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Sam Houston's Daughter

by Mike Cox
Mike Cox

Two books and numerous articles have been written about Temple Houston, the colorful youngest son of Sam Houston. But Temple had not been an only child.

The man who defeated Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna at San Jacinto and went on to become the first president of the Republic of Texas married Margaret Lea Power on May 9, 1840 in Marion, Ala. The couple went on to have eight children -- four sons and four daughters. Two of their children, a daughter and a son, survived well into the 20th century.

Indeed, though born in the horse and buggy era, both lived long enough to see the advent of automobiles and buses, commercial aviation, telephones, broadcast radio and other technological developments. And one of those aspects of modernity would kill Houston's last living daughter, Antoinette Power Houston Bringhurst.

Houston's youngest daughter, she was born Jan. 20, 1852 in Huntsville. At the time, her father served as one of the two U.S. senators from Texas. He was even being talked about as a contender for the presidency.

Early in her life, Antoinette's family started calling her "Nettie," and that's what she went by from then on. As did all the Houston children, Nettie got a solid education, especially for the times. She attended Baylor Female Seminary at Independence and the Austin Female College. Even as a child, she had a penchant for poetry. First published in newspapers while still in school, she went on to see her verse appear nationally in Scribner's and other periodicals. A collection of her poetry was eventually published in book form.

At 25, on Feb. 28, 1877 she was married to Dr. William L. Bringhurst, a professor at the Texas Military Institute in Austin. The pastor of Austin's First Baptist Church performed the ceremony, but the nuptials did not take place in his church. Then Gov. R.B. Hubbard invited the couple to exchange their vows in the Governor's Mansion. There, Nettie, her siblings and her parents had lived until Houston resigned as governor in 1861 on the eve of the Civil War. After giving the bride away, Hubbard and his wife hosted their wedding reception.

Two years after the couple married, the military institute closed and the Bringhursts moved to College Station, where Dr. Bringhurst joined the faculty of the newly created Texas Agricultural and Mechanical College. The professor later served as the school's interim president. Leaving A&M after former Gov. Sul Ross took office as president in 1891, Bringhurst taught school for a while in Bryan before he and Nettie moved to San Antonio in 1901.

She was active in the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, serving as DRT state historian from 1906-1908. What she didn't do, so far as is known, is write her recollections of her famous father, who lived until she was 11. Following her husband's death in 1913, Nettie stayed with her daughter (also known as Nettie) in Alamo Heights. In 1925, she unveiled the monument to her father at Hermann Park in Houston.

On Dec. 5, 1932, only four years from the centennial of the Texas Declaration of Independence that her father signed at Washington-on-the-Brazos in 1836, the 80-year-old Mrs. Bringhurst sat in a car driven by her daughter as they approached Schulenburg. They were headed to Houston to visit an ailing Andrew Jackson Houston, Mrs. Bringhurst's brother. Also in the car were Houston's great-granddaugther, Margaret Bush and Mrs. Bringhurst's niece.

Near Schulenburg, a tire blew and the vehicle veered off the roadway and overturned. Mrs. Bringhurst suffered four fractured ribs, a fractured collar bone and spine injuries. A doctor in Schulenburg did what he could for her, but said she needed more extensive treatment. Two Highway Patrol troopers on motorcycles escorted an ambulance with Mrs. Bringhurst to a San Antonio hospital.

But the elderly woman's injuries proved too severe, and she died later that day. As the family began making funeral arrangements, the DRT agreed to allow her last rites to be held at the Alamo. Her casket surrounded by the six flags of Texas, lay in state there from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. on December 6, followed by services conducted by the pastor of San Antonio's First Baptist Church.

Two years after the accident, on March 1, 1935, Mrs. Bush died of complications from internal injuries she received in the crash. Her 12-year-old daughter was sent to live with relatives in Kentucky. Later she moved to Cincinnati, where she spent the rest of her life.

Returning to Texas at 76 on the 162th anniversary of, she was interviewed by the Houston Chronicle. Mrs. Rosh well remembered hearing her mother talk about her famous father.

"He was a very compassionate man who loved children," she said. "All of his children thought that they were the favorite. That was an accomplishment -- all thought that they were loved best."

The two Nettie's, Sam Houston's daughter and granddaughter, are buried side-by-side in the Alamo City's Mission Burial Park South. Mrs. Rosh died at 91 in 2014.

© Mike Cox
"Texas Tales" September 21, 2017 column

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