Sam Houston – Archive War

On March 10, 1842, President Sam Houston again attempted to drive the stake of death into the heart of Austin. This was not Houston’s first attempt to do so; not wanting the Capitol of the Republic of Texas moved from Houston in the first place. Houston ordered Secretary of War, George Washington Hockley, to move the Archives stored at the General Land Office, to the city that bore his name. The Archives War was on between the citizens of Austin and Sam Houston’s Administration.

Austin’s population dwindled from 859 in 1840 to less than 150 in 1842. Of the original 75 families that settled the Capitol City, only 12 remained. Many died from Indian raids; 13 in one raid. Others went into the woods to hunt or fetch wood and never came back. Travis County Judge, James W. Smith, was mortally wounded and scalped by Comanche Indians near Shoal Creek; his 9 year old son taken captive January 21, 1841. The following August, Judge Smith’s father, Travis County Treasurer, Thomas W. Smith, was found scalped just outside of Austin.

Sam Houston used these Indian depravations and threat of another invasion from Mexico to declare a state of emergency. His alarm set off Texas’ Second Runaway Scrape. The brave souls that remained in Austin would protect the archives, ensuring Austin would remain the Capitol City of the Republic of Texas. This and other stories of Austin’s earliest days will be told in Book 4 of the Westward Sagas.

Sam Houston

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