a home at Rancho Sante Fe, California, rests one of the rarest reminders
of Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna,
the Mexican dictator whose defeat led to the rise of the Texas
Dorothy Perkins, a pleasant, smiling housewife whose family lineage
reaches all the way to early 19th century East
Texas, owns a teapot once owned by Santa Anna. But the story of
how she obtained it is filled with nuggets of history.
Let's begin when Alfred Marion Truit, a native of North Carolina,
came to Shelby County,
Texas, in 1839, became a merchant at Truit's Store, struggled
through the Regulator-Moderator
War along the Texas-Louisiana border, and enlisted as a soldier
with the outbreak of the Mexican War, serving two stints with Texas
On his second enlistment, Captain Truit joined up with Jack
Hays, a fellow Texan, and eventually became a major and second
in command of Hays' regiment. In January of 1848, they were camped
outside Mexico City when they were ordered by General Joseph Lane
to hunt down Santa Anna.
After losing to Sam
Houston's rag-tag Texas volunteers at San
Jacinto in 1836, Santa Anna had made his way back to Mexico and
became a dictator again in the l840s. In 1846, following a series
of battles between Mexico and the U.S., American troops were ordered
An informant told Truit and Hays where Santa Anna was hiding, but
he also warned Santa Anna that the Texans were hot on his trail.
When they arrived at the home where the one-time dictator was hiding,
they found trunks of clothing, correspondence, food on the table and
candles. Among his possessions were a silver teapot and tray, a snuff
box, Santa Anna's jacket, and an elaborate cane he had used since
losing his leg in a battle defending Mexico from France in 1838.
Hays' adjutant, Rip Ford, took the jacket and supposedly returned
it to Santa Anna at a later date. Truit kept the silver service, including
the teapot, a snuff box, and Santa Anna's cane. The cane was said
to have been stolen, but Truit, while serving in the Texas Senate,
may have given it to his friend, Sam
The teapot and several other items remained in the Truit family for
years during his service in the Texas Senate and while serving as
a Confederate general during the Civil War.
When Truit died in 1864 at White Cottage in Shelby
County and his wife Susan passed away a year later, their daughter,
Susan Morris, ended up with all of the Santa Anna possesssions, including
the teapot. When she passed away in 1894, her husband Elijah remarried.
Around 1894, Elijah borrowed some money from Joaquin banker Luke Motley
and offered the teapot and other property as collateral. All of the
property was forfeited to Motley when Elijah couldn't repay the loan
in 1916. The silver teapot, standing only four inches tall, eventually
fell into the hands of Luke Motley Jr. His wife sold it to Dorothy
Perkins, a descendant of Alfred M. Truit, in 2003.
Today, Santa Anna's teapot holds an honored place in the Perkins home
-- a unique reminder of the smashed fortunes of the man who called
himself the Napoleon of the West.
July 18-24, 2004
Published with permission
Distributed by the East Texas Historical Association. Bob Bowman of
Lufkin is a former president of the Association and the author of
30 books about East Texas.