Sam Houston
by
Bob Ellenwood, MPS

Sam Houston was born in Timber Ridge Church, Rockbridge County, Virginia on March 3, 1793. His family moved to Tennessee in the Spring of 1807. His father had suffered some financial hardship and had sold their farm in Virginia. He passed away before the family moved to Tennessee. The family lived on a farm that Sam's father had acquired before he died.

Sam had trouble getting along with his older bothers so he "ran away" from home and lived on an island in the middle of the Tennessee river with some Cherokee indians. One of the tribal chiefs there "adopted" Sam as his son. This chief's name was Oo-loo-te-ka [John Jolly]. He gave Sam the Indian name of Co-lon-neh (the Raven). Sam lived with these Cherokee Indians until he was eighteen years old.

In 1813, Sam enlisted in the U.S. Army. Shortly there after he was promoted to Sergeant, then a few months later he was made an Ensign and transferred to the 39th Infantry. There he served as a Lt. in the Militia under General Andrew Jackson against the Creek Indian "Red Sticks." He was severely wounded in an attack upon the Indians. Having been shot first in the thigh with an arrow and having had it removed, Sam charged to try and inspire his men to attack. During this charge Sam was shot in the right shoulder and right arm having a ball lodged in each of them. He was left to die since the doctors didn't think his wounds could be healed. Quoting from Sam Houston's writings:

"One ball was extracted, but no attempt was made to extract the other, for the surgeon said it was unnecessary to torture me, since I could not survive till the next morning. I spent the night as soldiers do, who war in the wilderness, and carry provisions in their knapsacks for a week's march. Comforts were out of the question for any; but I received less attention than the others, for everybody looked on me as a dying man, and what could be done for any, they felt should be done for those who were likely to live. It was the darkest night of my life.

"On the following day, I was started on a litter, with the other wounded, for Fort Williams, some sixty or seventy miles distant. Here I remained, suspended between life and death, for a long time, neglected and exposed. I was finally brought back, through the Cherokee Nation, to my mother's home in Maryville, where I arrived in the latter part of May, nearly two months after the battle of the Horse-Shoe.

"This long journey was made in a litter, borne by horses, while I was not only helpless but suffering the extremist agony. My diet was of the coarsest description, and most of the time I was not only deprived of medical aid, but even of those simple remedies which would, at least, have alleviated my sufferings. Our toilsome way was through the forests where we were obligated to encamp out and often without shelter. No one around me expected me to recover. When I reached the house of my mother, I was so worn to a skeleton that she declared she never would have known me except for my eyes, which still retained something of their wonted expression."

He lay all this time before they decided that he would not die and tried to do something with his wounds. He carried bad scars of this battle for the rest of his life. He served in the 39th Infantry from July, 1813, until May 1818, when he resigned. This is when and where he and General Andrew Jackson met and became close friends.

Sam Houston had very little formal education, however, when he decided he wanted to become a Lawyer and was told that it would take him approximately eighteen months study and work to pass the bar examination, Houston didn't believe this and studied law at Nashville, passed the Bar and became a Lawyer in six months (approximately one-third the time).

Sam Houston joined Cumberland Masonic Lodge, No. 8, he was Initiated on April 19, Passed to the degree of Fellow Craft on June 20, and Raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason on July 22, 1817.

Sam demitted from Cumberland Lodge on November 20, 1817, and re-affiliated on June 21, 1821. During this period he supposedly was a charter member of Nashville Lodge, No. 37. He served Cumberland Lodge as Junior Warden and, in 1824, attended Grand Lodge as a Past Master. He was recorded in one place as having demitted from Cumberland Lodge on January 20, 1831; however, he is listed in the proceedings of 1828 as having been suspended for un-Masonic conduct.

Some time in 1820, Sam ran for the office of District Attorney and was elected District Attorney of Davidson District in Tennessee. He served twelve months very successfully and then resigned to return to the regular practice of law.

In September, 1821, the former enlisted man aspired to a high office----that of Major General in the Tennessee Militia----and was elected. He certainly had made good his boast that those who taunted him about joining the army in the ranks would hear from him.

Then Brother Sam was elected, in 1823 and 1825, and served two terms as a congressman in the House of Representatives from Tennessee and was a Major General. On October 1 of 1827, he was elected Governor of Tennessee.

Quoting Judge Jo C. Guild, who knew Sam Houston well: "Houston stood six feet six inches in his socks, was of fine contour, a remarkably well proportioned man, and of commanding and gallant bearing, had a large, long head and face and his fine features were lit up by large eagle-looking eyes; possessed of a wonderful recollection of persons and names, a fine address and courtly manners and a magnetism approaching that of General Andrew Jackson. He enjoyed unbounded popularity among men and was a great favorite with the ladies."(1)

Then on January 22, 1829, at the age of 37, he married an 18-year Lady, named Eliza Allen, but for some reason (speculation was, on the part of those against Houston, that she left him) was very unhappy with her so he resigned as Governor, left his wife and moved to the Indian Territory where he lived again with his adopted father and remarried, an Indian woman by the name of Talahina (Tiana), and worked closely with and for the Cherokee Indian Nation in what was to become Indian Territory, setting relations with the other Indian nations back in the early 1800's.

Quoting from A History of Oklahoma by Grant Foreman, page 9, "Another element of that period that was to color the history of Oklahoma was the arrival in June, 1829, of Sam Houston. From pique and disappointment he had abandoned his high office of governor of Tennessee to live among the Cherokee Indians in the future Oklahoma. He came up the Arkansas River and landed near the mouth of the Illinois to join his old Cherokee Friend, Chief John Jolly, who lived a mile or two up that stream on the east bank. After remaining here a while he continued to Fort Gibson and three miles northwest of the fort on the road to the Creek agency established himself in what he called Wigwam Neosho, where he set up a little store. Here he took deep interest in the welfare of the Indians, whose difficulties and suffering enlisted his warm sympathy. He wrote many letters to the department at Washington in which he endeavored to secure redress for them and discipline officials whom he blamed for many of their wrongs. At the same time, however, he was scheming with the influence he had with President Jackson to secure lucrative contracts to ration the Indians it was hoped would be emigrated from the East, if Jackson's plans for removal should materialize. Houston returned to Fort Gibson from Washington after his plan failed, and in 1832, departed for Texas, where he helped make history for that future state."

Actually, Talahina's name was Diana or Dianna Rogers. She was a member of a very famous Cherokee family and the Cherokee leader, David Gentry. She was a tall and beautiful woman, the daughter of Captain John "Hell Fire Jack" Rogers, one of the most prominent white men in the Cherokee Nation. Her brothers were: Captain John Rogers, Jr., William Rogers and Charles Rogers, all famous Cherokee Indians. She was also some kin to Sequoyah(2). One of her uncles was John Jolly She appeared to be more a "white woman" because she was less than a quarter Cherokee Indian, probably closer to "one-sixteenth Cherokee and fifteen-sixteenths Scotch and English."

Quoting:(3) "The popular tale is that Houston lay in the gutter of life suffering from the wounds of his marriage failure and drank himself through a period of three years. Nothing could be farther from the truth, for this was one of the most productive periods in Houston's life. If Houston were "The Big Drunk" this is a perfect application of Lincoln's purported request to know the brand name of the whiskey which General Grant drank so that he could issue it to his other generals.

"Sam Houston accomplished more during these three years than many men do in a lifetime. During his years with the Cherokees, Houston made two trips to Washington to assist in negotiation with Jackson and the War Department, and his negotiation to end the warfare between the Osages and the Creeks and the Cherokees was the most successful in thirty years of attempted settlements. A long-range reform program in the Indian Agency system as well as removal of agents of questionable ability and honesty resulted from his intervention; through his political column in the Arkansas Gazette and the pamphlets of Tah-lohn-tus-ky and Standing Bear, Houston spearheaded the Indian Bureau reform programs."

Then on October 21, 1829, Sam Houston was made a citizen of the Cherokee Nation (Tribe) by tribal action. He then journeyed to Washington, D.C. vested with "all the rights, privileges and immunities" of a tribal member. There he was officially received as the Ambassador of the Cherokee Nation by the then President of the United States, Andrew Jackson.

In late November of 1832, he went to Texas, made application to live in Stephen F. Austin Colony. In 1832, when Sam Houston moved to Texas, he affiliated with Holland Lodge No. 36 of LA. It later became Holland Lodge No. 1 of Texas. On December 20, 1837, he presided over the meeting which established the Grand Lodge of Texas. Then he demitted from Holland Lodge on July 14, 1842, and was next reported as a member of Forest Lodge No. 19, in Huntsville, TX, in 1851. Then, as a member of the first convention, April 1, 1833, he chaired a committee to write a constitution for the republic of Texas. Actually he wrote most of it himself, and then he was elected general of the militia. On November 3, 1835, Texas declared independence and Houston was elected as Major General to command the Army. On March 2, 1836, he was a member of the convention that declared absolute independence and they named him Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. This was his 43rd birthday. It was during this time that Houston served as Commander-in-Chief during the Texas war for independence from Mexico and won a decisive victory over General Santa Anna (another Mason) at the battle of San Jacinto where Texas lost five men and Mexico over 1000. Following the slaughters at the Alamo and Goliad, Commander-in-Chief Sam Houston and his army defeated the Mexicans at San Jacinto and took Santa Anna a prisoner. This was on April 2, 1836, and during this engagement General Sam Houston was again wounded. His right leg was terribly hurt. Then on May 5, 1836, Houston turned the command of his armies over to Major General Thomas J. Rusk because of his wound.

Then, on May 22, 1836, Sam Houston then went to New Orleans where he was treated by the same doctor who had treated him nearly thirty years earlier. This doctor said had Houston not been treated when he was he would have died as mortification had already begun to set in, in his leg. This wound was to bother him a great deal for the rest of his life.

On September 5, 1836, Sam Houston was elected President of the Newly formed Texas Republic he took the oath of office on October 22, 1836. And even though his candidacy was announced only twelve days previous to the election, he received 4,374 of the total of 5,104 votes. His term expired on December 12, 1838.

Sam Houston meet and fell head over heals in love with Margaret Lea sometime in the summer of 1839. They were married on May 9, 1840, now Sam was 47 years, two months and seven days old at the time. He served two years in the House of Representatives of the Texas Republic while Mirabeau Lamar was President. Lamar was a disaster as President, spending the nation into insolvency and at the end of Lamar's term Houston was elected for the second time and served again as president from December 13, 1841, until December 9, 1844. Sam served as President through some very trying times. On November 20, 1836, Sam Houston wrote President Andrew Jackson to inform him Santa Anna was on his way to Washington D.C. Also, letting Jackson know that he, Houston, hoped Texas could become a state of the United States. He was President of the Texas Republic went it voted to become a state on February 16, 1846.

After having served as first and third Presidents of the Texas Republic; he then labored hard for the admission of Texas and this wish of his came to fruition on December 29, 1845. After the United States House of Representatives voted to annex Texas in January of 1845 and the U.S. Senate in February and President Tyler signed the bill on March 1, 1845 it was up to Texas. The people of Texas voted to ratify this action on October 13, 1845. Then on February 16, 1846, the Lone Star Flag of the Republic of Texas was lowered and the Stars and Stripes were raised over Texas.

Later in March of 1846, Sam was elected to the U.S. Senate as Senator from Texas. He served as Senator until March of 1859.

At this stage of his life Oliver Dyer wrote of Houston: "He was fifty-five years old, a magnificent barbarian, somewhat tempered by civilization. He was of large frame, of stately carriage and dignified demeanor and had a lion-like countenance capable of expressing fiercest passions. His dress was peculiar, but it was becoming to his style. The conspicuous features of it were a military cap, and a short military cloak of fine blue broadcloth, with a blood-red lining. Afterward, I occasionally met him when he wore a vast and picturesque sombrero and a Mexican blanket."(4)

Then he was elected and inaugurated as Governor of Texas on December 21, 1859, and served from then until 1861. Thus he served as Governor of Texas; tried very hard to keep the U.S. together and tried to prevent the Civil War, even to the extent of being the people's candidate for President against Steven A. Douglas and Abraham Lincoln, withdrawing from the race during the campaign in an attempt to keep the Republican candidate, Abraham Lincoln, from being elected because Houston was not convinced that Lincoln would try and hold the U.S. together. Sam Houston was dedicated to the U.S. first and Texas second. Both were very important to him. When Texas succeeded from the Union, Governor Houston refused to accept it. When the roll was called and Houston's name was called he was no where to be found so the Lt. Governor was inaugurated as Governor.

Later, on his way home, he stopped in Brenham, where Houston was asked to make a speech he refused. His old solider comrades and other friends at Brenham insisted that he speak. He firmly refused until the excitement became intense; excited groups of secessionists gathered upon the street corners, and declared that it would be treason against the Confederate Government to permit Governor Houston to speak against the secession. The court house was densely packed, and as Governor Houston arose to speak, cries were heard:" Put him out; don't let him speak; kill him." At this moment Mr. Hugh McIntyre, a wealthy planter of the community, and a leading secessionist, sprang up on the table and drew a large Colt revolver saying, "I and 100 other friends of Governor Houston have invited him to address us, and we will kill the first man who insults, or who may, in any way attempt to injure him. I, myself, think that Governor Houston ought to have accepted the situation, and ought to have taken the oath of allegiance to our Confederate Government, but he thought otherwise. He is honest and sincere, and he shed his blood for Texas independence. He has the right to be heard by the people of Texas. Now, fellow-citizens, give him your close attention; and you ruffians, keep quite, or I will kill you."

The Civil War turned out just as Sam had predicted. He had said all along that the south didn't have a chance of winning. Sam Houston died at the end of the Civil War on July 16, 1863, at the age of 70 years, four months and thirteen days.

One of Houston's writings was: "The great misfortune is that a notion obtains with those in power that the world, or the people, require more governing than is necessary. To govern well is a great science, but no country is ever improved by too much governing. Govern wisely and as little as possible! Most men think when they are elevated to position that it requires an effort to discharge their duties and they leave common sense out of the question."(5)

Sam Houston left his wife and eight children, when he died.

In summary: Houston was elected to congress in 1823 and 1825. He was elected Governor of Tennessee in 1827. Then served as Commander-in-Chief of the Texas Military, was elected and served as President of the Texas Republic twice and a member of the house of representatives once, served as Senator from the State of Texas and served two terms as Governor of Texas.

 

NOTES

1. 1. J. C. Guild, Old Times in Tennessee, page 262.

2. 2. Famous Cherokee Indian who invented the Cherokee Alphabet. It was so simple they could master it in a few days and soon a large part of the tribe employed the new alphabet in uses never known to them before.

3. 3. Sam Houston with the Cherokees, 1829-1833 by Jack Gregory and Rennard Strickland. University of Oklahoma Press.

4. 4. By Oliver Dyer, of the shorthand staff of the Senate in his Great Senators of the United Sates.

5. 5. From The Autobiography of Sam Houston by Day & Ullom, page 254.