Texas Rangers andby
Sam Houston's Grave
old Texas Rangers who gathered in Austin
for a reunion in the early fall of 1897 surely figured they had fought their last
fight. After all, they had battled and survived Mexican soldiers, Comanches and
outlaws. But that’s before they heard what some folks in Tennessee were up to.|
in the Capital City on the night of October 8, the aging rangers got word that
certain parties in the Volunteer State were agitating for the removal of Sam
Houston’s remains from Texas to his old stomping
grounds in Tennessee. Some of the old rangers had known Houston. The others all
knew of his place in their state’s history.
Houston came to Texas
in 1832 following a drunken sabatical among the Cherokees in what is now Oklahoma.
Before then, he had served as governor of Tennessee, his political career there
ending concurrently with his short-lived first marriage. Only four years after
crossing the Red River, having assured Texas’ independence from Mexico by defeating
Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna at San
Jacinto, Houston became the first president of the new Republic of Texas.
He lived to see
Texas admitted as the 28th state in 1845, dying at
70 of natural causes on July 26, 1863 during the bloody Civil War he had tried
to avert. His family abided by his wishes and buried him in Oakwood
Cemetery in Huntsville,
the Walker County town he and his wife Margaret had settled in because it reminded
him of his boyhood home in Tennesse.
33 years after his death, the sentiment had risen in Tennessee that Houston should
be exhumed from his Texas grave and shipped “home” to the hills of his youth.
The former rangers gathered for comradery in Austin
learned of this idea in a letter from Marie Bennet Urwitz, president of the Cuero-based
San Jacinto Chapter of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas and the daughter
of a former ranger.
Mrs. Urwitz wrote that “a proposition has been made the family of Gen. Houston
for the removal of the remains of that immortal chieftain from Texas to Tennessee.”
She continued, “I hope your patrioic and venerable body will offer a strong
protest against any such proposition. A state which would allow [Houston’s removal]
is not worthy of the grave of [Ben] Milam, Bowie, Travis or the memory
of such a man as your [former Ranger captain] Jack Hays.”
aging rangers, used to saddling up and riding hard at a moment’s notice, acted
quickly after hearing Mrs. Urwitz’ letter. Voting unanimously, the veterans approved
“Whereas, we have learned that there is a proposition
to remove the remains of Gen. Houston from this state to Tennessee; be it
that we, the ex-rangers of Texas, are unalterably
opposed to the removal of the remains of that hero from the land of his choice
and the field of his illustrious and imperishable fame.
the remains of our immortal chieftain should abide in their final rest in the
sacred soil of Texas, which he successfully defended
and that an appropriate monument worthy of Texas
should mark the grave which will be sought by patriotic pilgrims in increasing
numbers through future ages.”
Texas newspapers of the day are silent on
how it all played out, but Houston’s remains stayed put in Huntsville.
Doubtless, most of the veteran rangers who voted for the resolution to keep the
hero of San
Jacinto in Texas would have defended Houston’s
burial place with force of arms had the movement to move him progressed further.
for the former rangers’ recommendation that “an appropriate monument” be placed
over Houston’s final resting place, that took a little longer. Not until April
21, 1911 – the 65th anniversary of San
Jacinto – did assorted dignitaries show up for the dedication of a large granite
monument at Houston’s grave.
Sharing the limelight with Alonzo
Steele, the battle’s last survivor, the “Great Commoner” William Jennings
Bryan gave the keynote speech at the unveiling of the massive stone, which features
a trio of bas reliefs of Houston by sculptor Pompeo
is [the] willingness to die for what one believes is right,” Bryan said that spring
day, “that makes civilization possible.”
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