What’s the most perplexing pair of same names in Texas history?
Emily West and Emily West.
The maiden name
of the wife of Texas Vice President Lorenzo de Zavala was Emily
West and so was the name of the indentured servant of James Morgan
Emily West of Morgan’s
Point was best known as Emily Morgan, maybe because slaves often
took their owners’ last names. Morgan, however, did not own Emily
West. She was a free black from New York City.
Emily West a.k.a. Emily Morgan was destined in Texas folklore to
have yet another name, “The
Yellow Rose of Texas,” and you probably know that story -- about
how she distracted Gen. Santa Anna in his tent at San
Jacinto on April 21, 1836. It makes a good story, complete with
song lyrics, but there’s little proof that it happened that way.
However, there is evidence that Emily West from Morgan’s
Point was at the scene of battle – a “captive audience,” so
to speak. After the Mexican troops looted and torched Morgan’s buildings,
they marched on to San
Jacinto, taking Emily and other local area residents and workers
During the battle the indentured servant lost her papers proving
that she was a free black, and after the battle Isaac Moreland,
Texas Army artillery officer and future Harris County judge, helped
her obtain a new passport. In 1837 she returned to New York.
About that other Emily West:
Zavala met and married her in New York, and for a while, they lived
in Paris. (France, not Paris, Texas.) He served as Mexico’s Minister
to France and during that time he and his young wife led a charmed
life, hobnobbing with the cream of European society.
Meanwhile his former friend, Santa Anna, had decided he would become
“the Napoleon of the West,” and his dictatorial, delusional ways
were driving Texans to revolt.
Zavala revolted, too, leaving his prestigious position with the
Mexican government to become a leader in Texas’
struggle for independence.
In 1835 the Zavala family moved into a home on Buffalo Bayou (in
present-day Channelview) and by the following March he was elected
provisional vice president of the new Republic of Texas.
Zavala died of pneumonia in November 1836.
Coincidence: The two Emily Wests both came from New York in 1835
and returned there in 1837 – Emily West of Morgan’s
Point, permanently, and Emily West de Zavala, temporarily.
One writer, Denise McVea, claims they were one in the same person.
Could that be?
I don’t think so.
But there must be a logical explanation regarding Em & Em -- the
two Emily Wests and their New York connections. Could James Morgan’s
servant previously have worked for Emily West de Zavala in New York?
As the King of Siam (a.k.a. Yul Brynner) would say, “It’s a puzzlement.”
In the cast of Texas
history characters, same last names can cause double takes.
example, the Morgans.
There’s Charles Morgan, the so-called father of the Houston Ship
Channel, and there’s James Morgan, namesake of Morgan’s
Point and an early promoter of the ship channel.
Because of their maritime connections, it’s easy to mistake one
for the other. They were in Texas at
about the same time in the 1800s and were fairly close in age. James
was born in 1787 in Philadelphia eight years before Charles, a Connecticut
Yankee born in 1795.
Besides having the same last name, they shared a vision for a channel
for ocean-going vessels from Houston
to Galveston Bay. In the 1870s Charles Morgan financed the dredging
of the first deep-water channel between Houston
James Morgan died in 1866, never living to witness the first major
step in re-inventing Buffalo Bayou and the lower San Jacinto River
as the Houston Ship Channel.
Beyond James or Charles Morgan’s wildest dreams, the 25-mile-long
channel today accommodates ocean-going vessels from over the world,
ranking first in the U.S. in foreign tonnage. The Port of Houston
is the fourth largest in the nation, and one of its busiest facilities
is Barbours Cut, the cargo container terminal at Morgan’s
Point, where huge container vessels and cruise ships dock and
is another name that can lead to confusion. There’s Henry and there’s
Henry Flavel Gillette, who taught school for a number of years in
various towns, is best known in Baytown
for his work as superintendent of the Bayland Orphanage. Charles
Gillette, his cousin, served as the first rector of Christ Church
Cathedral, the first Episcopal church in Houston.
Both Henry and Charles were born in Connecticut and attended Trinity
College at Hartford. And they were in Houston
at the same time in the 1840s, with Henry teaching and Charles preaching.
welcome to Scott Land – a.k.a. Baytown
-- where more than one Scott made a name for himself.
There’s William Scott and there’s Garrel Scott.
I used to think the old Scott house -- better known as the old haunted
house on Scott Bay -- was built by William Scott, a member of Stephen
F. Austin’s colony.
However, it was Garrel Scott who once occupied the house in the
neighborhood that became the Brownwood subdivision and finally,
the Baytown Nature Center. As far as I know, Garrel was no kin to
William, whose home stood on the future site of the ExxonMobil docks
off Bayway Drive in Baytown.
Garrel bought his house from the heirs of John Rundell, a former
Mississippi plantation owner who built it in the late 1830s with
the help of his two sons and a dozen slaves.
After Garrel Scott, the next owner was Quincy A. Wooster, who arrived
in the 1890s. Wooster gave the street a name – Mapleton – in honor
of his hometown in Iowa. Until its demise, Wooster descendants owned
And an amazing house it was, surviving an onslaught of hurricanes
through most of the 19th century and into the 20th century. Its
“last hurrah” was Hurricane Carla, 1961.
William Scott died at his home during the devastating Racer’s Hurricane
in 1837. Today the original Scott league, created in 1824 via a
Mexican land grant, encompasses the vast ExxonMobil complex.
© Wanda Orton
Baytown Sun Columnist
September 17, 2013 columns