TEXAS’ LADY CANNONEER

I call it being organized–juggling several things at the same time.  However, like a circus clown trying to toss one too many bowling pins, I’ve dropped the whole passel.  Expecting Friday to be especially busy, I wrote my blog, even added all the photos and went to bed knowing at the appointed hour on Friday I could press “publish” and poof, it would post.

Then, I woke with a start.  Why did Angelina Eberly, the subject of the blog, already appear in the category list?  At 1:30 a.m., my husband, who patiently put up with my flaying and fretting over forgetting, suggested I get up and forage through my folder of files.  I did.

Over the years I’ve written historical markers and articles about the markers, and books about the stories on the markers and even given lectures about the stories on the markers and in the books.  You can understand how I might forget if a story appeared on a marker or in an article or in a book.

My middle-of-the-night search revealed I published a post about  Angelina Eberly February 23–of this year–not six or eight years ago. Last Monday night I told her story again during a lecture.  Folks liked it well enough to inspire me to tell it again in this Friday’s blog.  I’m confessing this confusion because I assume you, as a faithful reader, may remember the February version.  I’m calling the version below The Second Iteration:

Texans love stories of pioneer settlers and heroes.  Angelina Eberly fits the bill.  Born in Tennessee in 1798, Mrs. Eberly married her first cousin, made the journey to Matagorda Bay on the Texas coast in 1822 and finally, with the help of several slaves, opened an inn and tavern in the new village of San Felipe de Austin on the Brazos River.

After her husband died, Mrs. Eberly continued operating the hotel until Texans burned the town in 1836 to prevent it from falling into General Santa Anna’s hands during the Texas War for Independence from Mexico.

After the war she married again and moved with her new husband in 1839 to the new Texas capital of Austin where they opened the Eberly House.

History reveals Texas’ politics as contentious during the days of the republic as they are today.  The constitution of the new republic allowed the president to serve only one, two-year term, which meant Sam Houston, first president and hero of the war for independence, stepped down to allow the election of his successor and nemesis Mirabeau B. Lamar.

Immediately Lamar appointed a site-selection commission that moved the capital of the republic from ole Sam’s namesake city of Houston to a little village in the wilderness of Central Texas and named the place “Austin,” after the father of early Texas settlement.

The legislature met in a frame house on Congress Avenue and other offices occupied different structures along the dirt street. Because of Austin’s vulnerability to attacks by Indians and Mexican troops, the new government provided the residents with a six-pounder cannon, loaded with grapeshot.

Despite primitive conditions, President Lamar and his cabinet dined at the Eberly House.  When Sam Houston won reelection two years later, he moved into the Eberly House rather than occupy the house Mirabeau Lamar designated for the president.

Since Sam Houston and his supporters disapproved of the capital’s location on the western frontier, they jumped at the opportunity to move the Congress to Washington, a tiny village on the Brazos River when Mexican troops captured San Antonio on March 5, 1842.

Determined to keep the last symbol of the capital in their town, Austin residents demanded the national archives, which consisted of diplomatic, financial, land, and military-service records, remain in Austin.

When Mexicans invaded San Antonio again in December 1842, Sam Houston found his excuse for action.  He instructed two army officers to take eighteen men and two wagons to Austin in the middle of the night and quietly remove the archives from the General Land Office.

No one ever explained what Angelina Eberly was doing outside in the middle of the night, but when she saw the wagons leaving with the archives, she ran to the loaded cannon and fired it to warn the citizens of the robbery.

The military men traveled about twenty miles that first day to Kenney Fort located near present Round Rock. The next morning, when the officers rose to continue their journey, they discovered the citizens of Austin circling the fort with their cannon aimed toward the enclosure.  Without further ado, the military men returned the files to the Austin citizens, thus ending what has been dubbed both “The Archives War” and “The Bloodless War.”

With most of the republic’s business handled in Washington, Austin struggled for several years, the population dropping below 200 and its buildings deteriorating.  Finally, in 1845 a constitutional convention approved Texas’ annexation to the United States and named Austin as the new state capital.  In 1850 Texas residents finally voted to officially designate Austin as the state’s capital.

Angelina Eberly moved in 1846 to Lavaca (present Port Lavaca) where she leased Edward Clegg’s Tavern House while the surveyed the area for the best location for her business. Upon seeing nearby Indianola becoming a thriving seaport, she moved down the coast and opened a hotel.  At the time of her death in 1860, her estate appraised at $50,000, making Mrs. Angelina Eberly the wealthiest citizen of Calhoun County.

Today, Austin residents honor their cannoneer with a larger-than-life-size bronze sculpture at the corner of Congress and 7th Street.

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5 thoughts on “TEXAS’ LADY CANNONEER

  1. Here’s something to contemplate— I read both versions, and while I liked both of the stories you wrote, there’s some extra details at the end and indefinable “oomph” to this particular version.

    I think this sort of confusion happens to all of us. Considering what sounds like a *very* busy schedule on your part, I am amazed by how much you do, and how beautifully you write. I’m so glad you continue to share these stories, twice-told or no. Thank you, MM!

    Like

  2. I am amazed you haven’t forgotten more with all the balls you are juggling. It is always a good read when it concerns women who make history.

    Like

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