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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Dilue Rose Harris Recalls Fort Bend County in February/March 1836

A colleague told me we're now in what should be called the 'high holy days' of Texas history, so my contribution is a short excerpt from Dilue Rose Harris, who was a preteen when Santa Anna marched through this part of Texas to San Jacinto.  

Her father was a doctor.  Her family lived somewhere south of Stafford's Point, so their home must have been in the general vicinity of today's Highway 6 and Dulles Avenue.  I think her story is fascinating.

The news that Santa Anna was marching on San Antonio was confirmed.  The people at Goliad and San Patricio were leaving their homes, and everybody was preparing to go to the United States.   There was more or less dissension among the members of the Council of Provisional Government.  They deposed Governor Smith and installed Lieutenant Governor Robinson.  The Mexican army arrived at San Antonio, and the Council went to Washington on the Brazos.  People were crossing the river at Fort Bend and Jones' ferry going east with their cattle and horses.  Everybody was talking of running from the Mexicans.

The people had been in a state of excitement during the winter.  They knew that Colonel Travis had but few men to defend San Antonio.  He was headstrong and precipitated the war with Mexico, but died at his post.  I remember when his letter came calling for assistance.  He was surrounded by a large army with General Santa Anna in command, and had been ordered to surrender, but fought til the last man died.  A black flag had been hoisted by the Mexicans.  His letter came in February.  I have never seen it in print, but I heard mother read it.  When she finished, the courier who brought it went on to Brazoria.  I was near eleven years old, and I remember well the hurry and confusion.  Uncle James Wells came home for mother to help him get ready to go to the army.  We worked all day, and mother sat up that night sewing.  She made two striped hickory shirts and bags to carry provisions.  I spent the day melting lead in a pot, dipping it up with a spoon, and moulding the bullets.  The young man camped at our house that night and left the next morning.  Our nearest neighbors, Messrs. Dyer, Bell, and Neal had families, but went to join General Houston.  Father and Mr. Shipman were old, and Adam Stafford a cripple, and they stayed at home.

By the 20th of February the people of San Patricio and other western settlements were fleeing for their lives.  Every family in our neighborhood was preparing to go to the United States.  Wagons and other vehicles were scarce.  Mr. Stafford, with the help of small boys and Negroes, began gathering cattle.  All the large boys had gone to the army.

But the last of February there was more hopeful news.  Colonel Fannin with five hundred men was marching to San Antonio, and General Houston to Gonzales with a thousand.  (Editor: Both reports were untrue.)

Father finished planting corn.  He had hauled away a part of our household furniture and other things and hid them in the bottom.  Mother had packed what bedding, clothes, and provisions she thought we should need, ready to leave at a moment's warning.  Father had made arrangements with a Mr. Bundick to haul our family in his cart, but we were confident that the army under General Houston would whip the Mexicans before they reached the Colorado River.

Just as the people began to quiet down and go to work, a large herd of buffaloes came by.  There were three or four thousand of them.  They crossed the Brazos River above Fort Bend, and came out of the bottom at Stafford's Point, making their first appearance before day.  They passed in sight of our house, but we could see only a dark cloud of dust, which looked like a sand storm.  Father tried to get a shot at one, but his horse was so fractious that it was impossible.  As the night was very dark we could not tell when the last buffalo passed.  We were terribly frightened, for it was supposed that the Indians were following the herd.  The buffaloes passed and went on to the coast, and the prairie looked afterwards as if had been plowed.

We had been several days without any news from the army, and did not know but that our men had been massacred.  News was carried at that time by a man or boy going from one neighborhood to another.  We had heard that the Convention had passed a declaration of independence, and elected David Burnet President, and Sam Houston Commander-in-Chief of the army.  On the 12th of March came the news of the fall of the Alamo.  A courier brought a dispatch from General Houston for the people to leave.  Colonel Travis and the men under his command had been slaughtered, the Texas army was retreating, and President Burnet's cabinet had gone to Harrisburg.

Then began the horrors of the "Runaway Scrape."