Texas Independence Day in the (19th Century) News!

Staunton Spectator_March 24, 1836-3

March 2nd : birthday of Mikhail Gorbachev, Jon Bon Jovi, Dr. Seuss, and the author of this blog. Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in one game on March 2nd, 1962. President of the Republic of Texas, Governor of Texas, and later U.S. Senator Sam Houston was born on that day, too. That last one is fitting, because March 2nd is also Texas Independence Day, celebrated statewide since 1836. With that in mind, we’re once again sharing the best of our newspapers dating from that era!

Here’s page 3 of March 24, 1836’s Staunton Spectator, sharing all the news out of Virginia. They knew all about the Mexican army headed by former President of Mexico General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. But news traveled slowly back then: by the time this issue was published the Battle of the Alamo had occurred nearly three weeks earlier.

Albany Journal_April 15, 1836-1

Two weeks later in the Albany Journal of Albany, New York, related the tale of the Battle of the Alamo. 150 men killed, their bodies thrown into a heap! Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie: dead! Commander William Travis committing suicide rather than surrender! Every Texian inflamed with a passion to fight until “every Mexican east of the Rio del Norte should be exterminated!” (Texian, by the way, was the name for residents of Mexican Texas and, later, the Republic of Texas.)

Staunton Spectator_May 12, 1836-2

Here’s May 12th’s Staunton Spectator, reminding its readers that the Texas Revolution was doomed. As we’ve seen two times already, 19th-century newspaper information had a habit of being out of date. Sam Houston’s army had defeated a portion of general Santa Anna’s forces at San Jacinto, Texas back on April 21st, forcing the end of the conflict. The most entertaining part of this article, however, is the lionizing of Davy Crockett. Check it out: “Crockett was found (within the Alamo)…on his back, a frown on his brow, a smile of scorn on his lips–his knife in his hand, a dead Mexican lying across his body, and twenty-two more lying pell-mell before him….” Wow.

Exeter News-Letter_May 31, 1836-2

Word finally caught up with the east coast by the end of May 1836, as we can see here in Exeter, New Hampshire’s Exeter News-Letter. We have the Battle of San Jacinto, the routing of Mexican forces, and the capture of Santa Anna, which came along with its own dubious tale. After over 600 Mexican troops laid down their arms, mounted riflemen began chasing a few attempted escapees. Only one continued to elude them, a chase that lasted 15 miles and ended when one pursuer guessed that “like a hard pressed bear, (Santa Anna might) have taken a tree. The tree tops were then examined when lo, the game was discovered snugly ensconced in the forks of a large live oak.” The captors allegedly didn’t even know who they’d nabbed until the Mexican troops began hailing their commander as his captors walked him through the camp.

Vermont Gazette_June 14, 1836-2

We’re ending this with a more sedate piece, free of the melodrama of Davy Crockett, generals in trees, and Texans hell-bent on exterminating every last one of their enemies. The Bennington Vermont Gazette instead describes events as they transpired from San Jacinto onward, culled from other news sources such as the New York Courier & Enquirer. Nope, no melodrama at all…oh, wait: “The poor devils…would hold up their hands, cross themselves, and sing out ‘me no alamo,’ but nothing could save them; the blood of our countrymen was too was too fresh in the memory of our people our people to let one Mexican escape, until worn down with pursuit and slaughter, they commenced making prisoners.” Perhaps the real magic of these papers was not so much facts about the Texas Revolution as it was the histrionics of 19th-century newspapers!

We have a vast newspaper collection here at the Southwest Collection, some of which can be found in digital form. We also have manuscript materials about the Texas Revolution and its participants, most notably the Temple Houston Morrow Papers    , a series of letters and documents collected by Sam Houston’s grandson, many of which were items composed by Houston himself. And, as always, our Reference Staff would be happy to help you peruse these or any of our other fine collections.

Advertisements

What’s New at the Southwest Collection?

researcher1

Rather than just spin a yarn about a single collection this week, we’re going to catch you up on some exciting things that happened in only the first couple of months of 2015!

For example, a couple weeks back the Southwest Collection was excited to host a research visit by the recipient of the Big 12 Faculty Fellowship Award, associate professor Greg Stephens of Kansas State University-Salina.

Professor Stephens’ focused his attention on our American Agricultural Movement (AAM) Records and related oral histories (which you may remember we hosted an entire exhibit about last spring!) Stephens is gathering information on farmers in Kansas to try to explain how the stories that individuals told about their involvement shaped the AAM’s leadership and goals, and how that reciprocally may have then changed the stories themselves. The AAM wasn’t the only organization he was looking at: the National Farmers’ Organization (NFO), Grange, Farmers’ Union, and the Farm Bureau also used specific narratives to define their missions. He even found that the AAM was stronger in the South Plains region (home of the Southwest Collection) than he had initially thought!

researcher2

Here you see our purveyor of oral histories (and gif creation expert) Elissa Stroman assisting Stephens with finding oral histories and similar items among our digital collections. She agrees that Stephens’ project is definitely interesting, and we were thrilled to be able aid it with our collections. If the Ag Movement strikes your fancy, too, then give our spectacular Reference Staff a call and they’d be happy to set up for you a look at it.

Underwwod POW card

Digital Collections Update!

Did you know that the Southwest Collection has added nearly a dozen digitized collections to our digital holdings? True story. Some of them are pretty spectacular, including the Boss Tweed Family Papers (the tale of which you can find right here!); the Charles Underwood Papers that contain some incredible images of World War II Pacific POW letters, one of which can be seen above; and the complete roster and late-19th-century war recollections of the United Confederate Veterans’ Fort Worth chapter  just in time for the anniversary of the final year of the Civil War. mastheads

One huge digital project we’ve had going on for several years is the digitization of numerous newspapers from around West Texas. There are far too many titles to name (seriously, check out this list of 28 different area newspapers totaling over 52,000 individual issues!), but some of the most recent include the State Line Tribune from the town of Farwell (or Texico, depending on what side of the Texas/New Mexico border you’re on), the Castro County News, and the Matador Tribune/Motley County Tribune (and assorted other names.) If you need west Texas news from the past 100 or so years, we’ve probably got it. Oh, and we’re always and forever adding more issues of Texas Tech’s own Daily Toreador (or University Daily, depending on the vintage) or whatever else the world will give us. (For example, we’ve been looking for papers to fill gaps in dates from many of the collections above, and in particular from our newspaper from Ropesivlle, Texas in the mid-twentieth-century for a while now. Got any lying around you might make available to us?)

Need, or want, to lay eyes on some of this stuff in person? Look no further than our ever-helpful Reference Staff to make that happen.