Sam Houston

Second President of Texas

Background

Samuel "Sam" Houston (March 2, 1793 – July 26, 1863) was an American politician and soldier, best known for his role in bringing Texas into the United States as a constituent state. His victory at the Battle of San Jacinto secured the independence of Texas from Mexico. The only American to be elected governor of two different states (as opposed to territories or indirect selection), he was also the only governor within a future Confederate state to oppose secession (which led to the outbreak of the American Civil War) and to refuse an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy, a decision that led to his removal from office by the Texas secession convention.[2]

Houston was born at Timber Ridge Plantation in Rockbridge County of Virginia, of Scots-Irish descent. After moving to Tennessee from Virginia, he spent time with the Cherokee Nation (into which he later was adopted as a citizen and into which he married), military service in the War of 1812, and successful participation in Tennessee politics. In 1827, Houston was elected Governor of Tennessee as a Jacksonian.[3] In 1829, he resigned as governor and relocated to Arkansas Territory.[4] In 1832, Houston was involved in an altercation with a U.S. Congressman, followed by a high-profile trial.[5]

Shortly afterwards, he relocated to Coahuila y Tejas, then a Mexican state, and became a leader of the Texas Revolution.[6] After the war, Houston became a key figure in Texas and was elected as the first and third President of the Republic of Texas. He supported annexation by the United States[7] and after annexation in 1845, he became a U.S. Senator and finally a governor of Texas in 1859, whereby Houston became the only person to have become the governor of two different U.S. states through popular election, as well as the only state governor to have been a foreign head of state.

As governor, he refused to swear loyalty to the Confederacy when Texas seceded from the Union in 1861 with the outbreak of the American Civil War, and was removed from office.[8] To avoid bloodshed, he refused an offer of a Union army to put down the Confederate rebellion. Instead, he retired to Huntsville, Texas, where he died before the end of the Civil War.

The namesake of the city which, since the 1980s, has become the fourth largest city in the U.S., Houston's reputation was sufficiently large that he was honored in numerous ways after his death, among them: a memorial museum, five U.S. naval vessels named USS Houston (AK-1, CA-30, CL-81, SSBN-609, and SSN-713), a U.S. Army base, a national forest, a historical park, a university, and a prominent roadside statue outside of Huntsville.

More background

On January 22, 1829, at the age of 35, Houston married 19-year-old Eliza Allen, the daughter of the well-connected planter Colonel John Allen (1776–1833) of Gallatin, Tennessee. He was a friend of politician Andrew Jackson, soon to take office as President of the United States. Houston was then governor of Tennessee.

Eliza left Houston shortly after their marriage. She publicly said that he had sustained the "dreadful injury" of emasculation in the Creek War of 1814. Subsequent to their separation and her statement, Houston resigned the governorship.[36]

Neither Houston nor Eliza ever discussed the reasons for their separation; speculation and gossip credited their split to Eliza's being in love with another man. The aforementioned public statement and Houston's resignation suggest other reasons.[37] Houston seems to have cared for his wife's reputation and wrote to her father.

Houston officially divorced Eliza Allen Houston in 1837. (She remarried in 1840 to Dr. Elmore Douglass, becoming a stepmother to his ten children. She had four children with him and died in 1861.)[38]

In April 1829, in part due to the scandal of his well-known separation, Houston resigned as governor of Tennessee. He went west with the Cherokee in Indian removal to exile in Arkansas Territory. That year he was adopted by Chief John Jolly and thus made a member of the Cherokee.

Houston married Tiana Rogers (d. 1838), daughter of Chief John "Hellfire" Rogers (1740–1833), a Scots-Irish trader, and Jennie Due (1764–1806), a sister of Chief John Jolly, in a ceremony according to Cherokee customs. Tiana was in her mid-30s, of mixed-race, and the widow of David Gentry, Jr. She had two children from her previous marriage: Gabriel, born 1819, and Joanna, born 1822. She and Houston lived together for several years. Under civil law, he was still legally married to Eliza Allen Houston.

After declining to accompany Houston to Texas in 1832, Tiana later married John McGrady. In 1838 she died of pneumoniaand is buried at Fort Gibson National Cemetery[39] with a grave maker reading "Talahina R. wife of Gen. Sam Houston".[40]

In 1833, Houston was baptized into the Catholic faith in order to qualify under the existing Mexican law for property ownership in Coahuila y Tejas. The sacrament was held in the living room of the Adolphus Sterne House in Nacogdoches.[41][42]

On May 9, 1840, Houston, aged 47, married for a third time. His bride was 21-year-old Margaret Moffette Lea of Marion, Alabama, the daughter of planters. They had eight children born between Houston's 51st and 68th years. Margaret acted as a tempering influence on her much older husband and convinced him to stop drinking. Although the Houstons had numerous houses, they kept only one continuously: Cedar Point (1840–1863) on Trinity Bay.



By 1854, Margaret had spent 14 years trying to convert Houston to the Baptist church. With the assistance of George Washington Baines, she convinced Houston to convert; he agreed to adult baptism. Spectators from neighboring communities came to Independence, Texas to witness the event. On November 19, 1854, Houston was baptized by Rev. Rufus C. Burleson by immersion in Little Rocky Creek, two miles southeast of Independence.[43][44] The baptismal site is near a roadside historical marker by the Texas Historical Commission located on Farm to Market Road 50 at Sam Houston Road.[45] Sam Houston Rd. continues to Little Rocky Creek between Independence and the nearby settlement of Sandy Hill.[46]

In 1862, Houston returned to Huntsville, Texas, and rented the Steamboat House; the hills in Huntsville reminded him of his boyhood home in Tennessee. Houston was active in the Masonic Lodge, transferring his membership to Forrest Lodge #19. His health deteriorated in 1863 due to a persistent cough. In mid-July, Houston developed pneumonia. He died on July 26, 1863 at Steamboat House, with his wife Margaret by his side.

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