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Sam Houston

In office
December 21, 1859 – March 18, 1861
Lieutenant Edward Clark
Preceded by Hardin Richard Runnels
Succeeded by Edward Clark

In office
February 21, 1846 – March 3, 1859
Preceded by None
Succeeded by John Hemphill

In office
December 13, 1841 – December 9, 1844
Preceded by Mirabeau B. Lamar
Succeeded by Anson Jones

In office
October 22, 1836 – December 10, 1838
Preceded by David G. Burnet (interim)
Succeeded by Mirabeau B. Lamar

In office
October 1, 1827 – April 16, 1829
Lieutenant William Hall
Preceded by William Carroll
Succeeded by William Hall

Born March 2, 1793(1793-03-02)
Rockbridge County, Virginia
Died July 26, 1863 (aged 70)
Huntsville, Texas
Political party Independent
Spouse(s) Eliza Allen

Tiana Rogers Gentry

Margaret Moffette Lea

Religion Baptist

Samuel Houston (March 2, 1793– July 26, 1863) was a 19th century American statesman, politician, and soldier. Born on Timber Ridge, just north of Lexington in Rockbridge County, Virginia, in the Shenandoah Valley, Houston was a key figure in the history of Texas, including periods as the first and third President of the Republic of Texas, Senator for Texas after it joined the United States, and finally as governor. Although a slaveowner and opponent of abolitionism, he refused, because of his unionist convictions, to swear loyalty to the Confederacy when Texas seceded from the Union, bringing his governorship to an end. To avoid bloodshed, he refused an offer of an army to put down the rebellion, and instead retired to Huntsville, Texas, where he died before the end of the Civil War.

His earlier life included emigration to Tennessee, time spent with the Cherokee Nation (into which he was adopted and later married into), military service in the War of 1812, and subsequent successful involvement in Tennessee politics. Houston is the only person in U.S. history to have been the governor of two different states (although others were governors of multiple American territories).

A fight with a Congressman, followed by a high profile trial, led to his emigration to Mexican Texas, where he soon became a leader of the Texas Revolution. He supported annexation by the United States rather than seeking long term independence and expansion for Texas. The city of Houston was named after him during this period. Houston's reputation survived his death: posthumous commemoration has included a memorial museum, a U.S. Army base, a national forest, a historical park, a university, and the largest free-standing statue of an American figure.


Early life and family heritage

Birthplace Marker in Rockbridge County, Virginia

Sam Houston was the son of Major Samuel Houston and Elizabeth Paxton. Houston's ancestry usually begins with his great-great grandfather Sir John Houston who built a family estate in Scotland in the late 1600s. The family eventually went to Ulster, before immigrating to the United States and first settled in Pennsylvania. Then he moved to Virginia .[1]

There is a plaque in townland; in Ballyboley Forest Park near the site of the homestead of the Houstons which tells their story. It is dedicated to "one whose roots lay in these hills whose ancestor John Houston emigrated from this area."

They settled in an area of the Shenandoah Valley filling it up with Ulster-Scot farms in the 1730s; among those also there, were the Lyle family of the Raloo area, who helped establish Timber Ridge Presbyterian Church. After John's death in 1754 the remaining Houstons drove on to settle at Timber Ridge in Virginia among the many Ulster Scots. For three generations this was their home.

Sam Houston was born on March 2, 1793, on his family's plantation near Timber Ridge Church, outside Lexington, Virginia, in Rockbridge County, to Major Samuel Houston and Elizabeth Paxton Houston. He was one of nine children. His father was a member of Morgan's Rifle Brigade during the American Revolutionary War.

Receiving only a basic education, young Sam, with his family, moved to Maryville, Tennessee following the death of his father in 1807.[2] His mother then took the family to live on Baker Creek, Tennessee. In 1809, at age 16, Sam Houston ran away from home, because he was unsatisfied working as a shop clerk, and resided for a time with the Cherokee tribe of Chief Oolooteka on Hiwassee Island. He was adopted into the Cherokee Nation and given the name Colonneh or "the Raven".[3] He returned to Maryville in 1812, and, at the age of 19, founded a one-room schoolhouse. This was the first school ever built in Tennessee, which had become a state in 1796.

War of 1812

Houston was struck by a Creek arrow at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend.

In 1812 Houston reported to a training camp in Knoxville, Tennessee,[2] and enlisted in the 7th Regiment of Infantry to fight the British in the War of 1812. By December of that year, he had risen from private to third lieutenant. At the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in March 1814, he was wounded in the thigh by a Creek arrow. His wound was bandaged, and he rejoined the fight. When Andrew Jackson called on volunteers to dislodge a group of Red Sticks from their breastworks (fortifications), Houston volunteered, but during the assault, he was struck by bullets in the shoulder and arm. He returned to Knoxville as a disabled veteran, but later took the army's offer of free surgery and convalesced in a New Orleans, Louisiana hospital.[4] Houston became close to Jackson. In 1817 he was appointed sub-agent in managing the business relating to the removal of the Cherokees from East Tennessee to a reservation in what is now Arkansas, but he was offended at a rebuke from John C. Calhoun, then secretary of war, for appearing before him in Native American garments, as well as at an inquiry into charges affecting his official integrity, and he resigned in 1818.[5]

Tennessee politics

Following six months of study at the office of Judge James Trimble, Houston passed the bar examination in Nashville, after which he opened a legal practice in Lebanon, Tennessee.[6] He was made attorney general of the Nashville district in late 1818, and was also given a command in the state militia. In 1822 he was elected to the House of Representatives for Tennessee, where he was a staunch supporter of fellow Tennessean and Democrat Andrew Jackson, and was widely considered to be Jackson's political protégé, although their ideas as to the treatment of Native Americans differed greatly. He was a Congressman from 1823 to 1827, re-elected in 1824. In 1827 he declined to run for re-election to Congress and instead ran for, and won, the office of governor of Tennessee, defeating the former governor, William Carroll. He planned to stand for re-election in 1828, but resigned after marrying 18-year-old Eliza Allen. The marriage was forced by Eliza's father, Colonel John Allen, and never blossomed into a relationship. Houston and Eliza separated shortly after the marriage, for reasons Houston refused to discuss to the end of his life, and they were divorced in 1837, after he became President of Texas.

Sam Houston

After his wife left him, he lived again among the Cherokee, who formally adopted him as a member of their nation.[5] He married a Cherokee widow named Tiana Rogers Gentry, and set up a trading post (Wigwam Neosho near Fort Gibson, Cherokee Nation), apparently drinking heavily the entire time, earning the unflattering Indian Name "Big Drunk"[7]. During this time he was interviewed by Alexis de Tocqueville. His alleged drunkenness and abandonment of his office, and wife, caused a rift with his mentor Andrew Jackson, which would not be healed for several years.

Controversy and trial

In 1830 and again in 1832 he visited Washington to expose the frauds practiced upon the Cherokees by government agents.[5] While Houston was in Washington in April 1832, Anti-Jacksonian Congressman William Stanbery of Ohio made accusations about Houston in a speech on the floor of Congress. Stanbery was attacking Jackson through Houston, and accused Houston of being in league with John Van Fossen and Congressman Robert S. Rose.

The three men bid on the supplying of rations to Native Americans who were being forcibly dispossessed and relocated because of Jackson's Indian Removal Act of 1830. Stanbery, now carrying two pistols and a dirk, refused to answer Houston's letters; infuriated, Houston later confronted Stanbery on Pennsylvania Avenue as Stanbery left Mrs. Queen's boardinghouse, and beat him with a hickory cane. Stanbery did manage to draw one of his pistols, place it at Houston's chest, and pull the trigger—the gun misfired.

On April 17 Congress ordered the arrest of Houston, who pleaded self-defense, and hired Francis Scott Key as his lawyer. Houston was found guilty, but thanks to high-placed friends (among them James K. Polk), he was only lightly reprimanded. Stanbery then filed charges against Houston in civil court. Judge William Cranch found Houston liable, and fined him $500, but Houston did not pay it, and left the country.

Republic of Texas

1963 stamp issued by the United States Post Office to commemorate Sam Houston.

The publicity surrounding the trial resurrected Houston's unfavorable political reputation, and Houston made plans to go to Texas. He asked his wife, Diana Rodgers (also known as Tiana Rodgers) to go with him, but she preferred to stay at the log cabin and trading post. Later she married a man named Sam McGrady, and died of pneumonia in 1838. Houston married again after her death.

Houston left his home with the Cherokee in December 1832, and was immediately swept up in the politics of what was still a territory of the Mexican state of Coahuila, Texas. There has been speculation over the years that Houston went to Texas at the request of President Andrew Jackson to seek the annexation of the territory for the United States, but there was no documentation to prove the suspicion.

Houston attended the Convention of 1833 as representative for Nacogdoches, and emerged as a supporter of William Harris Wharton and his brother, who supported independence from Mexico, the more radical position of the American settlers and Tejanos in Texas. He also attended the Consultation of 1835. He was then made a Major General of the Texas Army in November 1835, then Commander-in-Chief in March 1836, at the convention which met at Washington-on-the-Brazos to declare Texan Independence. He negotiated a settlement with the Cherokee in February 1836.

On March 2, 1836, his 43rd birthday, Houston signed the Texas Declaration of Independence. He soon joined his volunteer army at Gonzales, but was shortly forced to retreat in the face of the superior forces of Mexican General (and dictator) Antonio López de Santa Anna, whose soldiers killed all those at The Alamo Mission at the conclusion of the Battle of the Alamo on March 6. Later at Goliad he ordered the excecution of approximately 400 volunteer Texas militia, under the command of James Fannin, who had surrendered.

Houston at the Battle of San Jacinto.
The painting "Surrender of Santa Anna" by William Huddle shows the Mexican general Santa Anna surrendering to a wounded Sam Houston. This painting now hangs in the Texas State Capitol.

At the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836, however, Houston surprised Santa Anna and the Mexican forces during their afternoon siesta. In less than 18 minutes, the battle was over. Badly beaten, Santa Anna was forced to sign the Treaty of Velasco, granting Texas independence. Although Houston stayed on briefly for negotiations, he returned to the United States for treatment of a wound to his ankle.

Houston was twice elected president of the Republic of Texas (the first time on September 5, 1836). He served from October 22, 1836, to December 10, 1838, and again from December 12, 1841 to December 9, 1844. On December 20, 1837, Houston presided over the convention of Freemasons that formed the Grand Lodge of the Republic of Texas, now the Grand Lodge of Texas.

While he initially sought annexation by the U.S., he dropped that hope during his first term. In his second term, he strove for fiscal prudence, and worked to make peace with the Native Americans and to avoid war with Mexico, following the two invasions of 1842. He had to act over the Regulator-Moderator War of 1844, which caused him to send in the militia.


Settlement of Houston

Marker on the Harris County Annex 2 Building in Downtown Houston, indicating the site where Sam Houston lived from 1837 to 1838

The settlement of Houston was founded in August 1836 by brothers J.K. Allen and A.C. Allen. It was named in Houston's honor, and served as capital. Gail Borden helped lay out Houston's streets.

In 1835, one year before being elected first President of the Republic of Texas, Sam Houston founded the Holland Masonic Lodge. The initial founding of the lodge took place in Brazoria and was relocated to what is now Houston in 1837.[8]

The city of Houston served as the capital until President Mirabeau Lamar signed a measure that moved the capital to Austin on January 14, 1839. Between his presidential terms (the constitution did not allow a president to serve consecutive terms), he was a representative in the Texas House of Representatives for San Augustine. He was a major critic of President Mirabeau Lamar, who advocated continuing independence of Texas and the extension of its boundaries to the Pacific Ocean.


On May 9, 1840, in Marion, Alabama, Houston married Margaret Moffette Lea, with whom he had eight children. He was 47 and she was 21. Margaret acted as a tempering influence on Houston. Although the Houstons had numerous houses, only one was kept continuously, Cedar Point, on Trinity Bay from 1840 through 1863.

They had eight children:

  1. Sam Houston, Jr., 1843-1894
  2. Nancy Elizabeth, 1846-1920
  3. Margaret Lea, 1848-1906
  4. Mary William, 1850-1931
  5. Antoinette Power, 1852-1932
  6. Andrew Jackson Houston, 1854-1941 (U.S. Senator from Texas)
  7. William Rogers Houston, 1858-1891
  8. Temple Lea Houston, 1860-1905

U.S. Senator from Texas

Sam Houston as a U.S. senator

After the annexation of Texas by the United States in 1845, Houston was elected to the U.S. Senate, along with Thomas Jefferson Rusk. Houston served from February 21, 1846, until March 4, 1859. He was a Senator during the Mexican-American War, when the U.S. acquired vast expanses of new territory in the Southwest from Mexico as part of the war's concluding treaty.

Throughout his term in the Senate, Houston spoke out against the growing sectionalism of the country, and blamed the extremists of both the North and South, saying: "Whatever is calculated to weaken or impair the strength of [the] Union,– whether originating at the North or the South,– whether arising from the incendiary violence of abolitionists, or from the coalition of nullifiers, will never meet with my unqualified approval."

Houston supported the Oregon Bill in 1848, which was opposed by many Southerners. In his passionate speech in support of the Compromise of 1850, Houston said "A nation divided against itself cannot stand." Eight years later, Abraham Lincoln would express the same sentiment.

Houston opposed the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, and correctly predicted that it would cause a sectional rift in the country that would eventually lead to war, saying: " ... what fields of blood, what scenes of horror, what mighty cities in smoke and ruins– it is brother murdering brother ... I see my beloved South go down in the unequal contest, in a sea of blood and smoking ruin." He was one of only two Southern senators (the other being John Bell of Tennessee) to vote against the Kansas-Nebraska Act. He was even considered a potential candidate for President of the United States. But, despite the fact that he was a slave-owner, his strong Unionism and opposition to the extension of slavery alienated the Texas legislature and other southern States.

Governor of Texas

Bust of Houston by Elisabet Ney.

He twice ran for governor of Texas as a Unionist, unsuccessfully in 1857, and successfully against Hardin R. Runnels in 1859. When he was elected, it made him the only person in U.S. history to be the governor of two different states, as well as the only governor to have been a foreign head of state. Despite Houston's being a slave owner and against abolition, he opposed the secession of Texas from the Union. In 1860, he offered the following prediction: "Let me tell you what is coming. After the sacrifice of countless millions of treasure and hundreds of thousands of lives you may win Southern independence, but I doubt it. The North is determined to preserve this Union."[9]

Despite Houston's wishes, Texas seceded from the United States on February 1, 1861, and joined the Confederate States of America on March 2, 1861. This act was soon branded illegal by Houston, but the Texas legislature nevertheless upheld the legitimacy of secession. The political forces that brought about Texas's secession also were powerful enough to replace the state's Unionist governor. Houston chose not to resist, stating, "I love Texas too well to bring civil strife and bloodshed upon her. To avert this calamity, I shall make no endeavor to maintain my authority as Chief Executive of this State, except by the peaceful exercise of my functions ... " He was evicted from his office on March 16, 1861, for refusing to take an oath of loyalty to the Confederacy, writing,

"Fellow-Citizens, in the name of your rights and liberties, which I believe have been trampled upon, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of the nationality of Texas, which has been betrayed by the Convention, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of the Constitution of Texas, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of my own conscience and manhood, which this Convention would degrade by dragging me before it, to pander to the malice of my enemies ... I refuse to take this oath."

He was replaced by Lieutenant Governor Edward Clark. To avoid more bloodshed in Texas, Houston turned down U.S. Col. Frederick W. Lander's offer from President Abraham Lincoln of 50,000 troops to prevent Texas's secession, stating in his response, "Allow me to most respectfully decline any such assistance of the United States Government."

Later life

Sam Houston's grave in Huntsville, Texas.

In 1854, Houston, having earlier made a profession of Christian faith, was baptized by the Baptist minister, Rufus C. Burleson, who was later the president of Baylor College (later, Baylor University). At the time Burleson was the pastor of the Independence, Texas, Baptist Church in Washington County, which Houston and his wife attended.[10] Houston was also a close friend of another Baylor president and Burleson's predecessor as pastor at the Independence church, the Reverend George Washington Baines, maternal great-grandfather of Lyndon B. Johnson.

In 1862, Houston returned to Huntsville, Texas, and rented the Steamboat House; the hills in Huntsville reminded him of his boyhood home near Maryville, Tennessee. Houston continued to be an avid member of the Masonic Lodge, transferring his membership to Forrest Lodge #19, in Huntsville. His health deteriorated quickly over the next few months as he could not rid himself of a persistent cough. In mid-July, Houston was struck with a severe chill, which developed into pneumonia. Despite the efforts of Drs. Markham and Kittrell, on July 26, 1863, at 6:16 p.m., Houston died quietly in Steamboat House with his wife Margaret by his side. His last recorded words were, "Texas! Texas! Margaret..." The inscription on 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.

While Sam Houston is buried in Huntsville, Texas, his wife Margaret Lea is buried in the City of Independence, Texas.

Monuments and museums

Sixty-seven foot tall Statue of Sam Houston near Huntsville, Texas.
Sam Houston State Office Building


  1. ^ Sam Houston By James L. Haley
  2. ^ a b Neely, Jack. Knoxville's Secret History. Scruffy City Publishing, 1995.
  3. ^ Samuel Houston from the Handbook of Texas Online
  4. ^ Neely, Jack, Knoxville's Secret History, Scruffy City Publishing, 1995.
  5. ^ a b c Wikisource-logo.svg "Houston, Sam". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). 1911. 
  6. ^ "Lebanon, Tennessee: A Tour of Our City" (PDF). Lebanon/Wilson County Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved February 5, 2007. 
  7. ^ Jefferson Davis by Joseph McElroy p.79
  8. ^ Holland Masonic Lodge - History page
  9. ^ "James, Marquis. The Raven. Dunwoody, Georgia: Norman S. Berg, Publisher, by arrangement with Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1929.". Retrieved March 5, 2007. 
  10. ^ General Sam Houston - Texas State Historical Marker, Independence, Texas


The following are reference sources (alphabetical by author):

  • Andrew Jackson-His Life and Times; Brands, H.W.; Doubleday: ISBN 0-385-50738-0.
  • The Texas Revolution; Brinkley, William; Texas A&M Press: ISBN 0-87611-041-3.
  • Sword of San Jacinto, Marshall De Bruhl; Random House: ISBN 0-394-57623-3.
  • Sam Houston, Haley, James L.; University of Oklahoma Press: ISBN 0-8061-3644-8.
  • The Raven: A Biography of Sam Houston; James, Marquis; University of Texas Press: ISBN 0-292-77040-5.
  • The Eagle and the Raven; Michener, James A.; State House Press: ISBN 0-938349-57-0.

Further reading

  • Campbell, Randolph B.; Handlin, Oscar (1993), Sam Houston and the American Southwest, HarperCollins, ISBN 9780065006889 
  • De Bruhl, Marshall (1993), Sword of San Jacinto: A Life of Sam Houston, Random House, ISBN 9780394576237 
  • Haley, James L. (2004), Sam Houston, University of Oklahoma Press, ISBN 9780806136448 
  • James, Marquis (1988), The Raven: A Biography of Sam Houston, University of Texas Press, ISBN 9780292770409 
  • Williams, John Hoyt (1993), Sam Houston: A Biography of the Father of Texas, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 9780671746414 
  • {{citation|last=Williams|first=John Hoyt|title=Sam Houston: The Life and Times of the Liberator of Texas, an Authentic American Hero|publisher=Simon and Schuster|date=1994|isbn=9780671880712}

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Tennessee's 7th congressional district

March 4, 1823– March 3, 1827
Succeeded by
John Bell
Political offices
Preceded by
William Carroll
Governor of Tennessee
Succeeded by
William Hall
Preceded by
David G. Burnet
(ad interim)
President of the Republic of Texas
Succeeded by
Mirabeau B. Lamar
Preceded by
Mirabeau B. Lamar
President of the Republic of Texas
Succeeded by
Anson Jones
Preceded by
Hardin R. Runnels
Governor of Texas
Succeeded by
Edward Clark
United States Senate
Preceded by
United States Senator (Class 2) from Texas
February 21, 1846– March 3, 1859
Served alongside: Thomas J. Rusk, J. Pinckney Henderson and Matthias Ward
Succeeded by
John Hemphill

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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From LoveToKnow 1911

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