Heritage, Volume 7, Number 4, Fall 1989 Page: 16
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their favorite city, Huntsville. Unable to
repurchase Woodland Home, they rented
a two-story house that resembled a Mississippi
riverboat, locally called Bailey's Folly,
Boat House, or Buena Vista. Located near
Oakwood Cemetery across a meadow from
the state penitentiary, it belonged to Dr.
Rufus Bailey, Presbyterian minister and
president of Austin College, who had it
built in 1858 as a gift for his newly married
son. The young couple refused to live in the
On July 26,1863 General Sam Houston
lay in his bed with pneumonia as his wife
held his hands. His final words were,
"Texas, Texas, Margaret."
As the slanting shadows of sunset crept
upon Steamboat House, General
Houston ceased to breathe. A life so
strange and so lonely, whose fingertips
had touched stars and felt them change
to dust, had slipped away. (Marquis
James, The Raven, University of Texas
The history of the Sam Houston Memorial
Museum Complex began in 1905 with
Miss Bertha Kirkley, a patriotic young
history teacher at the Normal Institute,
now Sam Houston State University
(SHSU). Shocked by the dismemberment
of the general's homestead, Kirkley inspired
students, faculty members, and
others to start a fund drive to purchase and
preserve the remains of the homestead.
Houston's original homestead had been
sold and subdivided into lots on which
The Woodland Home became a favorite meeting
place for important community members and outof-town
some private homes were built. His Woodland
Home, owned by Mrs. E.C. Smedes,
had become a boarding house for girls.
Her house is an historic one, having been
the favorite home of General Sam
Houston for a number of years, located as
it is in a beautiful and picturesque valley.
(Mrs. David Cox, Normal Institute and
Historic Huntsville, 1899).
Fifteen acres of land, Houston's Woodland
Home, and his law office were
purchased. In 1911 the properties were
presented to the state through the Normal
Institute. The home and law office were
relocated to the site, but could not be
The Teachers Normal Institute could
not provide financial support, the preservation
movement could not survive without
state funding, and public attention
could not be held by the cosmetic touches
that the few die-hard volunteers had given
the home. For a few years the grounds
around the home were used as an experimental
farm, and the home was used to
store hay. By 1926 the structures and site
had shamefully decayed.
The pattern of neglect was changed in
1927 when another SHSU history professor,
J. L. Clark, spearheaded a drive to
restore the historic buildings and recreate
the homestead by appropriate landscaping
of the site and building replicas of the farm
structures similar to those which existed on
the site during the Houstons' occupancy.
Clark requested $30,000 in state funds
but was granted only half that amountnot
enough accomplish the much desired
recreation of the homestead. But the
Woodland Home and the Law Office were
restored, a kitchen was built, and at last a
precedent of legislative support had been
set. The neglected grounds were landscaped
by Martinus Stougaard, a Danish
landscape architect, and the restored site
and buildings were formally dedicated and
opened to the public on May 3, 1929.
In response to a request by the city of
Huntsville and the Sam Houston State
Teachers College in 1936, the Texas
Centennial Commission allocated funds
to the Walker County Centennial Committee
to build a memorial to General
Houston and move the Steamboat House
to the grounds for restoration.
The first unit of the main museum
building and Steamboat House were
dedicated and opened to the public on
March 2, 1936.
From 1953 through 1972, under the
direction of Mrs. Grace Longino Cox, the
museum complex saw its formative years.
Legislative appropriations permitted the
addition of three additional wings to the
museum, a new kitchen replica, and a
blacksmith shop. The grounds received
intensive care, and the museum became
what it is today.
The museum's next project is to complete
the dream of Dr. Clark-to recreate
Sam Houston's homestead as it was when
he and Margaret and the children lived
there. A site research and planning project
has been prepared by the Center for
Historic Resources and the Archaeological
Research Laboratory of Texas A&M
In addition to the Woodland Home and
the Law Office, structures found on this site
were typical of many East Texas farmskitchen,
smoke house, servants' quarters,
cotton house, hog pen, corn cribs, carriage
house, stable, hitching posts, chicken
coops, and outhouses. In addition to the
site development, plans are underway to
structurally renovate the Steamboat
In 1987, when the oil boom went bust,
the museum faced a very uncertain future,
having lost its budget for fiscal 1989. The
Sam Houston State University administration
and staff, university students, and
hundreds of local citizens organized the
East Texas Folk Festival and formed the
New Army of the Republic of Texas to raise
funds to ensure the survival of the museum.
The funds raised by the Festival, the
Army, a grant from the Meadows Foundation,
and private contributions have
carried the museum through this fiscal
year. State funding will be restored in 1990,
and with the continued support from the
Army, the Festival, and concerned citizens,
the museum can move forward with
its plans for restoration-to preserve Sam
Houston's favorite homestead and the
memory of Texas' great general.
Sam Angulo is Acting Director of the Sam Houston
Memorial Museum complex. David Wight is the
exhibits designer at the museum.
16 HERITAGE * FALL 1989
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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/m1/16/: accessed June 24, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.