SONS OF DEWITT COLONY TEXAS
� 1997-2007, Wallace L. McKeehan, All Rights Reserved
About Sons of DeWitt Colony Texas

 

Shorts and Opinions by Don Guillermo

Index


What happened to Col. John Moore after the "Come and Take It" skirmish at Gonzales and what's the best resource book about the events surrounding that incident?

To my knowledge, there is no single comprehensive biography of Col. John Henry Moore from Austin's Colony, prominent minuteman Captain from Fayette County and who some consider the founder of La Grange, Texas. There should be, but fortunately, his heroic contributions, which are many, are scattered about in various histories and archives. L.R. Weyand and H. Wade in Early History of Fayette County give one of the most concise I have found with some insight into his person:

"In a list of services that Moore rendered his county, the founding of LaGrange is of first importance. In 1831 Moore was granted the half-league on which LaGrange now stands. On this land he built a block house [Moore's Fort, used as protection for early residents--WLM] on a street designated as Main. Main Street which served as a nucleus of the later LaGrange, was not far from the spot where the old La Bahia trail crossed the Colorado. Later Moore moved to his plantation six miles from LaGrange and there built a typical southern home. Here he became a successful cattle raiser, farmer, and, in time, a wealthy man. Negro slaves drove vast herds of his cattle to market in Kansas City. Moore's personal characteristics were as varied as his talents. It was his dislike for the study of Latin, for instance, that prompted him to run away from a Tennessee college and come to Texas [in 1818]. Moore's father, however, followed and took the boy back home. Later Moore came back to Texas [in 1821], settling first in Columbus and then in LaGrange. At Columbus he married [Eliza] the daughter of James Cummins. Several children were born to this union. After they grew up Moore, strangely enough, sought to keep them from marrying. The children, however, disregarded this objection, the oldest daughter to the extent of eloping. Moore never forgave the son-in-law who was a party to this runaway marriage.

In lighter moods, Moore was a clever storyteller. He could take the part of a clown in a show as easily as he could assume the role of an orator. As an orator his great knowledge of human nature, his clear vision, and his seasoned philosophy stood him in good stead. A rather austere side of his nature is shown by the fact he often stood near the preacher in church to note if the people were listening and were properly decorous. It might be added that he built the first Christian church in Fayette County."

Moore was one of those ordered arrested by Gen. Mart�n Perfecto de Cos in 1835 because they were publicly outspoken in favor of Texas independence.  Col. Moore was ready and willing at a moment's notice to assemble settlers and assume leadership in response to Mexican Centralista threat, but most commonly in regional security against Indian vandalism and depredations both in the colony and the Republic. He was one of the first to be called upon by Lamar's presidency which was known for its "get tough" policy toward Indian depredations which some credit with having made some of the horse Indians more receptive for peace negotiations during the subsequent Houston administration. In addition to the Battle of Gonzales, Moore is known for his Defeat on the San Saba 1838 for which he retaliated with a vengeance on his Victory on the Colorado 1840. Moore mustered and commanded Fayette County companies under Captains Rabb and Dawson to respond to the Vazquez invasion of San Antonio in 1842. Due to illness he did not actually participate in the Battle of Salado to remove Gen. Adrian Woll's Centralista forces from San Antonio. Some say he may have prevented the disastrous massacre of Fayette County men under Capt. Nicholas Dawson if he had been in better shape and taken command. He was second in command to Capt. Mathew Caldwell of the Texians who chased Gen. Adrian Woll's retreating forces toward the Rio Grande after the Battle of Salado.

The Sons of DeWitt Colony Texas presentation of the Battle of Gonzales is recommended for an overview of the event.   8/17/99 for Alamo de Parras Forum


What was the relationship between the Tejanos and the various Indian tribes in and around the three populated areas (Nacogdoches, San Antonio/Goliad and the area south of the Nueces)?

In my opinion there was no substantial difference between relationships and attitudes of the Tejanos (meaning Hispanic-Tejano) and Anglo-Tejano colonists prior to 1836 except one of scale.  The gap of ca. 4000 years of cultural development between the two groups of European origin and nomadic aboriginal tribes that roamed Texas ranges was so great as to make Hispanic and Anglo differences in attitudes and philosophy miniscule.  The differences in attitude among different tribes and even small bands of aboriginals toward each other was often far greater than the differences between Anglo and Hispanic culture toward the aboriginal culture as a whole.   Both when they were the majority and later the minority, historically Hispanic-Tejanos suffered far more per capita than the general Texas population from hostile nomadic aborigines that roamed and exploited the Texas frontier simply because their numbers were smaller and they were in their path on the frontera.

The failure of both missionary and military approaches under both Spain and Mexico to pacify, assimilate or exterminate hostile aboriginal populations, resulted in desperate local policies of defense by extermination which equaled or exceeded brutalities on both sides seen anytime after Anglo colonization.  Unfortunately, those individuals and tribes willing to assimilate and co-exist peacefully were most often not distinguished.   Because of the ratio of hostiles to native Tejanos, the losers were the long-suffering Tejanos.  This situation in the early 1800's was in no small part motivation to open Texas to immigration through the Empresario system.  Subsequent Texian policy in dealing with Indians in all its complications into statehood through the 19th century even to the fine detail of the modis operandi of the Texas Rangers can be found in our Spanish and Mexican roots.

On a positive note, in less than 200 years, the ca. 4000 year cultural gap closed, the attitudes and policies employed in early 1800 Texas with all their complications and tragedy worked.  There are more Texans today of native American aboriginal descent than ever in history carrying on the traditions of their ancestors while living in peace and economic prosperity beside Texans of every other conceivable origin. 08/20/99 for Alamo de Parras Forum


What were the causes of the Texas Revolution?

The most concise answer to this issue elicited by an Alamo Defender and casualty to my knowledge was one time commander James Bowie. Did other Alamo Defenders, particularly the ones that get all the most credit and "press" e.g. Travis and Crockett, express an opinion on why they were there?

From pg. 39, Bits and Pieces of Texas History in the Melting Pot of America, by Jos� Tom�s Canales:

The causes which led to the Texas Revolution of 1835-6, as briefly stated by Col. James Bowie, are as follows:

1. Jealousy of Mexicans regarding the intentions of the people of the United States, and a belief that, a design to despoil Mexico of Texas was contemplated, and had the secret aid of the American government.

2. The feelings engendered by these opinions caused Mexican officials to look upon the actions of the American residents of Texas, with suspicion, and ended in treating them unjustly and oppressively.

3. The interference in the political affairs of the Texans; the quartering of troops upon private families; the overthrow of the Mexican constitution of 1824, which the citizens of Texas had sworn to support; and the establishment of a centralized military despotism in its stead, and the attempt to invade, disarm, and reduce the Texans into subjection to the will of a tyrant, were causes impelling the colonists to resist the execution of measures which would have made them political slaves.  08/20/99 for Alamo de Parras Forum


Does Stephen F. Austin deserve the title "Father of Texas"?

Whether Stephen F. Austin is the "Father of Texas" is semantics---STEPHEN F. AUSTIN IS TEXAS---in microcosm in any one single individual past and present, making all other examples a distant, distant second. In Austin's experience, we find the entire evolution of Texas with all the political, economic and moral elements at play that gave rise to and comprise those at play in Texans of today. Visionary, but realistic and practical in the present; patient, tolerant and loyal to a sin to family, regimes, and benefactors, but unforgiving when betrayed beyond hope; self-sacrificing to the brink of martyrdom for the greater good, but mindful of making a living and enjoying a good cigar; self-analytic and initially insecure to extremes, but decisive and forceful when it's time to act. These are to name a few. To date there has not been his equal in the Presidents of the two Republics that he served nor in a Governor of the State that one became. Let's hope there will be, both in the President of the remaining Republic (Mexico) and Governor of the State.

Author Gregg Cantrell's most recent contribution, Stephen F. Austin, Empresario of Texas, is a timely, impressive tribute to Austin that adds to the above despite frequent 20-20 hindsight opinion and speculation (….probably did this….probably did it for that….) and sounding like my wife in his parenthetical comments about Austin's hotel bill add-ons. Cantrell's implication from time to time that Austin and other Anglo Mexican immigrants like him had few dreams (and real loyalties) for the Republic of Mexico with Texas as the star example, or that there were no Mexican's with similar vision; and that somehow Austin could have affected the course of Afro-slavery and Indian problems in Texas fail to dilute his positive tribute to the Father of Texas. His discussion of Austin's detractors were thorough and fair, when matched against those of any other candidates for "Father" they are pale.  At times I was afraid the author might turn to N. Doran Maillard, Gen. Santa Anna or Gen. Filisola in a desperate grasp for something negative. [Nota bene: Does choice of words "Empresario" rather than "Father" have some hidden meaning?]

10/15/99  I can agree with correspondent Long that Houston, Texas, namesake of General Sam, is certainly the "Father of Texas" cities and Austin is not in the running. However, in regard to the men, I have to agree with Austin biographer Barker on Austin:

"He was a grave, gentle, kindly man, charitable, tolerant, affectionate and loyal, naturally impulsive but restrained by habit, sensitive, lonely, and given too much, perhaps, to introspection. He enjoyed social companionship, but his position set him apart from the colonists and made close friendships with them difficult and rare. He smoked, danced now and then, loved music (he played the flute in his younger days), and his bills show occasional charges for whiskey, brandy, and wine. He was well educated, widely read for his opportunities, and a clear thinker. His letters in their straightforward precision and naturalness remind one of Franklin. He worked incessantly, unselfishly, and generally most patiently. In short, he appears to me a lovable human character, with many charming qualities." Austin biographer and historian Eugene Barker, 1918, Southwestern Historical Quarterly, XXII, 1-17.

However, it's good to know the company with which his critics will find themselves:

"The first of the villains who came to this state; Was runaway Stephen F. Austin the great; He applied to the Mexicans as I understand; And from them got permission to settle this land." Composition by Dr. Lewis D. Dayton, anti-Austin agitator 1827-8, tried, tarred and feathered and run out of San Felipe on a rail. From Difficulties of a Texas Empresario, Lester Bugbee, 1899.

Austin used "same Jesuitic and insidious policy with which he has always marked with black footprintes the crooked path along which he has traveled, under cover of darkness, in carrying out his nefarious and perfidious designs." Sterling Clack Robertson in a petition for empresa lands to Coahuila y Texas legislature 1834 (Cantrell, Stephen F. Austin, Empresario of Texas).

"-----disgusting self-deceit-----arrogant dictation-----inconsistent stupidity-----oracular weathercock-----political Proteas-----presumptious dictator" William Wharton, 1834, in response to implication by Austin that he and Chambers were conspiring against him while in prison (Cantrell, Stephen F. Austin, Empresario of Texas).

"Col. Austin, who was himself the most crafty of the 'political fanatics, political adventurers, would-be great men, and vain talkers,' wrote in this bland style, solely to escape the clutches of the Mexican government, and not with a view to restore tranquillity to Texas." N. Doran Maillard referring to Austin's approaches with Mexican officials in History of the Republic of Texas, 1842.

"-----systematic politics and treacherous intentions------ingratitude-----gravest of insults-----impudence difficult to analyze-----such were the maneuvers and the distinctive character of Stephen Austin-----surprised Gen. Teran's loyalty by failing to keep promises-----reprehensible craftiness with Gen. Filisola-----" General Vicente Filisola, in memoirs of the Texas campaign in The History of the War in Texas.

"With the hypocrisy that characterized him, Austin presented himself and tried to put in motion all the influences which his audacity suggested." Jose Maria Tornel, 1837, Secretary of War, Republic of Mexico during the Texas campaign.  10/10/99 for Alamo de Parras War Room


Was Freemasonry an influencing factor during the Texas Revolution?

Warring between free masonry factions along political lines in the newly independent Mexican Republic and meddling in the scrabbles for political interests by first US Mexican envoy, Joel Poinsett, may debatably have very indirectly contributed to the first two of three causes which led to the Texas Revolution of 1835-6, as briefly stated by Anglo-Mexican immigrant Col. James Bowie:

1. Jealousy of Mexicans regarding the intentions of the people of the United States, and a belief that, a design to despoil Mexico of Texas was contemplated, and had the secret aid of the American government.
2. The feelings engendered by these opinions caused Mexican officials to look upon the actions of the American residents of Texas, with suspicion, and ended in treating them unjustly and oppressively.

For an objective look at freemasonry and impact on 19th century Mexican politics, see Rivalries between the Scottish Rite (Ecoseses of European continental origin) and York Rite (Yorkinos of American origin) lodges

More interesting is if there is merit to stories related by old Texians like DeWitt colonist Creed Taylor and Joseph Lawrence, and San Antonio patriot Antonio Menchaca. Creed Taylor relates:

The scouting party that captured Santa Anna was composed of Joel W. Robinson [Robison], A. H. Miles, Charles P. Thompson, Joseph Vermillion, and Siron [Sion] R. Bostick, led by Color Sgt. James A. Sylvester, the gallant young man who bore the "Liberty or Death" flag through the Battle of San Jacinto, the only flag flown on the field by the Texans that day. In flushing the vicinity near Vince's Bayou, the Mexican general was discovered crouching in the tall grass along a small hollow. He was first sighted by Jim Sylvester who suddenly rode upon the fugitive. The Mexican had on a corporal's uniform and was barefooted. Sylvester at once signaled his men scattered around some four or five hundred yards away, and as they began dashing up and flourishing their guns, Santa Anna became excited, and it was at that moment that he first gave the Masonic sign of distress. Both Sylvester and Robinson were Masons and they understood what "them funny motions meant," and this no doubt accounts for the fact that the captive was not killed on the spot.

If these stories have merit, then the masonry brotherhood may have saved El Presidente from immediate or post-capture execution for which there was significant pressure. Arguably, execution of the dictator may have changed the course and timetable of independence and relative peace and painted the Texian freedom fighters as no more humane than their Centralista enemies.

There are other reports of use of the Masonic bond to spare execution or gain favors in actions in the Texas war of independence. A description of an event in Texas by W.P. Zuber mentions a role of Masonic membership as early as 1827:

It has often been said that no Free Mason can be lawfully punished for crime if the power of conviction or pardon rests in one or more members of the fraternity. All intelligent Free Masons know this to be false; but in cases of purely political offense, Masonry has frequently been the means of saving life. Mr. Sterne being a Mason of high degree, his Masonic friends in New Orleans interceded for him through the agency of General Ter�n, who was also a Mason of high rank, and Ter�n procured his pardon. But his liberation was on parole not again to bear arms against the Mexican government, nor to aid its enemies. [Adolphus Sterne, a Mason of Jewish descent, was a Nacogdoches resident who participated in the Fredonian Rebellion who, in contrast to most, was not released after the affair because of supplying arms to the rebels]

Almaron Dickinson is said to have left his Masonic apron with wife Susannah and instructed her to display it appropriately if it would aid her survival assuming she were spared in the Alamo assault. There are instances where the masonry brotherhood is said to have fostered cooperation between Anglo and Hispanic Texians prior to independence in gaining favorable political conditions for settlement through colonization.

For a discussion of early Texian Masons, see Masonic Heroes of Texas11/29/99 for Alamo de Parras War Room


On commemoration of fallen Mexican Centralists at Texas battle sites

Someone once said "There is no such thing as history, only biography," Stephen F. Austin’s nephew Guy Bryan said "ancestors are mere dust and ashes, save when they speak to posterity through the record of their deeds and achievements." Every person, whether considered good or evil, saint or sinner, deserves a cast of their "footprint in the sands of time" so that we all might learn from their experience however modest. It is customary for that to be at the site of their death or burial, if for nothing more than for those that come after, to ponder over "for whom the bell tolls," or if you will, "for whom the plaque stands." For this reason alone it is appropriate to appropriately note fallen Centralist soldiers at Texas battle sites.

This was mentioned at the 2000 commemoration of the battle of San Jacinto at the monument and battleground by author Ray Miller and probably at subsequent ones.  The most appropriate place to do this, would be at the San Jacinto battleground at the site of the largest number of fallen Centralist soldiers on that field in April 1836. A marker at this location properly done should be sufficient to commemorate all Centralista soldiers who fell at all engagements around the state. San Jacinto is most appropriate since here occurred the largest loss of life and here was the turning point in the future fate of Texas and for that matter, the Republic of Mexico of 1836 which ended up eventually giving up over half of its territory to the United States of the North either by treaty of purchase. The marker should be appropriate in design and size so as clearly not to detract from the main monument to the Texian freedom fighters and their US allies. Commemoration of all fallen Centralistas at this most important site in the struggle for a return to Mexican Republican Federalism and the struggle for liberty and independence in the originally Spanish State of Texas and Mexican State of Coahuila and Texas abrogates the need for commemoration markers of similar magnitude at the Alamo and Goliad and other sites of Centralist engagement around the state. This does not preclude notation with something like a standard Texas State historical marker or such at other sites. For example, near the Alamo, perhaps on the river or other sites where the bodies of a significant number of fallen Centralista soldiers are thought to have been disposed, or at the Campo Santo, the standard historical marker might be appropriate. Such markers should be well placed, modest and discreetly designed so as not to detract from the commemoration of the fallen Alamo defenders, or Texian patriots at other sites.

The issue of marking the site of fallen Mexican Centralista soldiers at Texas battle sites is often emotion-packed largely because of the difficulty in dissecting issues of Federalist Republican principles of liberty and independence versus Centralist vice-regalism, ecclesiastical corruption, dictatorship, racism, blind nationalism and despotism from group association based on race and cultural origin. This is especially so in this era of political correctness and apology particularly by historians and others struggling to find an identity, build a career and sell a book in an environment where it is risky to move beyond mechanical description of military tactics, ordnance and archeological digs.  The issue is particularly emotion-packed for those who maintain identity and pride in racial, cultural and/or political past and are struggling to reconcile that past with and find historical perspective in context of the current environment in which they find themselves.

While marking the site of fallen Centralista soldiers based on humanitarian principles, the fact that they were fighting for Centralist vice-regalism, dictatorship and despotism and against Federalist Republican principles of liberty, independence, and regional self-determination should be clearly pointed out and never forgotten. It is the fight for this cause instead of Federalist Republicanism that caused the loss of over half of the territory of the Republic of Mexico and repressed development of a second democratic Republic in the Americas.  A democratic Republic at least consisting of the Northern Mexican States and territories of 1836 north of Tampico to the 42 parallel, if not the entire United States of Mexico to the Guatemalan border or beyond.

Those who fell in defense of Centralism and despotism should be clearly distinguished from Mexican patriots, native born and immigrant, who resided mostly in the Northern Mexican States and territories north of Tampico except for fiercely independent Yucatan and home of Republic of Texas first Vice-President Lorezo De Zavala, and their allies, who gave their lives in defense of Federalist Republican principles. These patriots regardless of culture and country of origin should be honored with monuments throughout the current and former Northern Mexican States of 1836 by the entire current Mexican government and their Texian allies should be recognized in the process.  These patriots should be honored with much greater priority than Mexican Centralista "soldados" and Mexican-American War dead from both sides. 

Current Mexican governments and Mexicans in general must come to grips with their history, understand it, put it in perspective and then then unify around it (see Learning from Mexican History).  Mexico lost Texas because of the rejection and failure to embrace the independence movements and principles of local self-determination and economic opportunity that began in Spanish Texas as early as 1811 that were largely modeled after the independence developments and Constitution of the 19th century US of the North.   This and the failure to capitalize on alliances and free trade with the US, on which the Mexican Republic was originally founded, and the plunge into the politically and economically crippling continuous Centralist revolutions that continued into the 20th century are the forces that stunted the development of a second great democratic Republic in the Americas and resulted in loss of over half its territory.

All great countries to become or remain great with disastrous historic periods as Germany, Japan, the former members of the Soviet Union and China have or will have to go through this process that includes Texas and the USA, in particular when it broke into Civil War.

Lastly, except for purely historical site markers, it is generally customary for the commemoration of fallen soldiers, whether on current domestic or foreign soil, to be initiated by the closest surviving national group or government, be they winner or loser at the time, which represents that for which the fallen served and died.   This usually occurs with the cooperation and participation of the national group or government with current jurisdiction over the sites of the fallen.  This cooperative venture can be a means of celebrating the glorious and coming to grips with the inglorious forces that converged to cause the events and deaths of the fallen that are to be commemorated.  4/2000 for Shorts & Opinions from Don Guillermo, SDCT


Origin and meaning of the term Gringo

The origin and evolution of the usage and meaning of the term Gringo, especially in northern Mexico and what used to be Mexico in the US, has many versions. The one I have heard most is that it came from the "Green Grow" of variants of the folk song "Green Grow the Lilacs" (originally of Scotch or Irish origin, e.g. Green Grow the Rushes-O) which was sung by English speaking immigrants of northwest European origin in Texas and Latin America. Probably the most famous musical of all time, Oklahoma, was originally named "Green Grow the Lilacs.  Most linguists and historians doubt this origin, simply because it was unlikely that the song was so commonly sung by sufficient numbers of persons to have caught on all through Latin America and that "Green Grow" would be interpreted similarly as "Gringo" to the ear of so many diverse Spanish speakers who might have heard the English words.  Webster's dictionary says it is probably a Spanish alteration of griego (Greek) which came to mean generally something foreign as we say even now "it's all Greek to me" about something foreign or not understood. The term probably was originally slang for simply "stranger" or "foreigner," Gringo being purely descriptive, having a good, or bad connotation depending on one's feeling about strangers or foreigners. It probably originally referred mostly to political or nationality differences, rather than those of ethnic, race or culture. Given the xenophobic nature of Spain during the colonial period in America and its liberated colonies from time to time, the term on average acquired a negative, or suspicious meaning. Since the greatest majority of foreigners involved with New Spain and later independent Republics were non-Hispanic, Gringo probably evolved to refer mostly to peoples of Northwest European and Northeast American origin, the majority of which were Nordic, Celtic or Anglo-Saxon in respect to race and culture. I am not sure if Gringo refers more to Anglo background in respect to race and culture throughout Latin America today, or still more broadly to foreigners, but my impression is that in Mexico and the US, it has evolved to refer to Americans north of the Rio Grande of primarily Anglo background.

The term has evolved down to today as a complicated one of how, when and by whom it is used. It's an indicator of the evolution of the age old struggle to describe difference without basing it on simple racial, national and cultural identity. It seems today that a person of Anglo background may refer to themselves as a Gringo even in a group with those of Hispanic background present, but for the same person of Hispanic background to refer to the same individual in the group as a Gringo would usually not be done publicly and often have a perjorative implication. The term is used widely commercially for foods, restaurants, etc., but behind most of these are probably Anglo Americans. However, I have seen locally run pubs in South America for example Cuzco and Puno, Peru named "Gringo" this and "Gringo" that which I assume were named and owned by locals. The meaning and use of the term is likely much more complicated and delicate now than in the 19th century when it was probably common in Mexico, for example, to refer to someone from the USA openly and publicly as a "Gringo" meaning simply foreigner, most often Anglo-American foreigner, without a value placed on it.  This appears to be the case late in the 19th century, even in reference to public articles written by North Americans, but published in Mexico by Mexicans and referred to as "written by a Gringo," "from a Gringo perspective," etc. 

The date of origin of the term Gringo also varies widely, most commonly said to have become in wide use after the US war with Mexico in 1847.  It is unclear whether enemies of Texas as Santa Anna (1830-1855) and those he represented used the slang term Gringo, but if so it was to refer to the foreign character of the enemy, most of whom were Northwest European or Anglo-American origin.  If used, it was likely derogatory to the extent that the enemy in general was held in contempt.   Likewise, it is unclear if the term was used by liberal elements in New Spain and Mexico in the early 19th century who invited North Americans and foreigners to join with them in colonizing Texas and northern territories of New Spain.  If so, it was likely a descriptive term to denote the foreign origin and character of their allies and friends.  11/25/2001 for Shorts & Opinions of Don Guillermo, SDCT


First Thanksgiving in Texas 80 years before New England

Despite the fact that the current North American Thanksgiving celebrations have an distinct New England stamp from the 1621 cross between the British harvest festival and a special day of religious thanksgiving both originally observed by pilgrims in New England, 80 years before on May 23, 1541 Francisco V�squez de Coronado camped along the Palo Duro in the Texas Panhandle and celebrated with his men and llocal natives a service of Thanksgiving.

El Paso commemorates a day of thanksgiving celebrated by Spanish explorer Juan de Onate and his expedition on April 30, 1598 when he reached the Rio Grande and shared food with local natives.

However, the first Texas Thanksgiving was likely the second Thanksgiving celebrated in the New World.

1513: For many historians the first Thanksgiving in what is now the United States occurred on April 3, 1513. This took place when Juan Ponce De Leon landed in Florida during the Easter season of 1513. He and the crew gave thanks as they stepped into the water to wade ashore.  

After the 1541 Thanksgiving in Texas:

1564: A small colony of French Huguenots came to the New World for religious freedom. They established a settlement near present-day Jacksonville, Florida. They had constructed their earthen and log huts and dug a well at Fort Caroline. They also took time to give thanks to God. On June 30, 1564, their leader, Rene de Laudonniere, recorded that "We sang a psalm of Thanksgiving unto God, beseeching Him that it would please Him to continue His accustomed goodness towards us." Unfortunately they were slaughtered the next year by Spanish soldiers of Menendez de Aviles, so they really didn't get a chance to start a tradition. This event is often noted in Florida history books as the first Thanksgiving in the New World. This does not seem to be the expected "traditional" Thanksgiving. There were no Indians, no food, and the colony didn't last long.
 
1565: September 8, 1565 Don Pedro Menendez landed at what is now Mission Nombre de Dios and immediately held a Mass of Thanksgiving. Afterwards Menendez asked the local Seloy Indians to dinner. The menu was different, of course. Cocido, a stew of salt pork, garbanzo beans and garlic, served as the main course, accompanied by hard sea biscuits and red wine. Although the colonists struggled for many years, the community survived to become the first permanent European settlement in the United States. Perhaps this is closer to one's idea of the "first Thanksgiving." Dr. Michael Gannon, Assoc. Dean Univ. of Florida’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences said. "This was the first community act of religion and thanksgiving in the first permanent settlement in the land."
 
1598: El Paso commemorates a day of thanksgiving celebrated by Spanish explorer Juan de Onate and his expedition on April 30, 1598 reaching the Rio Grande and eating shared food with local natives.
 
1621: There's no doubt that today's Thanksgiving tradition is New England born and bred, a cross between a British harvest festival and a special day of religious thanksgiving, both originally observed by pilgrims in New England.
 
In 1621, just months after their arrival from England, residents of Plymouth celebrated a harvest festival, which was indistinguishable from those observed throughout Britain at the time. It was a secular event with feasting and games. The only religious observance was the saying of grace before the meal.  11/24/05 Texian Web Consortium Forum


Massacre or execution at Goliad?  

The debate continues over whether the Palm Sunday 1835 deaths of Texians and volunteers aiding in their cause from the US resisting the Centralista dictatorship of Santa Anna should be termed a massacre or execution.

According to the Austin American Statesman "Estella Zermeo, a Goliad native who traces her lineage to one of the original soldiers assigned by the Spanish crown to the presidio, said a Tejano center could change that. Her ancestors also include Karankawa Indians and people who fought on both sides during the Civil War. She and her husband, William, share these stories as volunteer tour guides at the Zaragoza house."

"They also tell visitors about an alternative view of what history books call the Goliad Massacre. The Zermeos consider 'execution' a more accurate term, as well as a less pejorative one. At the time, Mexican law treated prisoners as pirates of war subject to execution."

"But Newton Warzecha, the director of Presidio La Bahia, which is owned and operated by the Catholic Diocese of Victoria who has made Fannin's fate a centerpiece theme at the presidio with an annual re-enactment of the event, bristles at what he regards as an effort to rewrite history."

Texian Web Reference:  Massacre at Goliad

12/7/05 The Texas Web Consortium Forum


Our Lady of Guadalupe belongs to all Texans

Hidalgo BannerReading an article in the December 10 issue of the Austin American-Statesman, The Virgin of Guadalupe—Her Miracles Live on in Austin leaves us thinking that Our Lady’s influence in Texas is limited to a religious icon for recent Mexican immigrants or subject of nouveau Chicano pop art that to some insults Nuestra Se�ora de Guadalupe (Our Lady), the patron saint of the Americas, and borders on blasphemy.

The search term “Guadalupe” returns a respectable 803 hits from Handbook of Texas History indicating Our Lady’s influence on the history of the State to the present.

Some believe Father Hidalgo’s Grito de Delores that set off the Mexican independence movement from Spanish colonialism included the cry of “Long Live Our Lady of Guadalupe” in addition to cries for independence to mobilize sympathy based on the belief that Spanish authorities had accepted the anti-Catholic views of the French Revolution. The principal standard of the Hidalgo resistance was a picture of Our Lady. Hidalgo’s resistance to Spanish tyranny marked by Mexican Independence Day of 16 September was the first milestone in the liberty and independence that Texas enjoys today.

The first President of independent Mexico that included Texas, Jos� Felix Fern�ndez, changed his name to Guadalupe Victoria (Victorious Lady of Guadalupe). Empresario Mart�n De Le�n who established the De Le�n Colony of Mexican Texas and fought for the independence of Texas from Mexico was a devotee of both Our Lady and President Guadalupe Victoria. It was in honor of them that he named the town in his colony on the south part of the Guadalupe River (known earlier as Cypress Grove), now current Victoria, Texas.

The Guadalupe River, with tributaries Comal and San Marcos, courses 230 miles from the Hill Country to the Gulf, drains 6070 square miles and has supported human cultures for thousands of years was named in honor of Our Lady as early as 1689 by Alonso De Le�n.

While paying lip service to Our Lady, a hypocritical Centralist Mexico under the dictatorship of Antonio L�pez de Santa Anna laid waste to citizens on the Guadalupe River drainage in 1836, that resulted in the eventual loss of Texas and over half of Mexican territory.

One displaced Texan woman resident when asked in 1838 why are you returning to that wasteland remarked “I had rather return to the Warloope river, drink of its waters and subsist on catfish and buttermilk, while risking all enemies, rather than settle down any where else."

The Guadalupe Mountains and one of Texas’ highest peaks, Guadalupe Peak within Guadalupe Mountains National Park stand as a majestic tribute in native art to Our Lady that dwarfs any of the depictions of man.  12/24/05 Texian Web Consortium Forum


Was Texas Built on Ethnic Cleansing?

The Conquest of TexasTexana columnist Mike Cox asks the question in an Austin-American Statesman article of November 20, 2005 concerning a new book by Oklahoma history professor Gary Clayton Anderson entitled "The Conquest of Texas: Ethnic Cleansing in the Promised Land, 1820-1875." The cover is blood red with a Comanche chief wearing a U.S. Cavalry hat, star on the crown with the big "X" in the word "Texas" in red ink over the chief's face.

According to Cox, Anderson "spits out his basic theme after correctly pointing out that Texas saw nearly a half-century of bloody cultural war during the 19th century.”

Says Anderson “Although the following statement may seem 'presentistic' to some, in hindsight the conflict can be seen for what it was: an Anglo-Texas strategy and a policy (at first haphazard, debated, and even at times abandoned) that gradually led to the deliberate ethnic cleansing of a host of people, especially people of color.”

Cox remarks "At least he isn't accusing our Texas forebears of practicing genocide, a charge even he believes too broad. Nineteenth-century Texas, in Anderson's view, was more like 20th-century Yugoslavia than 20th-century Nazi Germany."

Anderson says "Recent studies of Yugoslavia and elsewhere reveal that political elites often direct the actions of paramilitary groups involved in ethnic cleansing. The situation was similar in Texas where politicians supported Texas Ranger units that became the agents of ethnic cleansing."

In agreement with Cox, Anderson "dug deep" in terms of original documents and "his bibliography lists a considerable amount of primary material, and he certainly read the mail of key figures in the Texas government, the military and federal agencies that handled Indian affairs."

This may be useful for further research to Texas historians if one can get past his polemics, bias, subjectivity and hypocrisy--statements like "some Texans began to see rangers for what they really were — an embarrassment and a threat to law and order."

Cox concluded about the book "Not every ranger shot first and asked questions later, but this book does."

Overall, this book appears to be largely another rewrite of the topic of more objective treatises to feed the increasing audience of modern day racists, some of whom propose the same fascist methods, to "ethnically cleanse" our current society of whomever or whatever cultural aspect they feel so inclined.

A complimentary review of the book by this readership says “The Conquest of Texas is one of the most important books on Texas history ever written." Anderson "makes a distinction between genocide and the newer concept of ethnic cleansing, a lesser charge based on removal by any means. But the author’s research repeatedly undercuts that distinction. How much of the Texas creed, that hatred of otherness, still exists, not only here, but across the American West? Texas is now a minority-majority, very multicultural state. History is not over. It’s time for a new Texas Revolution, but this time the only killing that needs to be done is that of the hatred. It’s time to kill that s---t right out of the land.”

One wonders whose hatred this reviewer is referring to, hopefully his own?

Serious students who wish to learn and reflect objectively about the titanic forces governing cultural life and death from the inevitable clash between the racially, culturally and economically diverse non-aboriginal Texians with unified vision and purpose, and the inbred, homogenous and disorganized bands we know as 19th century Texas Indians would best turn to W.W. Newcomb Jr.’s last chapter, “Extermination and Oblivion” in “The Indians of Texas: From Prehistoric to Modern Times” written in 1961.

Newcomb remarkably covers the good, the bad, the ugly, the politics, the forces of nature, and the sociology without taking sides avoiding the moralistic and sociological pitfall of substituting one cultural group’s flaws for another.

Newcomb concluded that to view the events of Texas history from such narrow standpoints is to miss the magnitude and meaning of what happened in the broader context of history.

Anderson and his audience fulfill this and are destined to simply futilely repeat the distasteful events of history that they write about.

“Given the accelerating industrial revolution of the United States, its spurting population growth, and the vast empty spaces of the West, inhabited mostly by a few Stone Age tribes of Indians, the inevitability of what had to happen becomes clear…….as a spring torrent sweeps up leaves and twigs for a journey to an unknown fate” says Newcomb.

Modern America and with Texas the leading “nation state” within it “is an old tale often repeated in human history. A new and mighty civilization blossomed upon the sere stalks of the brittle, outmoded nations of past seasons” [quotes Newcomb’s words].

In the end along with these inevitable events, Texas and America integrated the culture and genetics of the American Indians, learned from them and benefited to today greatly.

The 2000 US census shows 4.1 million Americans who see themselves as descended from Native Indians. There are more Texans of Indian heritage alive today quietly practicing to one extent or other elements of their culture than when Columbus stepped ashore in 1492. They are participating in all walks of life contributing to the dynamism and diversity of current Texas and quietly insuring that they will not go the way of their inbred tribal ancestors.

This and modern genetic analysis proves that accusations of ethnocide and genocide are oxymoronic terms.

Links from Texian Web sites:
Texas Indians
History of Tsalagiyi Nvdagai (Texas Cherokees)

12/18/05 Texian Web Consortium Forum


Houston 1836—is it a politically incorrect name for Houston's professional soccer team?

In an Op-Ed in the Houston Chronicle, University of Houston Assistant Professor of History, Ra�l A. Ramos contends that the new name for the new Houston major league soccer team will “alienate Houstonians of Mexican origin, a group that is surely a large part of the team's fan base.”

He contends it will “alienate Texans of Mexican descent struggling to identify with a place that was created out of Mexican defeat.”

Although the name was primarily meant to refer to the founding year of Houston, he says “the team logo compounds the connection by depicting Sam Houston on horseback, leading the charge against Mexican troops. While the year represents Texas independence, it also raises the complicated and sometimes shameful history that came along with it.”

“For Mexicans, Texas secession started the process of American conquest culminating in the invasion of Mexico in 1846 and the loss of almost half its territory.”

For the most part Dr. Ramos’ treatise reflects the trendy cause-driven knee-jerk jump on the bandwagon of political correctness. However, more seriously it is based on a na�ve and narrowly focused view of the dynamics of history particularly that of the evolution of Texas as a part of Spain, Mexico, an independent nation and then the alliance with the USA.

He could empower Hispanics by dissecting the heroism and contributions of those who resisted the despotism of Spanish colonialism, the racism of Centralist dictatorship, the evils of coalition of church and state from the blind nationalists who lost territory and stunted Mexican national development through constant revolution into the 20th century.

By invoking the racial and political victimization rationale on which his revisionist views are based, he hypocritically disenfranchises the very people he implies are in his best interest from a stake in what they enjoy today earned through their antecedent’s role in Texas, Mexican and American history. They are simply reduced to victims in need of welfare or reparations, or more endless cycles of revolution for empowerment and franchise.  1/29/06 Texian Web Consortium Forum
 


Learning from Mexican history

A young Mexican girl’s history project contains a wealth of original documents, historical events and biographies of historic characters in Mexican history (in Spanish).  These are certainly useful to Texas historians given that up to 1847 Mexican history was Texas history.  It remains intimately interwoven today.

A quote on her homepage particularly caught my attention while pondering the controversy over naming Houston’s new soccer team "Houston 1836."

"En otros pa�ses la historia sirve para unir a los ciudadanos en torno de un pasado com�n. En M�xico es motivo de discordia, factor de grave desuni�n. Los norteamericanos honran por igual a Ulysses Grant y a Robert E. Lee, generales enemigos. Nosotros, en cambio, seguimos absurdamente divididos: hay todav�a hispanistas e indigenistas; nadie puede mencionar a Iturbide, Maximiliano o Porfirio D�az so pena de ser tachado de "reaccionario"; las pasiones de la Revoluci�n no se han sosegado a�n. Bien puede decirse que los personajes de la historia de M�xico nunca descansan en paz. Aqu� la historia no es una maestra sino, una luchadora. Hemos de ver con otros ojos el relato de nuestro pasado; interpretarlo a lo humano, de tal manera que nos lleve a la unidad. Ni h�roes totales ni absolutos villanos hay en nuestra historia, sino hombres que vivieron su tiempo, tuvieron aciertos y cometieron yerros. Si somos capaces de apreciar en objetividad lo mismo a Hidalgo y a Iturbide, a Maximiliano y a Ju�rez, a don Porfirio y a Madero lograremos una inteligente s�ntesis conciliadora y llegaremos a esa unidad nacional que todav�a nos falta".  Cat�n

In essence the quote suggests that Mexican history if looked at wisely in broad perspective can be a teacher and unifying source for the future rather than a source of continuous division.  No historic leaders are completely heroes or villains.

The quote reinforces two old favorites:
Those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it--G. Santayana
When a society or a civilization perishes, one condition can always be found. They forgot where they came from.--C. Sandburg 
2/24/06 Texian Web Consortium Forum


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