Austin’s First Teacher

My recent submission was published in the March 2017 quarterly journal of the Texas State Genealogical Society. The prologue and first part of the article titled A Tribute to Rebeckah Mitchell-Smith, Austin’s First Teacher can be found on page 34 of Stirpes. Membership in the TSGS is open to anyone interested in genealogy or Texas History. In addition to other benefits, annual membership of $25.00 includes the quarterly journal, Stirpes.

Mitchell Family Reunion

Descendants of Adam Mitchell enjoyed a historical reunion in Jonesborough, Tennessee on the weekend of October 10-11,  2009.

Family Reunion: Descendants of Adam Mitchell

Historic Family Reunion for
Descendants of Adam Mitchell 1745-1802

Jonesborough, Tennessee
October 10-11, 2009
Columbus Day Weekend

Download flyer with registration form and agenda



Make your Reservations now at the
AmericInn Lodge & Suites
376 East Jackson Boulevard
Jonesborough, TN 37659
Call 423-753-3100

Ask for the Adam Mitchell Reunion Rate
of $74.99 includes breakfast
Only a limited number of rooms at this rate
Cut-off date September 22, 2009

Click here to see website for more information about AmericInn:

Click here to see website for more information about Historic Jonesborough:

If you are a descendent of Adam Mitchell and want to know more about the reunion, contact David Bowles,


A Tribute to Rebeckah Mitchell Smith

March is National Women’s History Month, and the topic of the next Carnival of Genealogy is A Tribute to Women. Last year, I recognized my fifth great grandmother Margaret Mitchell for her heroic actions during the Revolutionary War. Now it is time to recognize Margaret’s granddaughter, Rebeckah.

When I first mentioned Rebeckah, daughter of Adam and Elizabeth Mitchell, in Spring House, I spelled the name Rebecca, as several records indicated. However, as I described in What’s in a Name?, I later learned the correct spelling of the name from the family Bible. I’ve spelled it correctly in Adam’s Daughters, my current work-in-progress and the second book in the Westward Sagas. The third book will be titled Rebeckah and will tell my great great great grandmother’s story.

Rebeckah married Thomas W. Smith in Tennessee and in 1836 moved to Stephen F. Austin’s colony in the village of Bastrop, Texas. After Mirabeau Lamar chose Austin as the capital, Rebeckah and Thomas moved to the new city in July 1840. They bought two outlots in the town that had been laid out by Edmond Waller in 1839. Lots 17 and 18 were the furthest north lots in the city, just north of today’s Hancock Golf Course.

Shortly after the move to Austin, Thomas Smith was scalped and killed by Indians about three miles from home. Not long before that, his brother had been killed and his nephew Fayette Smith captured by Comanches.

Following the strong tradition of the women in the Mitchell Family, Rebeckah managed to keep the household together and assist her sister-in-law Angelina Smith in finding Fayette. It took the women almost three years, but they located Fayette, paid a ransom, and secured his return to Austin.

Living in the primitive conditions of the time required endurance and courage, and it took a special kind of woman to be able to support a family and rescue a loved one from captivity by Indians.

The more I research the lives of my ancestors in the early days of Austin, Texas, the more amazed I am by the strength of the women in my family.

[tags]Carnival of Genealogy, Austin, Rebeckah Mitchell Smith[/tags]

Oops! A Lesson Learned

As someone who prides himself on his genealogical research, I got a lesson in fact-checking a few years ago.

All my life, my parents and grandparents had told me that my ancestor Lorenzo Van Cleve had done much of the carpentry and cabinetwork in the Texas capitol, which the State Preservation Board describes as “an extraordinary example of late 19th century public architecture … widely recognized as one of the nation’s most distinguished state capitols.”

As a young boy, I was always proud to say my great-great-granddaddy built the capitol in Austin. When I had children of my own, I took them to the capitol and pointed with pride at the work our ancestor had done.

In 1988, the state of Texas held a Centennial celebration on the capitol grounds to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the dedication of building in 1888. When I realized for the first time that the capitol was built in 1888, I knew I had a problem. My second great grandfather – Lorenzo Van Cleve who was supposed to have done much of the carpentry and cabinetwork in the building – died in 1858!

Then I did the research I should have done long before. I found a receipt made out to Lorenzo Van Cleve and signed by Mirabeau Lamar, President of the Republic of Texas, for work done at the capitol – the original capitol building in Austin that was described by one Austin visitor as “without any pretensions to architectural beauty.” It was a small, plain, one-story building of approximately 800 square feet located several blocks away from today’s capitol building. Lorenzo Van Cleve had done minor repairs on an existing building.

I learned, however, that he did build a platform for a ceremony at noon on February 19, 1846, when the last President of the Republic of Texas, Anson Jones, lowered the flag of the Republic of Texas for the last time, saying, “The Republic of Texas is no more.” Then James Pickney Henderson, the first governor of the state of Texas, raised the same flag again – this time as the state flag of the 28th state in the United States.

Though I tried to correct the error with as many people as possible, who knows how many childhood schoolmates, family friends … even strangers were misled because I failed to follow the most basic rule of genealogy: research and document everything!

[tags] genealogy, research, Texas Capitol, Lorenzo Van Cleve[/tags]

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