Heritage, 2011, Volume 2 Page: 32
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Reflections from the Great, Great,
Great-Granddaughter of a Texas Patriot
An Interview with Sylvia Navarro Tillotson
Casa Navarro State Historic Si
Sylvia Navarro Tillotson, a Texas Historical Foundation board member from
Dallas, is a direct descendent of Josd Antonio Navarro, who was a well-known
San Antonio politician, businessman, and leader of the Tejano community in
19th-century Texas. Navarro was one of two native-born Texans to sign the Texas
Declaration of Independence and helped draft the first state constitution at the
Convention of 1845. In the following piece, Tillotson talks about how her connec-
tion to such important Texas history events has influenced her life. In 2006, she
formed the Friends of Casa Navarro, a non-profit organization affiliated with
te, the original San Antonio residence of the Navarro family patriarch. Sylvia and
her husband John are pictured above.
I'm a native of San Antonio from a
family of five girls. Growing up, my
sisters and I learned that we were
descendents of Jose Antonio Navarro,
but we only knew that he was a signer
of the Texas Declaration of
Independence. My father felt far
removed from his famous ancestor, and
the attitude in our home was that being
a Navarro descendant was something
that we just happened to be.
Although little emphasis was placed
on this distinguished heritage, my par-
ents did attend the opening of Casa
Navarro as a historic site and museum
When Jose Navarro died in 1871, his
daughter Josefa Tobin inherited his
house and property (three structures),
but sold it five years later and moved to
California. The property changed hands
several times and fell into disrepair.
Slated for demolition in the late 1950s,
the homestead was saved and restored by
the San Antonio Conservation Society.
The dedication at Casa Navarro was held
on February 27, 1960, a date that
Governor Price Daniel had declared as
"Jose Antonio Navarro Day" throughout
the state, in honor of the Texas patriot's
birthday. Now an ongoing tradition, the
City of San Antonio issues a proclama-
tion for Navarro Day annually in
I did not have the opportunity to visit
the Navarro homestead as a child, since
I moved from San Antonio in 1967.
Researching my family's lineage came
later in my life; raising a family of five
sons and pursing projects of interest
kept me otherwise engaged. Then in
2003, I received a phone call asking if I
was a Navarro descendant. The inquiry
was from Al Gerdes, a cousin who had
been researching and developing the
Navarro Family Heritage Book. When
he and I met, his wealth of information
about our family history sparked an
interest in researching my own geneal-
When my grandson, Baker Navarro
Tillotson, was born in 2005, he was
christened at the San Fernando
Cathedral in San Antonio, which was
where Jose Navarro and so many of his
descendants, including myself, were
baptized. At this time, extended family
members joined us in San Antonio for a
family reunion and celebration at Casa
Navarro. Most of them had never visited
the historic site and were not familiar
with Navarro's legacy to the people of
Texas. I distributed materials and pic-
32 TEXASHERITAGE I Volume 2 2011
7 7 -
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, 2011, Volume 2, periodical, 2011; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth254221/m1/34/: accessed April 25, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.