Previous page--Emigration from Missouri to Texas--The Zumwalt and Burket Families--Life as Mexican Citizens on the Lavaca River
1835-1836: The Texas War of Independence. Andrew Kent was not at the meeting in Gonzales between Gonzales and Lavaca River residents who formed the Committee of Safety on 17 May 1835, however, he heard of the meeting from one or more of his Burket and Zumwalt relatives who were present. He made the 35 mile trip to the meeting of regional settlers at the Millican Gin on the Lavaca River in current Jackson County near Edna. The meeting presided over by James Kerr produced a document which Andrew Kent signed in which it was resolved that actions of Santa Anna would be opposed except those supporting and enforcing the Constitution of 1824. The centralist Mexican authorities learned of the purpose of the meeting and the existence of the document, but needed a copy in order to specifically identify and arrest the signers. They arrested a Major McNutt who happened to be carrying a copy of the document to San Felipe. Fortunately, Major McNutt was able to destroy it before capture. Young Samuel Rogers, who was secretary at the Millican Gin meeting, was at the home of his girlfriend and future wife when a centralist officer came by in search of those who attended and signed at the meeting. He asked the girl's mother, a Mrs. Hardy, how he could locate Rogers, who unknown to the officer was in the backyard at the time. After serving lunch to the officer, Mrs. Hardy excused herself and alerted young Rogers while the officer was still eating. Mexican citizen Andrew Kents signature on the document from the Millicans Gin meeting made him an outlaw and rebel in the eyes of the centralista Mexican government.
The Battle of Gonzales. On 30 September 1835, Andrew Kent and 18 year old son David Boyd Kent participated in the confrontation with the centralist Mexican Army over the Gonzales cannon on the Guadalupe River outside Gonzales. The confrontation was in protest of the centralist government to disarm and confiscate the weapons of its citizens despite the fact that the government had failed to fulfill its promise to provide protection for their adopted citizens from the depredations of nomadic aborigine bands and other outlaws that prowled the area. Here young David Kent first met 18 year old Benjamin Highsmith, the two of which later became friends with Andrew Jackson Sowell who was also at the confrontation with his father John Newton Sowell. The three were together in most subsequent military engagements of the Texas independence movement, were members of the Alamo garrison who because of their courier and foraging roles survived the final moments of the defeat. The three were eyewitness sources for describing these early events to Sowells nephew (also named Andrew Jackson Sowell) who related them in his multiple published works on Texas history.
BEN HIGHSMITH. According to author A.J. Sowell, "Uncle Ben Highsmith" participated in almost every major action against both the centralista Mexican government and hostile Indians in Texas. In 1897 when he went out to interview him in BanderaCo on Blanket Creek between Sabinal and Frio Canyons, he was "found sitting in front of his door, with his hat pulled down, shading his eyes, for he is nearly blind.....To my greeting, he called out 'How are you, Jack? I know your voice, but I can not see you. Get down.'" (From Texas Indian Fighters by A.J. Sowell).
Ben Highsmith, although only 15 years old at the time, is listed among the men in Capt. Aylett Buckner's company at Velasco in 1832 where Buckner was killed at the confrontation with Mexican central authorities . As described above, Highsmith's role was usually as a scout and messenger. He was the messenger sent by Capt. Jack Hays from San Antonio that alerted FayetteCo men of the Vasquez invasion in 1842.
The Highsmith family came to Texas in 1823 by land and crossed the Sabine River by raft on 23 December with four interrelated families among as many as 33 individuals. They settled on the Colorado River above La Grange in Castleman's Spring (named after John Castleman) and later Manton's Big Spring, but forced to move to Rabb's Mill because of Indian raids. Ben Highsmith was born in Lincoln County, Mississippi on 11 September 1817. His father, Ahijah M. Highsmith (born 1796 in KY or GA; died 1845 in TX), was a scout and ranger and served in the War of 1812. The Highsmith, Turner and Sowell families of the DeWitt Colony were intermarried before arrival in Texas. Deborah Turner Highsmith, the mother of Ben Highsmith was a sister of Turner brothers Adam and Winslow. Samuel Highsmith (born 1804 BooneCo, KY; died 1849 BexarCo, TX), a brother of Ahijah Highsmith and Ben's uncle, arrived and received both a league on the San Marcos River in current GuadalupeCo and a labor in the Burket-Zumwalt-DeWitt cluster on the Guadalupe River south of Gonzales town in the DeWitt Colony (family of three) on 4 Sep 1829. Samuel's wife, Teressa Turner Williams, was a step-sister of Adam and Winslow Turner. The Highsmith and Turner families are thought to have moved from the Austin Colony on the Colorado to the DeWitt Colony at about the same time. Ben Highsmith married Elizabeth Turner, a daughter of Adam Turner. Ahijah, Sam and Ben Highsmith all were in the cattle and freighting businesses. In 1837, Ahijah made $16 off the sale of a steer and a heifer to the army and $12 for hauling baggage for Captain Nicholas Dawson from Bell's Landing to a Dr. Phelps homestead. In 1841-1842, Sam Highsmith and Myers F. Jones, operating under the name of Highsmith and Jones, held government contracts for mail delivery between Austin and Houston and several other routes. Samuel Highsmith served as sergeant-at arms for the Texas House of Representatives in 1843 and 1844 and he was promoted to Captain in the campaigns against Woll and Vasquez campaigns of 1842. Upon his discharge, J.S Mayfield wrote Sam served "well, faithfully and diligently in every station in which he was placed.....active and efficient in the service he rendered there, not only as commandant, but as private and Texan soldier." In 1878, Ben Highsmith claimed indigence and received a pension from the Texas government for his service under Captains Alley and Hill in the Texas revolution. The Turner letters of the 1870-1890 period on record at the Lee County Historical society indicate that Ben Highsmith was known as "beef-eaten Ben Highsmith." [Contributed in part by Nancy S. Hamilton]
October 1835: Muster at Gonzales and March to Bexar. Battle of Concepcion. After the confrontation with the Mexican Army on the Guadalupe and another at Goliad, Gonzales served as a rallying point for organization of defense forces, it was there that Empresario Stephen F. Austin was elected commander and an organized force was gathered for future confrontations against the centralistas and in support of the Federalist Constitution of 1824. Among the motley assortment of men and the Gonzales Lancers who departed Gonzales on 12 October to confront General Cos who had occupied and fortified San Antonio de Bexar, were Andrew and son David Boyd Kent. On 15 and 22 October 1835 they welcomed to the force their native Hispanic Texian compadres consisting of thirty rancheros from Victoria under alcalde Placido Benavides and mounted vaqueros under newly-appointed Captain in the Federalist Texas Army, Juan Seguin.
Teens David Boyd Kent and Ben Highsmith were active as foragers and messengers, roles which continued later when they became part of the Alamo garrison. The confrontation with the forces of General Cos at Mission Purisma Concepcion on 28 October 1835 had already commenced as David and Ben Highsmith were driving up a herd of longhorns to the Mission. They quickly penned them and joined in the battle.
December 1835: Siege & Battle of Bexar. It is unclear if Andrew and son David Boyd participated continuously in the prolonged and monotonous siege of Bexar during November of 1835. Like many in the loosely organized army, they may have moved back and forth between Bexar and Gonzales, taking care of both business at home and participating in the siege. The siege was designed to dislodge the centralista forces of General Cos who were firmly entrenched in San Antonio de Bexar, but too poorly supplied to mount an offensive to further repress the surrounding Federalist Bexareños and Texians in general who were in support of the Constitution of 1824. However, family oral history relates that both Andrew and David Boyd Kent were among the near 300 volunteers who responded to Ben Milams call "Who will follow old Ben Milam into San Antonio?" and participated in the battle between 4 to 9 December 1835. On 9 December, General Cos agreed to terms of surrender in which he would remove to below the Rio Grande and not "in any way oppose the re-establishment of the Federal Constitution of 1824." The Kents were among the mistaken optimists that believed that with this successful action, the war to restore the Constitution was essentially won and that all fellow Mexican citizens would soon rise to restore it by overthrow of the dictator Santa Anna. David Boyd Kent was wounded in the Battle of Bexar and returned home on the lower Lavaca River to recover. The family spent their last Christmas together at the homestead on the lower Lavaca River.
January-March 1836: Gonzales Rangers and The Alamo. During January 1836, son David Boyd Kent with Ben Highsmith, Jesse McCoy and other Gonzales residents became members of the Alamo garrison. Teenagers Kent and Highsmith served primarily as messengers and foragers since they appeared multiple times both in Gonzales and the Alamo in San Antonio during the month. On 25 or 26 January, David Boyd Kent was in and around the Alamo compound continuing his duties as a forager to supply the garrison with beef.
On 1 February 1836, neighbors Andrew Kent and Isaac Millsaps were judges and Henry C.G. Summers was clerk for election of two delegates from the Precinct of Upper Lavaca to attend the upcoming convention at Washington-on-the-Brazos on 1 Mar 1836 which turned out to be the Texas Constitutional Convention. Present at the meeting were Kent's brothers-in-law and cousins by marriage, Abraham Zumwalt and Capt. "Black" Adam Zumwalt. Other voters were John Ashby, Michael Cody, George Henry Hall, Arthur Sherrill, John Smothers and William E. Summers. Summers with later Kent and Millsaps joined the Gonzales Alamo Relief Force and died there in March. The candidates for representing the Lavaca Precinct at the convention were Ball (Esq.), J. D. Clement, Byrd Lockhart Sr., John Fisher and George W. Davis, who got 7, 7, 5, 0 and 0 votes, respectively. John Fisher and Mathew Caldwell were elected delegates to the convention from the entire municipality of Gonzales and Fisher also served on the Constitutional Committee for the convention.
On 21 February 1836, as troubles with the central Mexican government and the accompanying military actions increased, Indian attacks, theft and vandalism also increased as particularly the roving bands of Comanches capitalized on the diversion of the settlers attention. On 21 February a particularly savage murder and kidnapping east of Gonzales on Rocky Creek in Lavaca County on the Hibbins family returning home from the port of Houston with Ms. Hibbins mother and brother from Illinois occupied the attention of the men of Gonzales just as the siege of the Alamo was beginning (Smithwick, Early Days in Texas). Several Gonzales men, including Joseph Kent, friend of the Andrew Kent family and future husband of soon-to-be widowed Elizabeth Zumwalt Kent, pursued the Indian band, and joined with Capt. Tumlinsons troop in rescue of one of the Hibbins children.
On 23 February 1836, Alamo courier Launcelot Smither arrived in Gonzales and announced the arrival of General Cos army in San Antonio. On the same day Byrd Lockhart completed the muster of the Gonzales Ranging Company of Mounted Volunteers. Andrew Kent was in Gonzales on 21 February where he purchased 19 yards of diverse material (check pants, ankeen and domestic), a pair of shoes, suspenders, crevat and handkerchief on credit for a total of $24.13 at Horace Egglestons store. He was present at the muster and signed on for himself and son David Boyd Kent. He returned home on the Lavaca River on the same or next day.
On 24 Feb, the passionate and alarming appeal of Col. Travis to all people of Texas and all Americans was carried to Gonzales by Captain Albert Martin who first delivered it upon his arrival on the 25th to Launcelot Smithers who had arrived in Gonzales earlier with news of the Alamo's predicament.
On 25 February a messenger carried the news from Gonzales to the Lavaca River residents and informed Andrew Kent at his homestead that the Gonzales Rangers had been called into service and were to meet in Gonzales the next day. After an agonizing night and a morning argument over the safety of the family with his blind wife Mary, who insisted that they could take care of themselves and that he go to relieve the besieged Alamo defenders, Isaac Millsaps left his family and with William E. Summers came by the Kent place early the next day on their way to Gonzales. Burned in 8 year old daughter Mary Ann Kents memory was the parting moment when the family waved goodbye to the three men, a moment, which she related, many times in later life to any one who would listen. The last words Mary Ann recalled from her father were "This time you may see some blood." Like most of the family men who joined the Gonzales Relief force, the moment was one of particularly intense dilemma and personal conflict for Andrew Kent and the family. His oldest son was to his knowledge under siege within the Alamo garrison and the family on the outside edge of the settled colony was in increasing danger from the increasingly bold Indian raids of which the nearby Hibbins depredation was a fresh example. Although of less intensity, violence from roving bands of predatory outlaws, both from the east and south with allegiance to no principle or government was increasing in probability, not to mention the threat from the centralista army itself should it not be contained at San Antonio. Could wife Elizabeth Zumwalt Kent manage with the nine children, three of whom were under six years without Andrew or eldest son David Boyd?
In San Antonio de Bexar on 24 February 1836, David Boyd Kent and another unidentified young man (possibly Ben Highsmith or A.J. Sowell) were moving a herd of beeves they had rounded from nearby ranches to the Alamo when they were separated from the Alamo garrison by the surrounding centralista forces. Cut off and confused about what to do for more than a day, David Boyd Kent returned to Gonzales. On 26 February, Andrew Kent was both surprised and relieved to meet son David Boyd in Gonzales during the muster and organization of the Gonzales Ranging Company. Andrew and David Boyd argued heatedly over who was to go with the Gonzales Rangers the next day to the Alamo. David Boyd was anxious to again join his comrades from whom he was cut off several days earlier. Because of the increased activity of local bands of Indians, miscellaneous outlaws and deserters from both the Centralist Mexican and Federalist Texan armies, Andrews primary concerns were the immediate safety of the family as well as the general threat by the centralist Mexican Army in San Antonio. The end result was that father Andrew Kent persuaded son David Boyd Kent to return to the Lavaca River homestead to look after the family and father Andrew joined the main contingent of DeWitt Colony men who departed Gonzales for the Alamo at 2 PM Saturday 27 February 1836. Years later, David Boyd related to relatives that he believed that father Andrew Kent at the time had grave doubts about the chances for success of the relief mission. He related that his father's primary motive was to spare his son and to protect the family, therefore, he insisted that he (Andrew) be the one member of the family to fulfill obligations to the call-up of the Rangers and defense of the Alamo. David expressed regret during his life that he had conceded to his fathers wishes and that it was not him instead who had returned to duty at the Alamo and that father Andrew had returned to the family and homestead on the Lavaca.
DAVID BOYD KENT (1817-1892) was born 23 February 1817 in St. CharlesCo, MO and came to the DeWitt Colony with the extended Kent, Zumwalt and Burket families. In a sworn affidavit, he states he assisted families fleeing Gonzales on the Runaway Scrape until they were safe and was on his way back to join the regular army when the Battle of San Jacinto was fought. He apparently returned to the Kent league to which he was apportioned 400 acres when the Andrew Kent estate was settled in 1844. On 31 October 1841 he married 15 year old Elizabeth Billings. In the 1850's the David Kent family along with families of siblings Bosman Clifton and Louisa Naomi Billings moved to GillespieCo, TX. David moved to BlancoCo, TX in the 1860's. He served in Capt. Freeman's Company of the Pedernales Cavalry and in Company D of Capt. de Montel's Frontier Regiment at Camp Verde, TX with the CSA in 1861-1863. He appeared in Leakey, EdwardsCo, TX in the 1870's where he married widow Margarete Waldrope. They had one son Bosmon Clifton Kent in 1889. David Kent was living in Knoxville, KimbleCo, TX when he died 7 February 1892 and is buried in an unmarked site in City Cemetery, Harper, GillespieCo, TX. Descendant Luke Kent writes in History of Blanco County Texas:
On 29 February 1836, following instructions from father Andrew, David Boyd Kent directed the scattering of the Kent cattle herd on the open range, burying of valuables and generally securing anything of value and too heavy to hide or carry by looting Indians, outlaws, or the invading regular Mexican Army. The family then moved into Gonzales where they stayed with cousin "Red" Adam Zumwalts family who ran a boarding house and kitchen. Gonzales town was bustling with families, who like the Kents, had come into town for security from the multiple sources of impending danger. In the period between 30 February and 6 March, possibly 5 Mar, David Boyd Kent met his friend Ben Highsmith who arrived in Gonzales with a letter from Col. Travis to Col. Fannin at Goliad and with it Col. Fannins negative reply. According to Highsmith family legends and other's who knew Highsmith, he had returned to Powder House Hill overlooking the Alamo with Fannin's reply to Col. Travis. From his position he had a panoramic view of his colleagues walking the walls of the Alamo surrounded by the Mexican forces. Spotted by mounted Mexican scouts, he was chased for over 6 miles and did not stop to water his horse until 18 miles out on the Cibolo River. Highsmith is thought to have been the last member of the Alamo garrison to see his close friends and comrades alive, if only from a distance. He returned to Gonzales where friend David Kent informed him that Deaf Smith was in town, organizing a relief force for the besieged Alamo defenders in addition to the one joined by father Andrew Kent on 27 Feb. The two made plans to return to San Antonio.
Next page--Travis' Appeal--Last Alamo Report--Alamo Attack Order--Muster at Gonzales