Texas Independence Day: In the (19th Century) News…Again!

Every year in anticipation of Texas Independence Day (March 2nd, for those who aren’t from around here) we dig into our collection of Texas Revolutionary-era newspapers to see what folks of the early 19th century had to say about the soon-to-be Lone Star State. It turns out, they said a lot!

1816_11_09_Aberdeen Chronicle - pg 3

Texas’ independence can trace its origins to a number of sources, one of the most significant of which was the Mexican Revolution (1810-1821) and the creation of the Republic of Mexico. That conflict was reported worldwide, including under somewhat misleading heading “South America” in this copy of the Aberdeen (Scotland) Chronicle from November 9, 1816. Only a small portion of the conflict took place in Texas, but the province does get mentioned in this early report. It was also on the mind of the United States, as the revolutionary forces frequently petitioned for legitimacy (and funds) from their northern neighbor.

1825_08_06_National Journal - p4

During these tumultuous revolutionary years, opportunistic men from the States kept their eye on the millions of acres of land that Mexico had to offer in the province of Tejas. The National Journal on August 6, 1825, reported an instance of attempts to purchase such territory. “Captain Leftwich” of Kentucky had recently moseyed into New Orleans claiming to have snatched up enough land for 800 families. Six to eight million acres of land, in fact! More importantly, speculation about adding Texas to the United States was also well underway in the paper.

1828_07_19_Niles' Weekly Register - p6-6

As an aside, have you ever wondered where some of the names of Texas’ counties and cities come from? Houston and Crockett are fairly obvious, named for heroes of San Jacinto and the Alamo, respectively. But Milam County is somewhat lesser-known. It’s named after Colonel Ben Milam, about which the Niles Weekly Register of Baltimore, Maryland, had a lot to share on July 19, 1828. He was a Kentuckian, but his status as a self-proclaimed “citizen of the world”–a world in which he bought up a whole lot of Mexican land (as had Stephen F. Austin, also mentioned in the article, and who is now the namesake of Texas’ capital.)

1835_10_31_The New Yorker p 2-2

By 1835, revolution was in the air! Texian rebels had risen, determined to free themselves from Mexican rule (and, not coincidentally, to ensure that Mexico was no longer going to tax all that land mentioned above…) The New Yorker on October 31, 1835, offered a glimpse of the excitement. Retaliation by Mexico’s President, “that Chief” Santa Anna “and his myrmidons (was) hourly expected.” Further flowered loquacions followed, including a letter written by General Sam Houston himself asking all patriotic Americans to volunteer to aid his people’s cause (and get a generous grant of land to boot.)

1835_11_09_Manufacturers and Farmers Journal p2

The first battle of the Texas Revolution occurred at Gonzales on October 2nd, 1835. News traveled slowly in the 19th century, and so it was November 9, nearly a month after the skirmish, that Rhode Island’s Manufacturers and Farmers Journal, and Providence and Pawtucket Advertiser reported it. The numbers of combatants and casualties was exaggerated, turning two hours of desultory exchanges into a much larger conflict…but story probably wouldn’t have sold many newspapers.

1836-08-17 National Intellegencer p1

The Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836, effectively ended the Texas Revolution in favor of the Texians. And despite what the August 17th, 1836, issue of the National Intelligencer would have you believe in these excerpts, Mexican forces never reentered Texas after the capture of President and General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna during that fight. In fact, thousands of settlers swarmed Texas, eager for a fight (which was not forthcoming) and for a chance to settle in the newly liberated area (which definitely forthcame.)

These newspapers in their entirety, along with many of their contemporaries, can be found among our numerous digitized archival collections. For interested researchers who make the journey to us in Lubbock, some can even be viewed in person, along with our many other collections related to Texas history. Just give our cheerful Reference Staff a call and they’ll see what they can set up for you.

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The Tarahumara Photograph Collection

3.l-54.80 female and baby in rebozo beside removable plank door- near village of Wawatzerare

The Tarahumara are a people who live in the Sierra Madre Mountains of Chihuahua, Mexico. Despite centuries of incessant attention by Spanish, French, and Mexican governments, they still hold on to many of their original cultural traditions. Basket weaving and maize cultivation, along with pastoral practices, for example, hearken back to their original ways.Their cave dwellings, some decorated with pictographs such as the ones below, attract the occasional anthropologist and tourist. The Tarahumara also happen to be some of the most excellent long-distance runners in the world. In short, they’re fascinating and the Southwest Collection is fortunate to have thousands of photographs of the Tarahumara–such as the one above of a woman near the village of Wawatzerare, holding her baby in a rebozo–captured by a local priest, Father Luis Verplancken, who worked closely with the Tarahumara for decades. And, as we often do, we intend to show them off right here!

14.d.2-07.48 Tarahumara pictographs- near village of Cusarare

(Tarahumara pictographs near the village of Cusarare.)

14.d.1.a-18.36 church at Batopilas

Although their current population now numbers in the scant tens of thousands, the Tarahumara (or Rarámuri, their traditional name, i.e. the one not given to them by the Spanish) numbered many more throughout Chihuahua in the 16th century. The arrival of the Spanish began to change this, as their interest in mining speckled the Sierras with mines, prompting the Tarahumara to move to more remote, mountainous areas. Sadly, they also enslaved some Tarahumara in order to obtain mine labor. This, in between sometimes-successful proselytizing by Christian missionaries over the next several decades, led to armed conflict in the 1670s and 90s; encounters that the Tarahumara ultimately lost. A side effect of this cultural clash was the creation of beautiful missions such as the one above, Batopilas. It was established by conquistadors in 1632, for religious (but mostly mining) purposes, and remains a well-preserved example of that architecture to this day.

3.b.2-09.71 cave dwelling interior with family preparing corn tortillas over a fire- near village of Basiwari

(Cave dwelling with a family preparing corn tortillas over a fire near the village of Basiwari.)

As we mentioned, these photos were taken by Father Luis Verplancken, but he was far more than just a photographer interested in documenting Tarahumara culture. Born in 1926 in Guadalajara, Mexico, Verplancken became a Jesuit missionary in 1943. A few years later he was assigned to Creel, Chihuahua, where he immediately devoted his life to aiding its residents. He arranged to have water piped into area towns, oversaw the digging of more than 50 wells, and even partnered with the nearby community of Arareko to create an artificial lake that remains a popular tourist destination to this day.

13.e.5-57.18 young males in contemporary attire in their dorm rooms at a boarding school- village of Gonogochi

(The boarding school at Gonogochi.)

Such infrastructure was perhaps the hallmark of his career. He also installed electricity wherever he could, and opened a medical clinic that saved hundreds of childrens’ lives every year. Along with this, he trained locals to provide medical aid at locations far from the clinic. Education was another focus, resulting in the founding of two boarding schools that taught in both the local dialect and Spanish, a photo from which can be seen above.He translated the Bible into Raramuri, built a museum dedicated to sacred art (both native and Christian,) and made a host of other contributions. And all the while he documented Tarahumara daily life in pictures, from ritual and religion to simple tasks such as basketweaving; from herding and farming to trap setting, as in the photo below.

6.c-09.305 male setting trap- near village of Basiwari

(Setting a trap near the village of Basiwari.)

A selection of photographs from this collection of nearly 25,000 are available among our digital collections. Of course, if you’d like to see any of the others, our Reference Staff is always happy to get them into your hands.