Sam Houston Day, observed on March 2nd of each year in Texas, along with Texas Independence Day and Texas Flag Day, was established to celebrate the life and accomplishments of the famous statesman, politician, and soldier.
Sam Houston, Texan and American hero
Sam Houston was one of nine children born to Major Samuel Houston and Elizabeth Paxton. Houston was born on March 2nd, 1793, in the Shenandoah Valleyy area of Virginia. Major Houston was a member of Morgan's Rifle Brigade during the American Revolutionary War. After Major Houston's death in 1807, the family moved to Baker Creek, Tennessee. Two years later, our hero, aged 13, ran away from his home and job as a shop clerk to live on Hiwassee island with Chief Oolooteka's Cherokee tribe and was formally adopted into the Cherokee Nation. Returning to Tennessee, at 19 years old he founded the first-ever school in Tennessee. Later that year he enlisted to fight the British in the War of 1812. He was wounded and later transported to a military hospital in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Houston then became a lawyer and was appointed attorney general of Nashville in 1818, and elected to the House of Representatives in 1822. Houston had met Jackson during the war and now became one of his most ardent supporters. He represented Tennessee in Congress from 1823-7, then became governor of Tennessee. He was forced into marriage with Eliza Allen by her father, but separated for reasons he refused ever to reveal, and returned to live with the Cherokee. He then married Tiana (also Diana) Rogers Gentry, a Cherokee widow, and founded a trading post.
In 1830 and 1832 Houston went to Washington with the intent to expose the fraudulent practices of government agents upon the Cherokee nation. Houston beat one of the agents with his hickory cane; the agent pulled a pistol on Houston but the gun misfired. Houston was arrested and pleaded self-defense, but even with the representation of Francis Scott Key, was found guilty. He was only lightly sentenced. However, surrounded by unfavourable publicity, Houston decided to move to Texas, and asked his wife to accompany him, but she declined.
A stamp issued by the United States Post Office on the 100th anniversary
of Sam Houston's death, honoring the great American hero
Houston became the representative for Nacogdoches at the Convention of 1833, and the Consultation of 1835. He was awarded the rank of Major General of the Texas Army in November, 1835. Four months later, he negotiated a settlement with the Cherokee, and the next month was declared Commander-in-Chief of the Army, in March, 1836, at the convention which declared Texan independence at Washington-on-the-Brazos.
Sam Houston signed the Texas Declaration of Independence on his forty-third birthday: March 2nd, 1836. He fought with the volunteer army atGonzales, but was defeated by General Antonio López de Santa Anna. In a few months Texas would have its revenge upon Santa Anna. Houston surprised the Mexican army at their siesta, and defeated Santa Anna on April 21st at the Battle of San Jacinto, in less than eighteen minutes. Houston forced Santa Anna to sign the Treaty of Velasco, recognizing Texas as independent. The Texas war with Mexico was finally over.
Houston was elected president of the Republic of Texas on September 5, 1836, and served until 1838, defeating the Cordova Rebellion. In 1837 he divorced Eliza Allen. He became a representative for San Augustine to the Texas House of Representatives. In 1840 he married Margaret Moffette Lea in Marion, Alabama, and the next year was re-elected president and served from 1841 to 1844 (the president was not allowed to serve consecutive terms). During his time as president, he strove to avoid war with Mexico, and to make peace with the native Americans.
After Texas joined the United States in 1845, Sam Houston served as Senator from Texas with Thomas Jefferson Rusk. During his tenure in the Senate, he consistently opposed any separation of North and South, fearing civil was and a vastly weakened United States.
Houston was baptized in 1854 by the Reverend Rufus C. Burleson, who later became president of Baylor College. He was a friend of Burleson's predecessor at the Independence [Baptist] Church, George Washington Baines, Lyndon Baines Johnson's maternal great-grandfather.
In 1857 he was elected Governor of Texas, the first person ever to be governor of two different states and the only governor who had ever been a foreign head of state. Over Houston's opposition, Texas seceded from the Union, and Houston was evicted from office for refusing to take an oath of loyalty to the Confederacy.
In 1862, Houston settled in Huntsville, Texas. Unfortunately, he developed a persistent cough, and despite the best efforts of his doctors, the cough turned into pneumonia. Despite continued medical care, Houston died quietly at home on July 26, 1863, with his wife Margaret at his side. His last words were: "Texas! Texas! Margaret . . ." Houston is buried in Huntsville, Texas, and his tomb reads:
A Brave Soldier. A Fearless Statesman.
A Great Orator - A Pure Patriot.
A Faithful Friend, A Loyal Citizen.
A Devoted Husband and Father.
A Consistent Christian - An Honest Man.
Houston was survived by eight children:
Sam Houston, Jr., Nancy Elizabeth, Margaret Lea, Mary William, Antoinette Power, Andrew Jackson Houston (U.S. Senator from Texas), William Rogers Houston, and Temple Lea Houston, the last of whom died in 1941.
Reminders of Sam Houston are found throughout Texas, from the name of the city of Houston, to the 67-foot tall statue of Sam Houston near Huntsville, to countless streets, libraries, schools, and university facilities named after this American and Texan hero.
In truth, there is a lot of celebrate in Houston's life. Some suggestions for observing Sam Houston Day:
- Visit the Texas State Capitol, and see the painting, Surrender of Santa Anna and the statue of Sam Houston.
- Visit the San Jacinto monument. If you look carefully you can still find bullets on the grounds.
- Visit Huntsville, Texas, and the Sam Houston museum, Sam Houston University, see the largest statue of an American hero, and Houston's grave.
- You can also listen to the country song by Merle Haggard.
Have fun on March 2nd if you live in Texas--it's a busy day!