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Double Takes on Names

by Wanda Orton
Wanda Orton

Question; What’s the most perplexing pair of same names in Texas history?

Answer: 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 at Morgan’s Point.

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 with them.

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.

For 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 and Morgan’s Point.

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 depart.

Gillette is another name that can lead to confusion. There’s Henry and there’s Charles.

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.

Lastly, 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 the house.

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
"Wandering" September 17, 2013 columns

Subject: Gillette

In the article on names, a very important Gillette was ignored. His name was James B. Gillette--SGT James B. Gillette, Texas Rangers, 1st Sheriff of Brewster County. James B. Gillette's memoir, SIX YEARS WITH THE TEXAS RANGERS, is classic Texana--a book that should be in every Texana collection. It has been, I believe, reprinted by State House Press in Austin. The book was so good that in the 1930s World Book publishers, which at the time published a lot of school texts, sent an author to interview Gillette about his childhood. The result was a state-adopted textbook called THE TEXAS RANGERS, which--while out of adoption as a text--remained in school libraries until the 1950s. It has not, to my knowledge, been reprinted & is considered rare Texana today. I consider myself fortunate that I own a copy. - C. F. Eckhardt, Seguin, Texas, September 19, 2013
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