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  Texas : Features : Columns : All Things Historical

The Alamo's Red River Connection

by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman

When the Alamo fell to Santa Anna's Mexican troops on March 6 of 1836, the land along the Red River felt the defeat deeply. At least eight of the fallen defenders came from the Red River country or had connections with families living in the region. There may have been others.

Many of the Alamo soldiers had come to Texas with a wave of immigrants that began in the early 1800s, even before empressario Stephen F. Austin led settlers into Texas, carrying a land grant confirmed by a new government in Mexico.

American hunters and traders were active in the Red River area as early as 1815. By 1818, permanent settlers were located at Jonesboro and Burkham's Settlement. Many were lured here by stories of abundant opportunities in Texas that had made their way up the trail from Texas to Hempstead County in the Arkansas Territory.

At least eight men with Red River connections died at the Alamo, along with several of their relatives who lived elsewhere. They were Claiborne Wright, Robert Cunningham, Daniel Cloud, John Davis, James L. Ewing, George W. Tumlinson, Henry Warnell, and my great-great-great grandfather, Jesse B. Bowman.

The involvement of Red River residents, former residents and their relatives in the fall of the Alamo may have been precipitated by Davy Crockett, who had many friends in the Red River region.

Crockett, on his way with friends from Tennessee to San Antonio in 1835, crossed the Red River at Jonesboro and traveled south to about where Clarksville stands. There, he spent his first night in Texas with John Stiles, an old Tennessee friend living in the Red River area. He also stayed several days with Captain William Becknall, another old friend. It is clear from historical documents that Crockett's reputation was well-known in the Red River region and the men in the region were probably influenced by his willingness to fight for Texas. Crockett was a powerful orator who appealed to ordinary men such as those who lived along the Red River.

Crockett's connection with the Red River area was confirmed in an unusual event several weeks after the fall of the Alamo when David Crockett's widow, Elizabeth, received a small package from Isaac Jones, who had met her husband in Arkansas. Inside was a watch with Crockett's name engraved inside.

In an accompanying letter, Jones wrote: "Last winter, Colonel Crockett...passed through Lost Prairie, on the Red River, where I live...the Colonel visited me the next day, and spent the day with me. He observed, whilst here, that his funds were getting short, and proposed to me to exchange watches. He priced his at thirty dollars more than mine, which sum I paid to him, and we accordingly exchanged...I was gratified at the exchange, as it gave me a keepsake which would remind me of an honest man, a good citizen, and a pioneer in the cause of liberty...the object of this letter is to beg that you will accept the watch which accompanies it...please accept, dear madam, for yourself and your family..."

The watch remained in the Crockett family for decades.

The involvement of Red River residents, former residents and their relatives in the fall of the Alamo may have been precipitated by Davy Crockett, who had many friends in the Red River region.

Crockett, on his way with friends from Tennessee to San Antonio in 1835, crossed the Red River at Jonesboro and traveled south to about where Clarksville stands. There, he spent his first night in Texas with John Stiles, an old Tennessee friend living in the Red River area. He also stayed several days with Captain William Becknall, another old friend. It is clear from historical documents that Crockett's reputation was well-known in the Red River region and the men in the region were probably influenced by his willingness to fight for Texas. Crockett was a powerful orator who appealed to ordinary men such as those who lived along the Red River.

Crockett's connection with the Red River area was confirmed in an unusual event several weeks after the fall of the Alamo when David Crockett's widow, Elizabeth, received a small package from Isaac Jones, who had met her husband in Arkansas. Inside was a watch with Crockett's name engraved inside.

In an accompanying letter, Jones wrote: "Last winter, Colonel Crockett...passed through Lost Prairie, on the Red River, where I live...the Colonel visited me the next day, and spent the day with me. He observed, whilst here, that his funds were getting short, and proposed to me to exchange watches. He priced his at thirty dollars more than mine, which sum I paid to him, and we accordingly exchanged...I was gratified at the exchange, as it gave me a keepsake which would remind me of an honest man, a good citizen, and a pioneer in the cause of liberty...the object of this letter is to beg that you will accept the watch which accompanies it...please accept, dear madam, for yourself and your family..."

The watch remained in the Crockett family for decades.

All Things Historical December 17, 2000
A syndicated column in over 40 East Texas newspapers
Published by permission.
(Bob Bowman, a former president of the East Texas Historical Association, is the author of 24 books on East Texas history and folklore. He lives in Lufkin.)
 
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