Texans turn out war hero Sam Houston over secession

 March 16, 1861

On this day the legendary Sam Houston, hero of the Texas Revolution, was drummed out of office as the Lone Star State’s sixth governor.

Arriving when it still belonged to Mexico, he’d been elected the first president of the Texas Republic twice and was one of the first two United States senators.  

Winning the governorship on an anti-seccession platform, Houston (right) fell out of favor in the summer of 1860 during what became known as  the “Texas Troubles.”  Rumors of a”slave revolt” in the north and east resulted in vigilante lynchings of as many as 100 African Americans and abolitionists.  Following a Secession Convention in February the following year, more than three quarters of Texans voted to leave the Union.

Houston was promptly deposed.  A slave owner and a states rights advocate  who believed in the Confederate cause, he just didn’t think the South could win. The highly industrialized North possessed nearly all the factories and most of the railroads,  he insisted,  and a near religious fervor to keep the Union together.  The war would cost the South “millions in treasure,” he warned, and “hundreds of thousands of lives.”

The remainder of his term was filled by Lieutenant Governor Edward Clark, (right) a staunch secessionist.  Born in Louisiana and raised in Alabama, he was a nephew to one-time Georgia Governor John Clark.   Clark ran for a full term that same year but Texans found an even stronger secessionist, voting Clark out.  Francis Lubbock (left) favored universal Confederate conscription of all able-bodied Texas men.    

Reversals of fortune seemed to plague Sam Houston.   He was the only person ever to serve as the popularly elected governor of two states, Texas and Tennessee.   In both cases he left office without completing a single term.  After winning the 1827 election in Tennessee, he resigned in 1829 amid rumors of alcoholism and veiled accusations of impotence from his new bride of eleven weeks, 20-year-old Eliza Allen. (Left)

He landed in Texas in 1833 on the heels of yet another scandal, after having been found guilty of assaulting Ohio Congressman William Stanbery.  The Ohio Congressman accused Houston and two fellow House members of devising a fraudulent scheme to supply rations to the Cherokee Nation.  

Houston took great exception to Stanbery’s accusation.  He’d lived among the Cherokee as a teen, forming a close bond with the Cherokee Nation’s principle chief, John Jolly (Ahuludegi), (left) marrying Jolly’s niece, Talahina Rogers in 1830.  Several letters to Stanbery demanding an apology went ignored.  A confrontation with the Congressman on a Washington street corner turned ugly when  Houston beat Stanbery severely with a “hickory cane.”

The best efforts of Houston’s attorney, poet Francis Scott Key of “Star Spangled Banner” fame, were apparently not sufficiently poetic to persuade the court that his client had “acted in self-defense.”  Houston headed for Texas rather than pay $500 in damages to Stanbery. (Left) 

In the end, Sam Houston’s worst fears of a civil war were proved right.  The North’s military “avalanche” impoverished the South for decades and as many as 289,000 Southern men, young and old, were casualties to bloody battles, disease and hardship during four and a half years of war.    

Houston did not live to witness the final outcome.  He died of pneumonia at his home in Huntsville on July 26, 1863 at the age of 70 and was buried at Oakwood Cemetery there.   He was survived by his third wife,  Margaret Moffette Lea and their eight children, permanently putting to rest Eliza Allen’s claim of impotence.  Margaret (right) outlived Houston by a mere three years, dying in 1887 at just 48.  

First wife, Eliza Allen, finally found a husband to her liking.  While it was rumored she loved another at the time of her separation from Houston, the romance failed to produce a wedding.  In 1840, however, at age 31 she married 42-year-old Dr. Elmore Douglass, father of 11 children by a previous marriage.  The mother of four children of her own,  she died in 1861 at the age of 50.

Second wife, Talahina Rogers, had remained in Oklahoma and died there in 1839 at about 40.  As the widow of a United States soldier, however,  in 1904 she was reinterred from Wilson’s Rock to Fort Gibson National Cemetery.

Fort Gibson Nation Cemetery, Oklahoma

Both of Houston’s successors in the governor’s office, Clark and Lubbock, joined the Confederate Army following their gubernatorial  terms, Lubbock serving eight months as a Union prisoner.  Both ex-governors outlived the Confederacy.   Texas survived as well, readmitted to the Union in 1870.

The Sam Houston Memorial Museum, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas, includes 15 acres of park-like grounds, museum galleries and two of Houston’s historic houses. Woodland, (below) Houston’s home for 13 years, was begun in 1846 as a one-room log cabin and expanded to include a breezeway, a second log portion and a half story loft. A restored cabin contained Houston’s law office.  Woodland is on the National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmarks. 

Steamboat House, (below) where Houston died, had been built as a wedding gift for Dr. Rufus W. Bailey’s son.  The newlyweds rejected the house and it set vacant until  Houston moved to Huntsville.  The unusual residence wasn’t any more popular after Houston’s death, passing to numerous owners and finally falling into disrepair.  Rescued by businessman  J.E. Josey, it was deeded to the Texas Historical Commission and moved to the University campus in 1936.

Experienced visitors suggest wearing comfortable shoes and selecting a cool day.  Memorial Museum and the gift shop are open 9 to 4:30 Tuesday through Saturday and Sunday, Noon to 4:30.  Closed holidays.  Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, $3 for children 6 to 18.  For more information go to samhoustonmemorialmuseum.com, call (936) 294-1832 or write 1402 19th Street, Huntsville, TX 77340.

  © Text Only – 2020 – Headin’ West LLC  – All photos – public domain or fair use.

*Head On West strives for historic accuracy and uses a number of sources considered reliable.  When research differs on significant facts, the various points of view will be cited.