tourist at the Alamo
chided the lady for touching a table on display. “Don’t lean on
that. It’s a souvenir of Gen.
“So am I,” retorted Nettie Houston Bringhurst.
Sam and wife
Margaret parented eight such “souvenirs,” all of them talented,
highly intelligent and quick with a quip. You’d think they would
have been overshadowed by the larger-than-life master of the house,
but the feisty four daughters and four sons each had a distinct
and strong-willed personality.
So, whatever became of Sam Jr., Maggie, Nannie, Nettie, Mary, Andy,
Willie and Temple?
start with the youngest, Temple
Lea Houston, whose colorful life inspired the character of Yancey
Cravat in Edna
Ferber’s novel, “Cimarron.” Two movie versions of “Cimarron”
have been made in addition to a TV western series, “Temple Houston.”
The first child born in the governor’s mansion, Temple
was a babe in arms when Sam
left office and moved his family to Cedar Point in west Chambers
County near present-day Baytown.
was only three when his father died. After Margaret died, the five
younger siblings moved in with their older sister, Nannie Morrow,
didn’t tarry long, however. At 13 the restless adventurer joined
a cattle drive to Kansas, then worked on a Mississippi riverboat
and later as a page in the U.S. Senate. Returning to Texas,
he became the youngest practicing attorney in the southwest.
Tall, dark and handsome, with his hair shoulder-length, Temple
had a flair for theatrics in the courtroom and once fired his pistol
in the middle of a trial. (“May I have everyone’s attention, please?
Thank you.”) He was a speaker at the dedication of the Texas
state capitol in 1888 but his most famous speech was his defense
of prostitute, Minnie Stacey, in Woodward, Okla. So dramatic was
his rhetoric that he had nearly everyone in the courtroom in tears,
feeling sorry for Minnie.
to the youngest in the Houston Eight was William, a.k.a. Willie.
Well respected as a special officer in the Indian service of the
U.S. Department of the Interior, he suffered a fatal heart attack
when riding out of Hugo, Okla., on a mission to a reservation. Friends
compared his dedication to the Native Americans to that of his father,
an honorary Cherokee.
resident Andrew Jackson Houston – a.k.a. Andy – was the son with
the closest ties to the bay area, having served on the faculty at
St. Mary’s Seminary in La
Porte. During World
War I he was in charge of military training at the seminary.
Although he had to leave West Point because of ill health, he kept
ties with the military and helped Teddy Roosevelt recruit Rough Riders for the Spanish-American
War. He wrote a book about the battle
of San Jacinto and penned numerous articles for newspapers.
Houstons’ firstborn, Sam Jr., joined Ashbel Smith’s Bayland Guards
during the Civil War when the family was living at Cedar Point.
The military unit drilled on Evergreen Road near Smith’s home in
After the war, Sam Jr. became a medical doctor and author. He also
was an accomplished artist.
first daughter and the second oldest child of Sam and Margaret Houston,
Nannie (real name Nancy) was a Bible scholar and talented pianist.
Besides caring for the five youngest Houston children after both
parents were deceased, Nannie and her husband, Joseph Stiles Morrow,
had six children of their own. Her sister, Mary, also married a
Morrow – John Simeon, a first cousin of Nannie’s husband. They lived
in Abilene where
John established a law practice. After his death, Mary became the
postmistress in Abilene.
second oldest daughter and a gifted writer, Maggie (real name Margaret)
married Weston L. Williams. After her husband died, she moved to
San Antonio. Maggie
enjoyed the company of intellectuals, and one of her best friends
was the famous sculptor Elisabet
daughter, Antoinette (nicknamed Nettie) had numerous poems published
in newspapers, including “The Flag of a Single Star,” that was set
to music and sung by school children throughout the state. Nettie
married Dr. William L. Bringhurst, a Texas A&M professor. A prominent
leader in the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, serving as state
historian, Nettie died in a car wreck in 1932. Her funeral was held
at the Alamo.
Let us count
the ways in which the children of Sam and Margaret Houston inherited
talents, traits and lifelong interests. Ranging from history, music,
art and the military to the law and literature, those eight apples
never fell far from the tree.
© Wanda Orton
Baytown Sun Columnist
January 5, 2014 column