island, where Oolooteka presided, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation West.

Sam Houston lived with them as Oolooteka’s (Chief John Jolly’s) adopted son, for at least three years, although he visited his mother on occasions, in Maryville, TN. When he left, it was to try to make his living as a teacher after having read and studied the Iliad among other classics. From there he enlisted in the U. S. Army for the U. S. last war with Britain, joining another man who would retain Houston’s loyalties, Andrew Jackson. Houston gained respect and rapid promotions from private to first lieutenant in his five years in the Army, critically wounded at one point.

That led to Sam Houston’s appointment as Indian Sub-Agent in Tennessee, reuniting him with his adopted father, Oolooteka (John Jolly) and helped the Cherokee move west of the Mississippi River by order of the Treaty of 1816. Houston opened a law office in Lebanon, TN and rose rapidly in the elected official ranks to Governor until he married Miss Eliza Allen (see post of, Feb. 6 2016, “SAM HOUSTON: A Life of Trial and Tribulation” for more about his marriage and his defense.)


STORYTELLING NOTE: Coming in March, I’ll be telling Texas stories at the Texas State Historical Assn.’s annual convention (March 2 in Irving) and March 9, I’ve a return trip to the University of Texas at Arlington’s Archives meeting at 7 p.m. If you’re part of an organization that would enjoy a talk about Texas, particularly her women, let’s talk: or [email protected]



After she returned to her father and he left the Governorship, his detractors having won the reputation skirmish, Sam Houston re-joined the Cherokee, Oolooteka, in 1829, in what would become Oklahoma. While there he earned the nickname “Big Drunk,” married another Cherokee chief’s daughter, Diana Ross (Tiana) and established a home and trading post near Fort Gibson until another fight, this time over an insult, and Houston re-emerged in the white world.

And that and his contacts and favoritism with Andrew Jackson led him to Mexican Texas in 1832. Houston viewed Texas as his land of promise. He convinced a half-breed Choctaw to participate in a scheme to relocate Indians to what had become Cherokee territory in TX DamesTexas, a move that got Hawkins killed. (There’s more about this story in Texas Dames: Sassy and Savvy Women Throughout Lone Star History, the story of “Rebecca Hawkins Hagerty.”

Cherokee Chief Duwali or Chief Bowl or “Bowles” led the Cherokee and several villages in the area. Bowl led the first “large Cherokee emigration west,” eventually to this area north of Nacogdoches, settling in 1819.chiefbowlestop

From that point he petitioned Mexico for title of the lands; he joined the Mexican fight to put down the Fredonian Rebellion of 1827 where Anglo settlers sought to take Cherokee lands. Yet, Mexico reneged on the offer of title.

So, when Sam Houston set out on various missions to consultations, as Texas jostled for independence from Mexico, he made an urgent ride to Chief Bowl’s village in February, 1836, after the following letter that he wrote from Washington-on-the-Brazos.


“To the Bowl

“Naogdoches, Texas, 5th Feby.1836.

“My friend, To-day I heard that you were in trouble, and that you have called upon the Red brothers of all the Tribes to come; and hold a Talk with you! When you were last in this place, we talked about your troubles, and you told me, that you would soon be in town again, I have looked for you but you did not come!

“If you had come, I would have gone with you to Mr. Rueg, the Political Chief, and you could have talked to him—He would have told you that he had heard from the Government about the Cherokees, and the other Tribes, and the Talk was good.

“Mr. Rueg is a good man, and will not let anyone take your lands, or settle on them or survey them nor disturb your cattle or anything belonging to the Indians! If it is tried by any one after this, he will have them punished, that trouble you! It is only a few white men who have tried to take your lands, from you and the most of the white people do not know if it; or they would condemn those who have done it! All the good men wish you to have no trouble, but they wish you to be happy and live upon your own lands, in peace, and buy from you what you bring to sell!!

“I never told you a like, nor any other friends, and I now counsel you to come down and see Mr. Rueg, the political chief, and your troubles will leave you, and not come back upon you, nor your people. Your sun will shine bright upon you, and your sleep will not be troubled any more! I would advise you to bring some chiefs with you, of the other Tribes; that they too may be satisfied. The Political Chief will tell you his orders from the Government, and he is a good man, and will not like to you. I hope you will be happy! Your Friend

Sam Houston”

From: The Writings of Sam Houston 1813-1863, Ed. by Amelia W. Williams and Eugene C. Barker, vol. 1. The University of Texas Press, 1938.


Sam Houston brought about agreement before the Texans signed the Declaration of Independence. The Cherokee would not align with the Mexicans, not fight the Texians; they would be promised their land by this new Treaty of 1836.

But, even as war hero and elected President, Houston could not control the Legislature after the new Republic of Texas formed a government.

Once again a treaty with the Cherokee by Anglo politicians was broken.

Not until Sam Houston was out as President of the Republic did the animosity rise to violence. The new president, Mirabeau B. Lamar “called for an ‘exterminating war’ and Chief Bowl was killed near the headwaters of the Neches River 1839.

At age 83, Chief Bowl led the fight and was among the last killed. It is said that during the battle he “carried a sword given to him by his friend Sam Houston.” The remaining Cherokee fled to Cherokee territory in what would become Oklahoma.

Thank you for joining this week at … “a front porch chat.” Subscribe, it’s free. Join the conversation…drop a note in the comment box.






As usual, there are folks to thank for their research and writings: The Texas State Historical Assn. about Sam Houston; the Humanities of Texas and some from Wikipedia.



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SAM HOUSTON: A Life of Trial and Tribulation

Sam Houston, His Defense in His Own Words


Sam Houston

Sam Houston, general and then president of the Republic of Texas, arrived in Texas after a time in the wilderness living with the Cherokee. Former Governor of Tennessee, Texas’ hero, left his home state besmirched by stories he labeled untrue. Yet, these tales have haunted his reputation over the centuries.

At the time, he was applying to U. S. President Andrew Jackson to serve as “Indian Agent” in the Indian Territory, in 1830, “without fee or reward.” Enemies circulated a publication denouncing Houston.

The year before, 1829, John Jolley ( Oo-loo-teka) Principal Chief of the Cherokee granted Houston “all the rights, privileges, and Immunities of a citizen of the Cherokee Nation…as tho he was a native Cherokee.” Jolley recognized Houston as a resident with them in the Forest.

Reflecting his political alliance and friendship with President Jackson, begun as a result of Sam Houston’s heroism in the War of 1812 with Jackson his general, Houston wrote:

18 May 1830 Steamboat Nashville

“You will by the time this reaches you have seen a useless publication against me by sundry respectable citizens of Sumner County (Tennessee).” He describes a political fight in which he held on “until a friend of the country was elected Speaker of the Senate when I would have resigned and left the world without the slightest noise, and left it in darkness, as to the cause and all things connected with the whole matter.”


TX DamesTELLING THE STORIES…of Texas’ “sassy and savvy” dames…Thursday, Feb. 11, for  the North Fort Worth Historical Society at the museum in the Livestock Exchange Building. Join us if you can.


In the above passage, Sam Houston’s referring to his first marriage, the union of which lasted from January 1829 to April 1830 to Miss Eliza Allen.


But in his letter he reacts to false accusations by saying:

It is stated that my treatment induced her to return to her Father’s house for protection. This is utterly false, and without foundation. By the publication of my letter they adopt a contrary state of facts, for in that I aver that I never was unkind to her, and I refer to her to bear witness. If I had been would she not have said so, and would they not have published the fact to the world?

He continues: “I never sought to injure her with any one.” 

Houston  calls on Jackson to offer his opinion if he, Houston, could be as accused. “I appeal to know of your heart, if I cast the slightest reflection upon her, or her immediate family.”


Houston concludes this letter with a return to his and Jackson’s interests in Texas, primarily of Texas becoming a state; the Texas that is at this writing was a province of Mexico. Houston wrote: “So soon as I reach home, I will let you know the condition of the Indians, and whether the Mexican Troops have reached the Borders of the U. States.”

Three years later, 1833, and while representing Nacogdoches in the Convention of 1833 in San Felipe “consulting” about Independence, Sam Houston—now an attorney–petitioned for a divorce, writing to “The Free State of Coahuila and Texas, District of Ayish, To William McFarland, Esq., Alcalde in and for said district.”

  “The petition of Samuel Houston of said district…” and he reminds the alcalde that Houston once was citizen of Davidson County, “State of Tennessee, one of the United States of the North. That on the 18th day of January, in the year of our Lord 1829 he inter-married with Miss Eliza H. Allen of Sumner County in said mentioned state. That on the 15th day of April next thereafter a separation took place between your petitioner and his Said wife, and that they never since that time, nor can they ever meet again.”

Sam Houston’s story and its shadows followed him throughout politics and marriage. While living with and adopted by the Cherokee, under that Nation’s laws Sam Houston married Diana (Tiana) Rogers Gentry, a part-blood Indian (believed to be Cherokee).


In 1837, the Republic of Texas—while he was President—granted him the divorce from Eliza Allen. In 1840 he married Margaret Moffette Lea of Alabama, she being 21; he was 47. They had eight children until his death in 1863, in the middle of the Civil War, which he opposed, and in which his namesake son eagerly fought, injured at Shiloh.

Sam Houston—politican, Indian agent, soldier and hero, rascal and yet deeply committed to people and causes—played pivotal roles throughout his 30 years in Texas.

Thank you for following this week. If you’ve ideas, questions, information, join the conversation by dropping a comment in the box or contacting me at [email protected].

AND…if you’re part of a group that would enjoy a program on Texas history…let’s visit: [email protected] and my web site:







A big “shout out” of thanks to The Texas State Library and its “The Writings of Sam Houston 1813-1863,” (Vol1) a volume edited by Amelia W. Williams and Eugene Barker, The University of Texas Press,, 1938.

And, of course to the Texas State Historical Assn. and its The New Handbook of Texas.



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Steam Boat Yellow Stone `Saves Texas’

“…tap a keg of beer and we’ll run four miles on the froth.” (Capt. John Ross)



“Had it not been for the Steam Boat Yellow Stone, we would have lost Texas,” Gen. Sam Houston said.

After five years in the mountain fur trade, plying the far western rivers, the Yellow Stone retired and was retrofitted as a U.S. flag vessel in the “foreign trade with Texas,” by shipbuilders in New Orleans who answered a plea from Sam Houston. First she was to be a cotton packet; later, a heroine.

Back in the water on New Year’s Eve, 1835, Yellow Stone­’s boilers were stoked. Her twin columns of black smoke punctuated the blue skies of New Orleans. Captain Thomas Wigg Grays­on sounded her deep-throated whistle, and backed away from the Crescent City’s pier. But, she was late for her Texas welcome–a grand ball for her offi­cers and crew had been held the week before, on Christmas Day, 1835, hosted by Henry Jones, plantation and ferry land­ing operator, an early plant­er. The ship’s size dwarfed existing packets, and the cotton trade was booming. A promise of 5,000 acres of land and $800 cash had enticed Yellow Stone’s owners, the Toby Brothers, to put her into the Texas trade.

After delivering the Mobile Grays to Copano Bay, the Yellow Stone steamed for Quinta­na. A veteran of Texas rivers and the cotton trade, John E. Ross took the helm of the Yellow Stone from Capt. Grayson. The largest steamboat yet in the Texas trade, she drew six-feet, deep for Texas’ rivers and bays, but Ross was a veteran at find­ing troughs through the rivers and around rocks and shoals. Or, when there was only two or three feet of water, such as at the Velasco Bar, it was “full steam ahead.” He represented a breed of Texas steamer pilots who approached low water with the saying, “tap a keg of beer and we’ll run four miles on the froth.”

Ross guided the Yellow Stone up and down the Brazos. Steaming into the Middle Brazos section above Fort Settle­ment, later known as Fort Bend, and contin­uing toward Wash­ington (after the Civil War known as “Washington-on-the-Brazos”) and Robinson’s Ferry, the river grew treacherous. Rocky shoals peppered the riverbed. Sunken cotton­woods waited for steam­boat hulls like jousters ready to strike.


NOTE: Apologies for the late post…the digital gremlins balked yesterday!

UPCOMING EVENT…FEB. 11, 7 pm: I’ll be telling the stories of some of Texas’ sauciest women at the North Fort Worth Historical Society in the museum of the Stockyards. Join us if you’re in the area!


The Steam Boat Yellow Stone’s master, Ross, steered the vessel around the hazards and stopped to take on cotton and sugar, harvests brought to the landings by ox train. A round trip from Quintana took about five days, with overnight stops, since he practiced the “western steam­er tradition” of tying up at night.

While the calendar marked the approach of spring, a “blue norther” swept down on Texas’ representatives, con­vened to sign the Declara­tion of Inde­pen­dence, March 2, 1836, at Washing­ton “on-the-Brazos. ” Winds bit through the buckskins of General Sam Housto­n’s troops. Rivermen shiv­ered in their wet, woolen jackets. The Brazos, known as “the arms of God,” raged with turbu­lence and swirl­ing cot­ton­woods uprooted and shooting down­stream like bat­ter­ing rams, threa­ten­ing Yellow Stone’s hull, and her 22-man crew.

She turned upstream again. The late afternoon re­sounded with the thwack and twang of fire crews felling trees and cutting logs to feed the massive boiler’s fires. A high steam buildup was necessary to buck the swift, up­stream current.

On this trip, late March, 1836, Captain Ross sidled up to Groce’s Land­ing, a regular stop on the Middle Brazos route. Jared Groce, another of Austin’s “Old Three Hundred” colonists, had brought the first cotton seeds to Texas when he arrived in 1821. In 1825 he built the first gin, followed the next year by Austin’s at Peach Creek Plan­tation near San Felipe.

Groce’s Landing was a short way downstream from Wash­ington. The Yellow Stone tied up to take on stacks of cotton. General Houston’s army weav­ed back and forth from the Colorado River on the west to the Brazos River and Washing­ton on the east. Rains clogged the prairies. The Brazos poured over its banks–sweeping past the first steep bluff at Washing­ton, and lapping at the second one, ground floor for the town.

Santa Anna led his army across the Colorado, carrying out his threat to “kill all Anglos.” first-postHouston’s Army was backed up to the Brazos. At Wash­ington, on March 30, he learned of the massacre at Goliad. A wide-ranging net­work of messengers and scouts kept him informed that Santa Anna’s troops were not massed, but split. He also learned of the Steam Boat Yellow Stone at Groce’s Landing. Houston moved his troops into a copse of timbers nearby. On April 2, 1836, Houston sent Cap­tain Ross a message ordering the boat into Texas’ service with offers of wages and land for owners, officers and crew. “The Boat is not to leave without my orders,” he wrote to Capt. Ross on April 2, 1836.

Houston moved his troops closer to the Brazos, into the cane breaks opposite Groce’s Land­ing.

Captain Ross responded, “Monday Eve April 11th, 1836.”

To Gen. Sam Houston

Sir I think the Cotton we have on board necessary to protect the Boat &Engine–if we have to pass the Enemy’s Cannon–I can trans­port 500 men with cotton enough to protect the boat from any damage from the Enemies fire–If you wish the cotton landed please instruct me–

I can cross all the baggage without moving the cotton

I have four cords of wood on board & Every­thing ready to “go ahead”. 

With respect 

Jno E. Ross Comg Yl.St­one (sic) (In pencil): Capt Ross (sic)

All things will do as you say they are until further orders.

At 10, on the morning of April 12, Houston’s men filed aboard. By 2 p.m. the next day, over 700 soldiers, 200 horses and supplies had been ferried across the swollen Brazos in seven trips aboard Yellow Stone. Now on the eastern bank, they readied for the march to the Gulf.

Houston released the riverboat with calls for god speed and a safe journey. With cotton piled two decks high, Ross’ head the only one visible, the steamer roared down­stream, whistle blow­ing, bell clanging and belching black smoke. A witness aboard, John Fenn, prisoner of the Texians, said, “The Yellow Stone was plowing the water for all she was worth, lashing the banks with the waves on both sides as she went.”

Ross knew part of the Mexican army would be wait­ing for him at the bend of the river. Neither he nor his men were Texas Army volunteers, but, they had aided the Texian re­bels. He blasted along the famil­iar course. Mexican sol­diers fired, but cotton bales absorbed the musket balls. Mexican horse soldiers tried to lasso Yellow Stone’s chim­neys. At her high rate of speed, round­ing the river’s curve, the steamer skidded through a com­plete cir­cle. Ross straightened her and con­tin­ued the dash for the coast. He arrived at Velasco, the boat unscathed, and the crew safe.

Meanwhile, Houston marched his men east, then south, toward the San Jacinto River below Harrisburg where they met and defeated Santa Anna and his Army, April 21, 1836.

The Yellow Stone, with Captain Ross and crew, was or­dered to Galveston to pick up President Burnet and his cabinet and take them to view the San Jacinto victory. On May 3, she steamed back to Velasco, now a floating capi­tol, with the Republic of Texas’ president and cabinet and printing press on board. Also aboard were Gen. Hous­ton, in­jured in battle and Gen. Santa Anna, also injured, along with some 80 Mexican prison­ers. The western river steamer hosted the peace trea­ty signing of the Republic of Texas, and the government of Mexico.

Capt Ross present­ed Houston with the ship’s bell, now at anchor at the Alamo.

Houston defeated the empressario, Stephen F. Austin, in the election for President of the Republic. Soon after, dispirited by the defeat, the “Father of Texas,” Austin died, December 27, 1836. He lay in state for two days. Capt. Ross and the Steam Boat Yellow Stone carried his body, and mourners back to his beloved Peach Creek Plantation below San Felipe, the last official duty the Yellow Stone, Capt. Ross and crew for the fledgling Republic of Texas, an independent nation.

Thanks for joining me this week on … Texana on Thursdays, a front porch chat. Any comments or questions, drop a note in the comment box or send me an email, [email protected]

With “independence” on the horizon, I’ll be publishing other posts on this era of Texas history over the next three months. Along with other topics, of course.



Writing the stories of Texas’ Women…available at The History Press,




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