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2017 San Jacinto Day Festival and Battle Reenactment

 

Come and see how Texas won its freedom from Mexico and eventually became the twenty-eighth state, and enjoy a day of games, food, fun, and history. The festival takes place on Saturday April 22, 2017 on the grounds of the San Jacinto Monument. The festivities will include reenactments of the “runaway scrape” and the battle of San Jacinto, where Texas independence was finally secured.

During the day, the reenactors will be available to answer questions and give a unique insight into the battles fought against the Mexican army, and the rigors of frontier life. They take Texas history from the pages of books and bring it to life in front of your eyes, on the very ground, where, over 175 years ago, the actual events took place. The festival is put on by the San Jacinto Museum of History, Texas Parks and Wildlife, and many volunteers, and admission is entirely free.

As a child, my love of history was developed visiting historic sites around Texas, and by listening to those who had a passion for bringing the events of history alive. Take it from someone with four kids, children have a natural curiosity to know why things are the way they are, and what the people were like who came before. What they learn in school is important, but it’s only a beginning. To truly have a grasp of history and to be able to make up their own minds about how they feel about the events of our past, they need to see it in front of their eyes. As a writer, I have a great love of books, but they don’t always serve to convey the importance and relevance of their subject. Historical events and people tend to seem far removed from our lives in the twenty-first century, but when you see these reenactments you come away realizing that these were just people like us, with the same dreams, struggles, and faults that we all share.

As Americans, and Texans, we are all living out the dreams that our forefathers fought and died for. They knew the importance of freedom, because they knew what it was not to have it, and they would be very gratified that we have prospered to the degree we have because of the sacrifices they have made. Thank God, we don’t have to make the same difficult choices, but there is debt that we owe to them, and our payment is to set aside a little time from our busy lives to learn our history and what it took for all of us to live the amazing lives we enjoy today.

© 03/30/2017

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James Fannin: An Unlikeable Hero

 

The Texas Revolution gave birth to our state’s first heroes, and among those, but often overlooked is James Walker Fannin.

While fate would not allow him the dignity of being able to go down fighting like his comrades at the Alamo, he held out with his men and fought against an army with far superior numbers. In the end, he stood his post and died a soldier, and what better could be said of any man.

He was born in Georgia in 1804, but as his mother and father were not married, he was adopted by his maternal grandfather, James W. Walker. In July 1819, Fannin enrolled in the United States Military Academy at West Point, but he only stayed for two years, and in November 1821, he withdrew.

After returning to Georgia, he married Minerva Fort and in 1834 they moved to a plantation in Velasco, Texas which would eventually be annexed into the city of Freeport in 1957.

Besides running a plantation, Fannin was also involved in the slave trade, which put him at odds with the Mexican government, who controlled Texas. Soon he became a leader in the Texas Revolution, both as an officer in the Volunteer army and as a financier.

Fannin planned several offensive actions against the Mexican army that never materialized and after becoming disillusioned with the Volunteer Army, he resigned on November 22, 1835. He did not like the undisciplined nature of the volunteer soldiers, and especially disliked the custom of the men electing their own officers. The feeling, however, was mutual, as his men felt he was a poor leader and dislike his attempts at enforcing military order.

In December, he was commissioned as Colonel in the Regular army, and he immediately set about gathering both men and material.

Fannin gathered his forces at La Bahia in Goliad, Texas on February 7, 1836, and it was here that him and his men would meet their fate.

On March 19, under orders from General Sam Houston, Fannin began his retreat to Victoria after learning that his reinforcements from Refugio had been captured. Fannin and his men were captured almost immediately at the Battle of Coleto Creek by Mexican forces led by General Jose Urrea, but not before putting up a fierce fight and killing one hundred Mexican soldiers.

The Texas Revolutionaries were taken back to La Bahia, where they were all executed on March 27, 1836. Fannin was the last to be executed, as he was injured.

He was seated in a chair in the middle of the courtyard and blindfolded. He asked that his possessions be given to his family, that he be shot in the heart and that he be given a Christian burial. While his executioner agreed to his request, Fannin was shot in the face, his possessions were divided among several of the soldiers, and his body was burned along with those of his men. After burning, their bodies were left in the open to be ravaged by animals.

While James Fannin had certain major deficiencies in his character, and was not a particularly likeable person by most accounts, he gave his life for freedom. We can’t pick and choose our heroes from some imaginary group of flawless people. Heroes are nothing more than real people with the same balance of good and bad as everyone, but what makes them extraordinary is the fact that when needed, they rise above themselves and do what is necessary.

To pay homage to Colonel James Fannin and his brave men, visit the Fannin Battleground State Historic Site and the Fannin Memorial Monument

03/23/2017

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What’s Brewing in Cowtown!

What’s Brewing in Cowtown

 

Howdy Friends, I’m taking a bit of a departure today from my usual topic of Texas history so that I can talk about my other passion, beer. More specifically, Rahr & Sons Brewery, a Fort Worth favorite since 2004, who in a short time have developed quite a following. Their beers are now available in most major grocery stores in Texas, but like most beers, it’s best when enjoyed straight from the tap. In the North Texas area, most restaurants with a good selection of craft beers, will have at least one Rahr beer on tap, and the number of establishments serving Rahr is growing every day.

My personal favorite is the Texas Red, but to be honest I haven’t tasted a bad one yet, and I’ve tried them all. I even like their IPA and I’m not usually an Indian Pale Ale kind of guy, but no matter which beer you try, you’ll understand why Rahr & Sons is already a Texas tradition.

For a unique and fun experience go to one of their twice weekly tour and tastings. These are on Wednesdays from 5:00pm-7:30pm, and Saturday from 1:00pm-3:00pm. For $10.00 you get a decorative pint glass, three pints of beer, and a brewery tour. If you’re like me, and prefer to have a little elbow room, then I suggest you go on Wednesday evening, when the crowds are a bit lighter. Regardless of which day you choose, you’ll have a great time and enjoy some of the best beer in Texas.

For more information on Rahr Breweries:  www.rahrbrewing.com

03/22/2017

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2017 Goliad Massacre Reenactment and Living History Program

 

Hey Guys. If you’re going to be in the Goliad, Texas area on March 25 and 26, help celebrate Texas Independence by attending the 32nd annual Goliad Massacre Reenactment and Living History Program. Come see battle reenactments, a reenactment of the massacre, and candlelight tour during this two-day event, with reenactors representing both the Mexican and Texian soldiers.

The heroes of Goliad seem to get lost to history, with much of the attention going to the brave men who perished at the Alamo, but James Fannin and the other men at Goliad sacrificed as much as anyone upon the alter of freedom, and are just as deserving of our respect and remembrance. To learn more about the Goliad Massacre and James Fannin, keep checking Under the Lone Star, as I will be including write ups of both on future blog posts.

 

http://www.presidiolabahia.org

 

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Washington on the Brazos: The birthplace of Texas Freedom

While it may not have the same sex appeal as The Alamo or San Jacinto, and no studio will be scrambling to make a movie there, it can rightly be argued that no place is more important to Texas Independence than Washington-on-the-Brazos. It was the site of the 1836 Convention, where on March 2, the Texas Declaration of Independence was adopted and then officially signed the following day. The site is in Washington County, Texas, and was to be the Capitol before Waterloo (Austin) was chosen instead.

Situated on the Brazos river, the site includes three separate exhibitions:

The Star of the Republic Museum tells the story of the Republic of Texas through artifacts and interactive recreations. It is open from 10am-5pm seven days a week. It is closed on Thanksgiving Day and from December 24- January 1.

 

 

 

 

Independence Hall, where the delegates to the Convention of 1836 spent seventeen days hammering out the Declaration and the Constitution. They also laid out the frame work of a new government, before being forced to flee ahead of Santa Anna and his army.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barrington Farm is the former home of Anson Jones, who was the last President of the Republic of Texas. After overseeing the annexation of Texas into the United States, he retired to this farm with his wife and children in 1846.  Barrington Farm is now a living history farm with interpreters, who conduct themselves much as the inhabitants of the farm would have in the 1840’s. Entries from Jones’ daybook are used to inform the way the interpreters approach their activities. The home is the original building, while the out buildings are replicas. The interpreters dress in period costume and instruct visitors on how to perform tasks such as; soap making, spinning, and working oxen.

 

 

 

 

Check out the visitor center for an interactive exhibit that gives visitors a timeline of the Texas Revolution.

The site sits along the Brazos River and is a picturesque 293 acres that is perfect for picnics, relaxing, and just letting your kids run around and burn some energy. As the father of four children, this last part is always a selling point when my wife and I are looking for a new attraction to visit.

While no great battles were fought there, and the men involved will never get the recognition of Bowie, Boone, or even Sam Houston, they assumed the same risks as the  soldiers, and had they been caught, they would have been executed as traitors.

GO TO TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE

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The Salt Lick Barbecue is an oasis in a desert of inferior barbecue.

Go check out their site

The Salt Lick Barbecue is an oasis in a desert of inferior barbecue.

A discussion about the best of Texas would be absurdly incomplete without talking barbecue. Every restaurant in Texas has some form of  barbecue- like substance on their menu, and most of them think they do it well, but I’m her to tell ya folks, most of them are wrong. I don’t  mean just wrong, but don’t ever order it, run as fast as you can in the opposite direction, couldn’t be more wrong, wrong. There are a few barbecue restaurants that can make a legitimate claim to awesome barbecue, but they all pale in comparison to the Salt Lick in Driftwood, Texas.

I’m lucky, in that I was introduced  to the gold standard in Texas barbecue, way back in the horse and buggy era of 1981. My grandparents lived in Wimberley back then, and when I would visit them during the summer, the first thing on my to do list was a visit to the  Salt Lick. Back then, Driftwood wasn’t at the end of the known universe, but you could sure see it from there. I mean  to tell you it was in the middle of  no where, and as such the Salt Lick was pretty much a locals only establishment, but it was still a Hill Country favorite. Its isolation was part of the charm, but it was the food that kept me coming back summer after summer.

The Salt Lick is most famous for their brisket and ribs, but you can’t possibly go wrong,  no matter what you order. Their secret, or at least one of them, is the open pit where the meat achieves the fall off the bone, finger licking good, can’t get enough, goodness.

I suggest you order family style. It’s all you can eat pork ribs, brisket, sausage, plus potato salad, cole slaw , beans, and fresh bread. I know what you’re thinking, “It’s barbecue, and all I’m interested in is the meat.” Trust me folks, the sides are not to  be missed, especially the German potato salad. Last, but not least is the sauce. As a rule, sauce on Texas barbecue is a blasphemy, but friends, the Salt Lick’s sauce is the stuff that cravings are made of. I could try describe it, but any attempt I would make describing it could not possibly do it justice. Trust me, it’s almost worth the trip just for the sauce.

Oh, I almost forgot desert. Order the sweet potato pecan pie. If you’re too stuffed to even think of eating another bite, then have them  pack you up a slice  to go, or better yet order a whole pie. Trust me it it’ll change your life.

Friends, if you’re going to follow only one of my suggestions, then make it this one. When you find yourself in the Texas Hill Country, and  trust me you will find yourself there, make a point to get to the Salt Lick for lunch or dinner. Before you go  make  a stop at the ATM, as they only except cash. HAPPY EATING!!!!!!!!!!!

Hours= Every day 11:00am-10:00pm

Address= 18300 FM 1826 Driftwood, Texas 78619

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San Jacinto Battleground and Museum

 

San Jacinto Battleground and Museum

On April 21,1836, in a battle that lasted less than twenty minutes, General Sam Houston led his army to victory over Santa Anna’s Mexican army. The battle not only opened the door to independence for the Texians, but eventually shaped the destiny of The United States. For this reason, The San Jacinto Battleground and Museum is a historical site that all Americans should visit. Obviously, it is the story of Texas, but it is also the story of America, and exemplifies everything that is true about the American spirit.

Just a few minutes from downtown Houston, The San Jacinto Battleground and Museum is open from 9am-6pm 362 days a year. The museum is only closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day. It is comprised of the battlefield, museum, and monument. The Battleship Texas is also available for either self-guided tours as well as guided.

The monument is just under 570 feet tall, and the observation deck offers a beautiful view of the Houston Ship Channel, as well as the battleground. It was completed in 1939 and was designed by Alfred Finn and Robert Cummins, and was inspired by both the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument in Washington DC. Please be aware that the observation deck closes at 5:45, 15 minutes before the Museum closes. The cost to go up to the observation deck is $6.00. My wife and I visited San Jacinto several years ago, but the monument was closed for renovation, so we are planning another trip in the very near future.

The museum houses over 2,000 artifacts including: uniforms, armaments, artwork, and interactive videos. It is located in the base of the monument and like the battleground, admission is free. The cost for the interactive experience and the special exhibits is $6.00 each. The best deal is a combo ticket, which includes the observation deck, interactive experience, and special exhibit. The price for the combo is $16.50.

While you are at San Jacinto don’t miss touring the Battleship Texas. It saw service in both World Wars, and stands as a memorial to the both wars and those that served. It is a self-guided tour and the admission is $12.00.

 

 

Whether you share my love for history, or are just looking for a fun and interesting place to take your children, San Jacinto Battleground and Museum has something for everyone. There is no better place to celebrate the freedoms that we all enjoy, and those that gave everything they had to make those freedoms possible.

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Sam Houston: The George Washington of Texas

I am not usually one to roll out the same tired comparisons of historical figures, but the similarities here are so striking that to ignore them  would be to give an incomplete picture of the man, who more than any other, helped secure the meteoric rise of Texas on the world stage. Like Washington, Sam Houston was a soldier, statesman,  revolutionary, and a visionary. He saw what should be, and when the chips were down, he risked everything to see his vision to fruition, and in the end, Houston like Washington gave up the power he had achieved for the sake of the country he loved.

Sam Houston was born on March 2, 1793 in Rockbridge County Virginia to Samuel Houston and his wife Elizabeth Paxton. He was born on his father’s plantation, but like most in the planter class, the senior Houston accumulated massive debt, and the family was forced to move, in order to keep one step ahead of his creditors. Houston’s father died when he was fourteen, and he was forced to take a job as a clerk in  his older brother’s store. This was a far cry from the life of adventure that he craved, so at sixteen he ran away from home and during this time he lived with a Cherokee tribe that would become a second family to him. He developed a love for the Indians which would lead to a lifelong advocacy for peace with the Native American tribes, as well as equal treatment for all Indians.

Sam Houston served in the Army during the War of 1812 under Andrew Jackson, who would become his mentor and advocate. He was wounded in the groin by an arrow during the Creek War, but refused treatment and immediately returned to the battle. This devotion to duty earned him the respect of General Jackson, who later recommended that Houston enter politics. The two were in agreement in most areas, except when it came to the treatment of  Indians. His staunch support for Jackson as well as the Indians led to many  confrontations with his political colleagues, some of these resulted in  physical altercations.

After returning to Tennessee, Houston passed the bar and opened a legal practice, which subsequently led to his entry into politics. In 1822 he was elected to congress, where he served two terms before being elected governor of Tennessee. Sam Houston was a hard drinker as well as a hard fighter, following in the mold of his mentor, Andrew Jackson. His heavy drinking as well as rumors of infidelity, led to his resignation as governor, and to the end of his first marriage to Eliza Allen.

Houston continued his advocacy for the Indians, and in 1833 will pleading their case before congress, he got into a confrontation with Congressman William Stanbery. The brawl took place on Pennsylvania Avenue, where Houston began beating the Congressman with his hickory cane. He narrowly missed being shot when Stanbery pulled a pistol and tried shooting him, but luckily for Houston the gun misfired. It just goes to show you, there’s nothing like a good piece of hickory.

For his part in the fight, Houston was held over for trail and secured non other than Francis Scott Key as his attorney. Despite this fact, he was found guilty, but thanks to having friends in high places (the President of the United States), he was only assessed a small fine. After leaving Washington, Houston left the United States and headed for Texas.

Houston  moved to Texas in 1832 and soon took up the cause of independence from  Mexico. In October of 1835 the War for Texas began in Gonzalez, but it would an uphill struggle. The Texan revolutionaries were vastly out numbered and their cause seemed impossible, but it was at this point that Houston took a page out of George Washington’s playbook. He was named Commander-in-chief of all Texas forces and quickly realized that his vastly out manned army stood little chance of victory in open battle against Santa Anna’s army. In much the same way as George Washington won victory in the American Revolution, Houston fought a war in retreat. Instead of facing the Mexican Army on Santa Anna’s terms, Houston avoided involving his entire army in a major battle until the time was right and the odds were in his favor. Legendary battles at the Alamo and Goliad were painful defeats, but they bought time for Sam Houston to consolidate his forces and pick the one decisive battle that would win the  war.

That battle took place on April 12, 1836 at San Jacinto. Houston caught Santa Anna’s army  by surprised and won an overwhelming victory in a little more than eighteen minutes. During the battle Houston’s ankle was shattered by a bullet and he accepted Santa Anna’s surrender while receiving  medical condition. On May 14, 1836 Santa Anna signed the Treaty of Velasco, granting Texans their independence, and thereby their own country.

Sam Houston served two terms as president of the  Republic of Texas first from 1836-1838 and then again from 1841-1844, due to the constitutional provision against a President serving to consecutive terms. Never one to just take time off, in between his Presidential terms  he served as a representative from San Augustine County.

After Texas was annexed into the United States, Houston served as a Senator from 1846-1859. In 1859 he was elected Texas Governor, a post he held until he was removed from office. Like many men of his time, Houston had been a slave holder and he fought abolition, but he strongly disagreed with succession. After Texas succeeded from the Union, Houston was ordered to swear an oath to the Confederacy, and when he refused, he was forced from office. He retired from public life after this and lived quietly with his third wife Margaret Lea and their eight children. He died at his home on July 26, 1863 from pneumonia.

Sam Houston is the only person to have been elected Governor of two states within the  United States, and also the only Governor to have also been a foreign head of state. From drunk and womanizer to national hero. From slave holder to advocate for Indian rights. Like many of history’s legends, Sam  Houston was a living, breathing contradiction, much like another “Father of his country” I could name.

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Stephen F. Austin: The Man Who Built Texas

Being a very process oriented person, I figured my first entry for the Heroes and Legends of Texas section would be Stephen Fuller Austin,  the “Father of Texas.”

Most people have a fairly good grasp on the battle of the Alamo, and the War for Texas Independence, but they  have little of no knowledge of the man who made it all possible. He did not set out to build a future state, in fact like most people of achievement, he was an entrepreneur.

Stephen F. Austin was born in Virginia to Maria and Moses Austin on November 3, 1793. He was raised in Missouri, where his father owned a  lead mine. After graduating from Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, where he studied law, he went to work for his father, doing clerical work for the mine.

Austin eventually made  his way into politics when he was elected to the Missouri legislature in 1813. He was re-elected each year until he  moved to Arkansas in 1819. After the panic of 1819, he was left penniless, but managed to purchase land in Arkansas in what would become Little Rock. He purchased the land as part of a speculation  scheme, that ultimately failed, and left him once again destitute.

During this time, Moses Austin had  traveled to Spanish Texas, where he secured an empresarial grant to bring three-hundred families from the  United States to Texas. However, he died  in Missouri before he could start securing colonists, and he transferred the grant to his son.

Austin was studying law in  New Orleans,  when he learned of his father’s death. He had no desire to by an empresario, but he was convinced by his mother, so in 1821 he headed  for  San Antonio, Texas to meet  with the Spanish authorities. When he arrived, he learned that Mexico had won its independence from Spain, and they now controlled Texas. Stephen was able to persuade the new  government to accept the terms that had been previously agreed to. He was given permission to settle three-hundred families between the Brazos and Colorado rivers.

Austin believed that the Texas enterprise would  enable him to repair his family’s financial situation, through land and fees charged to the settlers.

In December of 1821 Austin lead the first group of Colonists from  the United States. The panic of 1819 had caused serious financial problems for farmers, who could no longer  afford the skyrocketing prices of  land. As such they eagerly agreed to the generous terms  of the  Texas land grant, which provided 4,428 acres for ranching and 177 acres for farming. In return the settlers agreed to become Mexican citizens and to convert to Catholicism. Both of these stipulations would become the source for the hostilities that  would grow in the years  to come.

By the time Austin arrived back in San Antonio in  1822, he learned that the Mexican government had decided to withdraw their support for the Texas settlement. Stephen was forced to travel to Mexico in an  effort to save his  fledgling colony. He was able to once again persuade the government to abide by the terms of the original  agreement, by promising to be personally responsible for the settlers adherence to the terms of the deal.

Most of the Texas settlers were educated land owners from the southern part of the United  States, and as such they strongly believed in states rights of self government. They had no intentions of becoming Catholic and had very little interest in submitting to a distant Mexican  government. Over the  next several years Austin would come to regret his agreement to being responsible for the colonist’s behavior, as an increasing majority of his time would be spent in arbitrating disputes between them  and  their  Mexican benefactors.

While Austin assumed a role in overseeing the establishment of local  government, most of the day to day duties were performed by representatives that the colonists elected. Stephen mostly worked on administering the grants and  surveying the land, so that property lines were established. He also recorded titles and filed them with the  Mexican government. The money he had hoped to recoup from the venture went to  administering the colony, and the  land promised to  him by the  Mexican government would not be given until all  three-hundred families were settled in Texas.

In 1830 Mexico passed a decree outlawing slavery in  Texas, which would prove to be the most serious challenge so  far to Austin’s colony. The Texians were convinced of their right and need to own slaves, and  they were in no mood to be told they could no longer do so. For Austin’s part, his opinion on  slavery seemed  to differ depending on whom he  was talking to. He seemed to agree with the  Mexican  government that slavery  was  an evil to be eradicated, while  at the same time,  supporting the  rights of the  colony to  keep slaves. In reality he felt that slavery was basically a political issue, for which he had little  interest. All he really cared about was  the continuation of the tenuous peace he was trying to  maintain between Texas and Mexico. Austin favored the  same approach that the United States was following, and that was to kick the problem  down  the  road, and  let the  next generation solve it. This policy would eventually lead to war in both  instances, only it would come  much  sooner  for Texas.

By the 1830’s, Texas colonists numbered more than 8,000, and it became increasingly difficult for Austin to maintain control  of the settlers. With the passage of the Law of April 1, 1830, immigration from the  United States to  Texas was outlawed, and the hostilities between  Texas and Mexico began to spin out of  control. The Mexican  government was afraid that the United States would try and annex Texas with help  from the colonists, and  on April 1, 1833, it appeared that these fears were being realized. Texas held a  convention where they  drew up a list of grievances along with a constitution, and appointed Stephen Austin to present both to the Mexican President.

Stephen Austin had  persuaded Texas to support Santa Ana in his attempt to defeat President Anastsio Bustamante, believing his promise of  a more liberal democratic government. It was assumed that after his win Santa Anna would repay Texas for their support by  granting a measure of autonomous government. Little did they know that they were all about to be in for a disappointment.

Austin met with officials in  Mexico City and for a moment it seemed that the hope for self government in Texas might be realized. He was able to secure verbal agreement to a repeal of the April 6, 1830 Law, and at least a tentative acceptance of governing powers for the colonists.

The deal apparently, however, did not have the approval of President Santa Anna, because on his way home, Austin was arrested in Saltillo. He was transported back to Mexico City where he faced charges of inciting an insurrection. he was never officially charged, and after spending eighteen months in custody, he was finally freed in July 1835.

An insurmountable chasm had developed between Mexico and the Texas colony, and all efforts at appeasement and compromise proved fruitless. On October 1, 1835, in Gonzalez , the  War for Texas Independence began.

During the war Austin served as commissioner to the United States, and secured financing for arms, munitions, and a navy. After the Texas victory at San Jacinto, and the establishment of the Texas Republic, Austin served as Secretary of State under the Republic’s first president, Sam Houston. He only served a few months before dying from pneumonia on December 27, 1836

While his dream of financial success was never realized, Austin’s commitment to Texas, and his unstoppable tenacity as a leader for the colonists he helped bring here, is a legacy that all Texans benefit from to this day.

© 03/01/2017