The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 102, July 1998 - April, 1999

Understanding Lorenzo de Zavala
Signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence
MARGARET SWETT HENSON*
ON FEBRUARY 28, 1836, A COLD SUNDAY EVENING, YUCATAN NATIVE
Lorenzo de Zavala rode his small mule into the raw village of
Washington.' He was the first of the three Harrisburg delegates to ar-
rive for the convention scheduled to begin on March 1. Just one year
ago he had been in Paris, France, waiting for his replacement as the
Mexican minister to the court of King Louis Phillipe. No doubt that
pleasant memory crossed his mind as he approached the tiny settle-
ment on the Brazos River. He was not surprised by the frontier condi-
tions because he had already visited the other Brazos River towns, and
Harrisburg on Buffalo Bayou was much the same except that supplies
from New Orleans arrived with more ease. Here there were few
amenities.
William Fairfax Gray, a visitor from Virginia, had arrived a few days
earlier and noted that Washington was a "rare place to hold a national
convention." It had a "dozen wretched cabins . . . not one decent
house . . . [and] only one well defined street." Gray and probably
Zavala lodged at James A. Lott's crowded clapboard tavern, the largest
in town. The family and thirty guests slept in the few beds or on the
floor in the twenty-by-forty-foot single room with a fireplace at each
end. Poor meals were served in a shed.2
Gray, a former postmaster and bookstore owner, was in Texas on
land business and immediately introduced himself to Zavala. Gray
thought Zavala was "the most interesting man in Texas ... a fine writer
* Margaret Swett Henson, a leading authority on early Texas, is the author of numerous
books and articles, including The Cartwrights of San Augustine: Three Generations of Agricultural En-
trepreneurs in Nineteenth-Century Texas, with Deolece Parmelee (TSHA, 1993). She delivered this
paper as her presidential address at the March 1998 annual meeting of the TSHA. It is based on
the author's Lorenzo de Zavala: The Pragmatzc Idealist (TCU Press, 1996). She owes a debt of grati-
tude to TSHA member, Dr. Raymond Estep, for his dissertation (University of Texas, 1942) fo-
cusing on Zavala's political life in Mexico and providing the details for that segment of Zavala's
career.
' Paul Lack (ed.), The Diary of William Fairfax Gray: From Virginia to Texas, I835-1837 (Dallas:
William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies, 1997), 111, 126.
2Ibid., 97, 98 (quotations).

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 102, July 1998 - April, 1999. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101219/. Accessed May 30, 2015.