long-lost painting of Sam Houston
may be gathering dust in someone’s attic. On the other hand, given that not everyone
in Texas revered the Hero of San
Jacinto, someone might have thrown it in the trash or burned it long ago.
Either way, evidence exists of a previously-unknown image of Old
was Texas’ Lyndon Baines Johnson of the 19th century
– big, powerful, controversial. About the only difference between the two men
was that LBJ made it to the White House. But then LBJ was never President of the
Republic of Texas.
The story of the missing painting centers on another
old Texan named John D. Nash.
A Kentuckian, Nash came to Texas in April 1835. He
took title to a grant of land in Lorenzo de Zavalla’s colony on July 25, 1835.
When Texas began its violent pull away from Mexico,
Nash participated in the Siege of Bexar in December 1835.
spring, Nash fought under Houston
when the Texas army defeated General Santa Anna at
Jacinto. When someone presented the Mexican dictator’s horse to Houston
as a prize of war, Houston
detailed Nash to ride it off the battlefield for safekeeping.
Nash was a solider and Houston
a general, the two eventually became friends. It was Nash who presented Houston
with the wooden cane seen in one of the better-known photographs of Houston.
With Texas an independent republic, Nash settled in San Augustine County.
In the spring of 1841, he and Houston
signed a short document in which Nash agreed to keep and feed a stallion belonging
to Houston. In 1850, five
years after Texas statehood, Nash won election as
sheriff. After serving a single two-year term, he moved his family to Bastrop
County. By 1854, he operated a ferry at a point on the Colorado River about six
miles from Bastrop.
by this time, served in the U.S. Senate. But on his periodic visits from Washington,
he spent time on the road meeting with his constituents. Anyone traveling from
Huntsville to Austin
would cross the Colorado on Nash’s ferry.
addition to occasionally availing himself of Nash’s services, Houston
would spend some time catching up with his old friend. On one of Houston’s
visits with Nash, the senator sat for a painting by his friend’s daughter, Lucretia
Nash. The only known written evidence of this is in a letter later written
by her niece, Mrs. George Miller: “Aunt Lou Nash painted a picture of Sam
Houston when he was in her home visiting. He had the walking [stick] in his
hand, I can remember that very plainly.”
Lucretia apparently kept the
painting, because Mrs. Miller recalled having seen it.
Nash had a daughter
with an artistic bent, and he could play a mean fiddle, but he seems to have focused
on making a living. He clearly understood the importance of transportation. When
the Houston and Texas Central Railroad laid tracks through upper Bastrop County
on its way to Austin in 1871, Nash moved
to a new community adjacent to the tracks, McDade.
Four years later, he bought two wooden buildings on Lot 10 along the town’s
principal thoroughfare, just across from the tracks. When those structures burned,
he built a sturdy rock building that still stands, now the oldest structure in
McDade. (Since 1963, the building
has housed the McDade Museum, now directed by Audrey Rather.)
Nash operated a freight business, using the rock building as his warehouse and
office. Old age finally catching up with him, he and Lucretia, who had never married,
moved to Kaufman. He
died there in 1888, but Lucretia lived well into the 20th century.
don’t know what ever became of the picture and the cane,” her niece later wrote.
“I did not see it when we visited her [in Kaufman].
That suggests the Houston painting stayed in Bastrop County when Nash and
his daughter relocated to East Texas, but no one seems to know the rest of the
story. The McDade Museum has on display a poster-size version of a U.S. postage
stamp image of Houston and
his cane, but it’s not Lucretia’s painting.
Cox - July
1, 2004 column
Tales" | More People