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-nine years ago, 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, 1845, 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.
One of the first resolutions of the General Convention of the Republic of Texas in 1836 was proposed by George C. Childress a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence. He proposed a single star of five points be recognized as the emblem of Texas. That resolution stipulated that every member of the convention and all friends of Texas wear it on their hats and bosoms.
The Lone Star Flag of the Republic of Texas was adopted on January 25, 1839 and six years later became the State Flag of Texas. Today the simple red, white, and blue banner with one large star is recognized around the World.
God Bless Texas…and the men and women who still wear the star.
Bob Bullock Museum, Austin, Texas
On this date 175 years ago, the Republic of Texas convened its fourth session of Congress in the new capitol city on the Colorado River. It was the first Congress held in the yet to be named town.
Some say it was a village called Waterloo prior to Austin. When President Mirabeau Lamar found the site for his proposed Center of Government in the fall of 1838, there was no mention of Waterloo.
Only Jacob Harrell and his family lived within the 640 acres selected for the Center of Government, now downtown Austin. The Harrell families nearest neighbor was Uncle “Billy” Barton, a recluse living 3 miles across the river on Barton Creek. The Hornsby family lived 8 miles southeast. Does one family make a village, hamlet, or town? I think not.
There are letters referring to the site as Waterloo. They were written from the spring of 1839 until Austin’s incorporation December 29, 1839. As President Lamar’s middle name was “Bonaparte” his detractors, of which he had many, may have called it “Waterloo” in jest.
Regardless, I think the one thing President Lamar did right was pick this site on the Colorado River. My hometown of Austin, Texas.
“The Toughest Town on Earth” Eastern Newspapers called Helena. The first county seat of Karnes County, Texas founded in 1852. The town named for the wife of a founder, Lewis Owen. Helena flourished until the railroad bypassed it in 1894. After the county seat moved to Karnes City, Helena became a Ghost Town. The population is about 30 now; if you don’t count the ghosts.
Other than the ghosts of the past, Helena is known for the “Helena Duel.” It was invented by some mean hombres. Men who had a score to settle were tied at the left wrist and each wielded a razor sharp knife. The blade short so no vital organs could be punctured. Shirtless, the fighters lashed at one another until the loser begged to stop or bled to death. The local cowboys bet on the Helena Duel, like it was a cock fight.
My Great Grandfather, Dan Brown, operated one of the Helena Saloons until 1894 when the town died. That had to be a tough job! John Ruckman built a home in Helena in 1878 that is on the National Registry of Historic Places. I met Paul Ruckman, the Great Grandson of John, in Dallas in 1989. It was years later that we realized our Great Grandfathers settled the town of Helena.
The “Indian Summer Heritage Festival” is held in Helena on the last Saturday in October. Lulubelle and I will be signing books and telling stories this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Helena Courthouse Museum located at Highway 80 and FM 81 NE of Karnes City, 5 miles E of Panna Maria, Texas.