On This Date in History: There is only one man in United States history to have been elected and held the office of Governor in two different states. He was also a member of the House of Representatives, a United States Senator and the President of a Nation. He also spent a time as a member of the Cherokee Nation. The Indian name he was given was said to have translated to “Big Drunk.” He was a military hero, a general and a revolutionary. His name is attached to the 4th largest city in America and it was the first word spoken by men from the surface of the moon. On this date in 1793 he was born near Lexington, Virginia but the name Sam Houston is synonymous with Texas.
In 1807, after the death of his father, the family moved to Maryville, Tennessee but when he was 16, he ran away and lived with the Cherokee Nation who subsequently adopted him under the name Colonneh, which translates to “the Raven.” 19-year-0ld Sam returned to Maryville in 1812 and supposedly opened a one room school house, the first built in Tennessee. That is questionable to me and the City of Maryville says the first schoolhouse there opened in 1797. Anyway, a few years later, young Samuel Houston served under the command of Andrew Jackson in the Creek Indian wars of the War of 1812. He had showed great courage and bravado and his willingness to fight despite being wounded several times caught the attention of Old Hickory. He and Jackson became friends. Jackson helped Houston gain a position as an Indian Agent to the Cherokee. He resigned his commission, studied the law and was soon elected Attorney General of Nashville. In 1823, he was elected to Congress from Tennessee. After serving two terms in Congress, Houston was elected as the 7th Governor of the State of Tennessee at the age of 34.
The next stage of his life is sketchy. He planned to run for re-election in 1828 but he married 18-year-old Eliza Allen. It is suggested that the marriage was forced by Miss Allen’s father. Almost as soon as it began, rumors swirled of infidelity and drunkeness. Houston resigned as Governor and went to the Cherokee lands in Arkansas. There, he married a widowed Cherokee woman, Tiana Rogers Gentry. He set up a trading post but apparently drank half the profits because he got a new Cherokee name: Big Drunk. In 1830, he went to Washington, DC to be an advocate on behalf of the Indians. He encountered a man from Ohio who opposed then President Andrew Jackson.
Ohio Congressman William Stanbery took to the House floor and spoke indirectly against Jackson, by speaking ill of Houston by making accusations that Sam used his influence with Jackson to gain a contract providing rations to Indians being removed to the Indian Territory on the Trail of Tears. So, Houston met up with Stanbery on Pennsylvania Avenue and beat him with a cane. Houston was arrested and pleaded self defense since Stanbery had pulled his pistol. Now, Stanbery only pulled the weapon after Houston had attacked and, when he fired it into Houston’s chest, the gun misfired and spared Houston’s life. Sounds like Bill Stanbery was the one doing the self-defending. Sam hired Francis Scott Key, of Star Spangled Banner fame, as his lawyer but he was found guilty. Nevertheless, intervention by influential men like future President James K. Polk resulted in just a light reprimand. Stanbery then took him to civil court where a judge found Sam liable and ordered Houston to pay $500. Instead of ponying up the money, Houston fled the country.
Houston decided to go to Texas, which was then controlled by Mexico. His wife didn’t want to go but he left anyway. Later, she married a guy named Sam McGrady. Tiana died in 1838 of pneumonia. By that time, Sam had set himself up pretty nicely in Texas and got involved in the independence movement of ex-patrioted Americans. In 1835, he was made Major General in the Texas Army and a year later, named Commander in Chief. The defenders of the Alamo gained hero status in the annals of Texas as they held out for 13 days in the small mission at San Antonio de Bexar against a far superior force under the command of General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. While Crockett, Travis and Bowie and their men were going out in a blaze of glory, Houston was building and organizing his army. In April of that year, Houston surprised the Mexican Army which was camped near present day Houston. It had been less than 8 weeks since the Alamo and so, with the attackers screaming “Remember the Alamo,” the Battle of San Jacinto lasted just 18 minutes. Houston forced Santa Anna to surrender and give Texas it’s independence. The battleground is marked today by the tallest free standing column in the world. It was patterned after the Washington Memorial but a giant granite Texas star was put on the top to make it 15 feet taller.
Just like America chose General Washington as it’s first president, General Sam Houston became the first President of the Republic of Texas. Mirabeau Lamar followed him as the chief executive but Houston returned to office in 1841. Houston engineered the recognition of Texas by the United States and also brought order to the economic and political condition of the fledgling country. In 1846, Texas was annexed by the United States as the 28th state and Houston was elected to the United States Senate where he represented Texas until 1860. Houston was a staunch unionist and could not stand having the Lone Star State vote for secession. Though Houston was a slaveholder, he said that secession was illegal. Nevertheless, the Texas Legislature voted for secession on February 1, 1861 and Houston was thrown out of office on March 16, 1861 after he refused to take an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy. General Sam went home to Huntsville, Texas north of the small town of Allen’s Landing…the very town that would later bear his name.
Back in 1837, he finally got around to officially divorcing his first wife and in 1840 married Margaret Moffette Lea. I suppose one could say that he still had an eye for the young girls; he was 47 and she 21. He was still pretty prolific though because the couple had 8 children. She brought him to Christianity and he became Baptist. Supposedly, she got him to temper his drinking ways but it is said he still consumed spirits in the name of medicinal purposes. He developed pneumonia and died on July 26, 1863. His dying words were said to be “Texas! Texas! Margaret!” That quote is on his tombstone in Huntsville Texas. Sam Houston has many monuments to him including a memorial museum, a U.S. Army base, a national forest, a historical park, a university, and the largest free-standing statue of an American figure. The State of Texas has included his statue in Statutory Hall in the the US Capital and Neil Armstrong put the name Houston in the history books forever when he said “Houston, Tranquility Base Here. The Eagle Has Landed.”
Just think what might have happened if he had not survived his wounds in the battles with the Creek Indians or if Congressman Stanbery’s pistol had not misfired. Not sure if it would have changed the fact that Texas gained independence and later become part of the United States, but I do know it would have been different and certainly Texas would have been lacking perhaps the most colorful and decorated man in its long history. Beside that, Houston sounds much better than Allen’s Landing. Armstrong might have said, “Allen’s Landing…Tranquility Base Here..The Eagle has landed.” Just doesnt have the same ring to it.
Weather Bottom Line: It’s lame. Upper 30’s, low 40’s Wednesday but we get better as the week ends with sunshine showing up and temperatures moving through the 40’s to upper 40’s by Friday afternoon. Then Saturday its low to mid 50’s. Maybe some rain Sunday but…it’s a longshot…but I wonder about the potential for t’storms on Tuesday…maybe some tough weather someplace…not a forecast..but something that raises an eyebrow. Hey..the season is near.