Heritage, Volume 7, Number 4, Fall 1989 Page: 15
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family closer to town. He bought land
which eventually comprised 233 acres on
the south side of town, a short walk from
the town square, and in 1848 the family
moved into their new homestead, Woodland
Huntsville basked in the glow cast by its
new citizen, the most famous, powerful,
controversial, colorful, flamboyant, and
individualistic political figure in Texas.
The former president of the Republic not
only represented Texas in the U.S. Senate,
but was also a strong presidential candidate.
Having chosen Huntsville as his
political base, General Houston participated
in the social, economic, and political
affairs of Huntsville. He was a Master
Mason of the Forest Lodge No. 19, a
member of the Texas Bar, and exercised his
influence for the benefit and further development
of the enterprising city.
When Houston could get away from his
duties in Washington D.C., he returned to
Huntsville where his homestead immediately
became the center of attention for the
local population and a favorite meeting
place for important community members
and out-of-town visitors.
His most colorful visitors were the many
Indian tribes befriended by the general
who, to the amazement of the local citizens,
camped for several days on Houston's
The meadow beyond the creek, in
front of the house, was sometimes occupied
by several hundred Indian men and
women. A beef strung on saplings was
cured for cooking. For days General
Houston and special friends like
Henderson Yoakum, met in council with
the Indians. They sat in a circle around a
washtub, into which they tossed bones
from the meat the women brought them
to eat. The Indians sang and danced, and
people walked out from Huntsville to see
the performances. (William Seale, Sam
Houston's Wife, A Biography of Margaret
Lea Houston, University of Oklahoma
In 1848 the Huntsville Male Academy
was established. The first penitentiary in
Texas was built in Huntsville that same
year. By 1850 Huntsville was vying with
Austin and Tehuacana for the honor of
becoming the capital of the state. Austin
retained the honor, but Huntsville's aspirations
had not been based on wishful
thinking. In an April 1900 issue of the
Quarterly of the Texas Historical Foundation,
Harry Estril wrote, "A letter in the
OPPOSITE: Visitors to the museum can see Houston's law office. His moccasins are a symbol of his
close relationship with Texas' Indians. His portrait was painted in New Orleans after the Battle of San
Jacinto. ABOVE: Interior of Sam Houston's law office.
Galveston News of September 5, 1849 described
the town of Huntsville as rapidly
rising in importance, and already taking
rank among the most enterprising
populations and most improving interior
towns, with the hopes of becoming the
political metropolis of the State."
The city's strategic location, the rich
soil, and natural beauty continued to attract
tradesmen and educated, affluent,
and influential members of the southern
aristocracy who were looking for cheap
land. In 1852 Austin College, a Presbyterian
boys' school, was founded with General
Houston as one of its main supporters.
When General Houston was re-elected
senator in 1853, his popularity was already
declining. His vote for the entry of Oregon
as a free state had antagonized the senators
from the South. In 1853, when he voted
against the Kansas-Nebraska Act, a states'
rights/slavery bill, he sacrificed his political
future in the defense of the
constitution. He was called a traitor.
The general ran for governor in 1857
against Democratic nominee Hardin Runnels
and lost. He ran again in 1859 and
defeated Runnels by 9,000 votes. That
didn't mean Texans had voted for the
Union-they voted for the man, Houston.
After selling Woodland Home to pay
campaign debts, the Houstons left
Huntsville and settled in the Governor's
Mansion. The general had for many years
entertained the idea of running for president.
He felt that only through his election
and the pursuit of his grand plan to conquer
Mexico could North and South be united
in a common objective. Houston ran as a
Constitutional Unionist, but lost to John
Bell of Tennessee.
Abraham Lincoln was elected and, one
by one, the southern states seceded. Houston
was ordered to call a state convention
to discuss secession, but he delayed. The
Democratic party, acting illegally, called a
convention and Houston finally agreed to
call a special legislative session to authorize
the election of delegates to the convention.
The convention took place January
1861 and the final vote was held February
1st. Texas seceded.
Refusing to take the oath of allegiance
to the Confederacy because he thought it
unconstitutional, General Houston was
The Houstons left Austin for Independence.
They later moved to Cedar
Point, and in 1861 or 1862 they returned to
HERITAGE * FALL 1989 15
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 7, Number 4, Fall 1989, periodical, Autumn 1989; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45433/m1/15/: accessed October 17, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.