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A True Texas Woman

by Murray Montgomery
Murray Montgomery


It's a name that evokes great adventure, and to many people the word represents a symbol of the struggle for liberty and human rights. Most folks associate the name with the likes of Bowie, Houston, Crockett, and others like them - all men.

But what about the women? Those strong Texas female pioneers - we don't often hear of their hardships and the things they had to endure to produce this great land.

An acquaintance of mine who works for The Gonzales Inquirer, Wallace "Sarge" Morgan, has researched his family back to the early days of Texas. And he was kind enough to share an interesting article with me that shows just one example of the hardships endured by those exceptional ladies of the Lone Star State. The article is from the book, The Fergusons of Texas, written by Ouida Ferguson Nalle.

Morgan is a direct descendant of Mitchell Garrison, who once served as a captain in Sam Houston's army, and this story is about an accident, which occurred in the spring of 1855 and resulted in Garrison's death. But what impressed me most about the article was what Garrison's wife and daughter experienced during this sad time.

It seems that Garrison was breaking a wild horse and was thrown from the animal onto a picket fence. One piece of the fence went through the man's thigh leaving him impaled on a wooden board. His wife, Ellender, and some other folks removed him from the fence and attempted to tend the wound.

The family did what they could to help Garrison but the wound was too deep and refused to heal. He needed a surgeon and the nearest one was in San Antonio, which was 150 miles from the Garrison's Bell County home. Now the big problem was, who would take the man to have his wound treated? The Garrisons owned a store and someone had to run it - there were also small children who had to be tended.

The task fell upon Susan Nancy Garrison who, according to the book The Fergusons of Texas, was a grown young daughter. In those days "grown" probably meant 15 to 20 years of age. Prior to the accident Mitchell Garrison had intended to go to Galveston to buy supplies for his store and the family decided to send along a large freight wagon with two extra horses.

The plan was for the girl to drive a buggy, which had the back seat removed to make a bed for her father. The freight wagon and its team were tied behind the buggy. Garrison figured that when he recovered from his wound he would go on to Galveston and get the supplies needed for his store.

Try to imagine this young woman managing a caravan of wagons and all the while watching for bandits and Indians. Her father had a rifle but he was in no shape to fight. Susan Nancy carried a money belt around her waist, which was concealed by her full homespun skirt. The trip was made during a hot Texas summer and she wore a bonnet to protect her from the broiling sun. The young woman fed and watered the horses when she made camp beside the road at night. She then fixed supper for her father before she finally fell asleep, exhausted, on sacks of feed in the back of the wagon.

After more than two weeks of travel the small caravan made its way into San Antonio. The young woman had done her job - now her father would get the help he so desperately needed. Doctors treated Mitchell Garrison for several weeks before they decided that the leg must be amputated. The young woman wouldn't make that decision for her father but Garrison did, and he told the surgeons to get on with it because he needed to get to Galveston for the supplies.

Mitchell Garrison did not recover after the leg was amputated. And his young daughter, alone and without family, buried her father in San Antonio on August 5, 1855.

Susan Nancy did not want to attempt the trip back home so she sent a letter to her mother by a man who was traveling to Georgetown, which was about halfway to her home. After the letter arrived at Georgetown folks passed it from farm to farm until it finally reached Mrs. Garrison. She immediately sent relatives to San Antonio to bring her daughter back to Bell County.

Susan Nancy Garrison went on to marry John Fletcher Ferguson. She is the great grandmother of Wallace Morgan, my acquaintance at the Inquirer. Two more of Morgan's ancestors, Miriam and James Ferguson, served as governors of Texas.

This is just one account of the hardships faced by the women of Texas - there are many more. And there is no doubt, in my mind, that today's Texas ladies have inherited the same strong and enduring traits of their ancestors.

Murray Montgomery
Lone Star Diary >
July 20, 2006Column

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