February 26, 1836, two hundred Alamo defenders shivered behind the walls of the compound as the morning wind howled across the San Antonio River. Firewood and water supplies were in short supply on this third day of the siege. The water well inside the old mission was not sufficient for the sudden needs of the Texas Army and their horses. A small party of men ventured out to gather firewood and bring water from a nearby acequia.
Santa Anna’s troops fired on the Alamo defenders as they scurried about grabbing dead mesquite wood on the ground, others carrying wooden buckets of water. Cannon fire diverted the Mexican marksmen’s attention, but future such excursions outside the walls would be made under the cover of darkness.
Note to today’s reader: At the siege of Mission San Antonio de Valero, the Alamo looked much different than today; as only the chapel and the long barracks still exist. To appreciate the size of this complex which was large enough to have livestock, horses and grow winter vegetables. The picture above depicts what the 1836 Alamo looked like.
February 23, 1836, large numbers of Mexican troops were seen from the Bell Tower of San Fernando Cathedral, 1.5 miles southwest of town. Many local families evacuated San Antonio headed east. More would follow before the sun set. Scouts estimated Santa Anna would not arrive until mid-March. William Barrett Travis shook his head, “They must have marched day and night to get here.”
The Texas volunteers began to prepare an old abandoned mission, storing provisions within the walls of the compound. The Mexican Army continued to grow; scouts reported to Travis the enemy now numbered over a thousand. Riders were sent to Gonzales and Goliad for reinforcements. Non-combatants were sequestered in the Alamo Chapel for safety.
At 2:30 p.m., a blood red flag was sent up by the Mexican’s signaling no quarter would be given. Travis answered with a cannon ball. The die was set; there would be no surrender by the Alamo Defenders.
One hundred sixty-eight years ago today, the City of Austin stopped at Noon on February 19, 1846. The town of several hundred residents and honored guests gathered around the Capitol building of the Republic of Texas. The first Capitol in Austin was at Eighth and Hickory (now Colorado Street). The frame structure was hastily built in the spring of 1839. President-Elect Mirabeau Lamar’s administration would utilize it for the Congress convening in Austin in November.
Anson Jones, the last President of the Republic of Texas, had written a speech for the occasion, but chose to speak from the heart. Jones slowly lowered the Lone Star Flag and handed it to J. Pinckney Henderson, the first elected Governor of Texas, and spoke loudly for all to hear, “The Republic is no more.” Governor Henderson raised the American Flag, then the Lone Star Flag, again, and at that moment in the eyes and ears of Texan’s everywhere, Texas officially became the 28th state in the union.
History books tell us that Texas was annexed December 29, 1835, which is the day President James Polk signed the documents of annexation. The official act of Texas joining the union would not take place until February 19, 1846. Below is one of the last notes issued by the Republic of Texas the morning of the ceremony, proving that the Republic was still functioning weeks after the December 29, 1845 date.
Regardless of the official date, it is sad that the State of Texas does not celebrate its statehood.
My father told me many times a sad story of Granddad Bowles trying to get out of the sheep business. Recently Cousin Les Bowles of Marble Falls, told the same story and it became a very funny story. Cousin Les is a good storyteller and the reason is that one of his friends in the fertilizer business for many years was Jerry Clower of Yazoo, MS. Jerry used his storytelling ability to sell chemical fertilizer and became a nationally known storyteller that sold millions of comedy albums. Les continued to sell fertilizer, but while working with Jerry, he learned to turn a tale of woe into a humorous story. During the Depression, Granddad had many sheep and with no market for several years they multiplied. Hearing there were buyers in Fort Worth, he decided to herd them into Austin, the nearest railhead 30 miles south. Leonard East had a wagon yard on East Second, not far from the Congress Avenue bridge. It would take several days to get to Austin, starting down Bee Creek Road, then Bee Caves Road. It had to be a sight all those wooly critters crossing the bridge. Once at the rail yard in Austin, they were loaded and shipped to the Union Stockyard in Fort Worth. Granddad received a bill for freight and no check. He received a letter that said, “I am sorry to inform you that the sale of your sheep did not cover the freight charges, this invoice is for the difference that you owe.” Granddad wrote back that he didn’t have any money to pay the bill, but he had found some more sheep that he would be glad to trade for what was owed. He got a prompt reply from the railroad agent that said “Let’s just call it even.” Les made a lighthearted story out of Depression Era hard times. That is what storytelling is all about. Thanks Cousin for sharing the story.
During the early 30′s there were no buyers for livestock. President Roosevelt had this idea that if cattle and hogs were destroyed reducing the numbers, the price of those commodities would rise. The county agent would pay $2.00 per head to the farmers for allowing their livestock to be slaughtered. Trenches were dug and the government men would drive the animals in, shoot them in the trenches and then bulldoze dirt over the dead animals. If this sounds similar to a recent government program, it had about the same result.
I have a haunting black and white picture of my father, his brother Lester, and their parents after the government slaughter at the Bowles’ Ranch. They all appeared to be in a state of shock. It had to be a terrible experience for everyone. Little is said in the history books as it was a subject that rural families did not want to remember nor city dwellers were aware of. Had this history been known to the present administration, they might have had second thoughts about cash for clunkers and other recent government giveaways.
After the herd was culled, the ranch had a few head of cattle and lots of sheep. Wool prices were so low it wasn’t worth shearing or dipping the sheep. There being no market for sheep, they just existed on the ranches like the deer and multiplied. Similar to the emu market a few years ago, you just kind of hoped they would go away.
In an upcoming post, I will tell a humorous story about how Granddad Bowles got the worthless sheep off his ranch.