news of the Alamo’s fall reached
Gonzales, it triggered panic
among the Anglo population of Texas.|
Houston ordered the town torched in advance of the Mexican Army and the residents
fled for their lives to the east. Along the way, virtually every other settler
joined the flight as Texas began to unravel that late winter of 1836. All hope
for independence from Mexico seemed lost.
Elizabeth Zumwalt Kent, whose
husband Andrew Jackson Kent had died in the Alamo,
left the Gonzales area on foot
with their ten children. Suffering in a climate that ranged from unseasonably
cold to unseasonably wet, 10-year-old Liz and her 16-month-old sister, Phinette,
died of exposure along the way. Andrew Kent, not yet four, became separated from
his family during a stream crossing and Mrs. Kent never saw him again.
While not an exodus of Biblical proportions, what came to be called the Runaway
Scrape has not received the scholarly attention it deserves. Thousands of
people hastily left their homes and most of their belongings hoping to outrun
a vengence-minded Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna and his troops as he pushed
into the heart of settled Texas following the March 6 massacre at the old mission
“A few days before we arrived in Gonzales,”
Mexican Army Lt. Jose de la Pena wrote in his diary, “Generals Ramirez y Sesman
and Tolsa had passed by, and the troops under their command had consumed and taken
with them everything they could.”
By March 17, the collection of log cabins
and frame structures that constituted the village of Washington-on-the-Brazos
stood empty. Within two weeks, all of Texas between the Colorado and Brazos rivers
lay virtually depopulated. Left behind were many fresh graves, including two for
the Kent children.
The mass withdrawal of Anglo civilians continued until
word spread of Houston’s April
21 defeat of Santa Anna at San
Jacinto. Slowly, those who still wanted to give life in Texas
a chance, including Mrs. Kent, turned to the west and went back to what was left
of their homes. And that’s when a nameless hero, long forgotten, would give his
all for Texas.
folks with their neighbors returned to their log houses on the south bank of the
Colorado River,” Smithville pioneer Rosa Berry Cole recalled in “Memories of By-Gone
Days.” She continued, “Some found their houses burned, their crops gone and desolation
everywhere, but they were free.”
Their fences down and most of the rails
burned, settlers had to start from scratch. For instance, Mrs. Kent discovered
that the Mexicans had burned their cabin and slaughtered all their cattle, hogs
and chickens. The blood and chop marks on Andrew’s carpentry table showed that
the invading troops had used it as a butcher block.
Now, on top of everything
else, the returning refugees faced a severe shortage of food and the means to
produce it. Men saddled up to search for strayed milk cows while the womenfolk
looked for loose chickens.
Mrs. Cole managed to find three hens that had
escaped the skillets of the Mexican Army and other settlers living on or near
the Colorado in Bastrop County rounded up a few more yard birds.
one had been able to find a rooster. No rooster, no chicks. No chicks, pretty
soon no more setting hens or Sunday fried chicken dinners after church. Finally,
someone heard that a certain party had a rooster for sale upriver in Bastrop.
Neighbors passed a hat to raise enough money to buy the needed male of the species.
The sum raised, a volunteer rode to make the purchase.
The community rooster
may not have fully appreciated his importance in rebuilding Texas
, but the bird enthusiastically embraced the task at hand – and every hen along
the river. As Cole recalled, people took the busy farm fowl “from house to house,
each keeping him a week till he made all the rounds and then back home [to] start
over the same round.”
Before long, thanks to the seemingly undaunted patriotism
of that cock of the walk, Bastrop County residents never wanted for eggs or fried
chicken on his watch.
Whether the selfless rooster died of old age or acute
physical exhaustion from having loved too dearly isn’t known, but his legacy kept
clucking for a long time along the Colorado.
Mike Cox - January 15, 2014 column
People | Columns
| Texas Town List | Texas
by Mike Cox - Order Here|