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The Runaway Scrape and Return told to Andrew Jackson Sowell published in Rangers and Pioneers of Texas, 1884. Several families remained here at Columbia for some time, until the times became more settled. Among the number was old man [John Newton] Sowell, but finally they commenced moving back to their old homes on the Guadalupe and elsewhere, and, in 1838-39, a great many had returned and again settled at Gonzales. I heard of one incident connected with the sudden flight of the settlers on the approach of the Mexicans, which I will here relate. A family who were living some distance from Gonzales, were just sitting down to breakfast when one of the messengers which Houston had sent out arrived and told them of the fall of the Alamo, and the advance of Santa Anna. Without stopping to finish breakfast they hastily collected a few things and fled, and on their return more than a year afterwards, found everything as they had left it. The table was still set, and chairs around it, and moldy bread and meat in the dishes, nothing having molested a thing.
Yoakum, in describing the flight of the settlers, says:
In connection with the return of the familes to Gonzales, I will insert the following, which was published in the Gonzales Inquirer, in February, 1882, and is as follows [For biographies where available on surnames mentioned below, see Dewitt Colony People & Demographics-Index--WLM]:
GONZALES IN 1838 AND 1839. EDITOR GONZALES INQUIRER: Please accept a few reminiscences of Old Gonzales, with a view of introducing other and abler pens to place upon record, before it be too late, similar sketches of Life and Times on the Guadalupe Frontier. The spring of 1838, witnessed the return to Gonzales of some of the families who had built homes here in the first settling of this country, but who, with others of the colonists on the Guadalupe river, had been constrained to a hasty flight in the memorable running scrape of 1836. The Alamo had been garrisoned principally by men and boys from this vicinity, and when they were butchered, their families were left smitten and almost helpless, and the enemy advancing rapidly upon them, their homes were left to the flames while they escaped as best they could. The defeat of the Mexicans at San Jacinto did not secure peace to the western settlements; on the contrary, rumors of intended invasions were rife every spring, and Indian depredations were common. Thus the prospect of good times was remote to the surviving families who had buffeted about until they had mostly used up their personal property, but yet owning excellent lands in this region, they resolved to return, re-establish and rebuild their former homes. This spirit and indomitable energy of these people, was worthy of note, and was exemplified while they were moving from place to place, anxiously waiting for some protection and security to be offered their frontier.
One excellent matron declared to her associates in distress,
The return was difficult, the country being waste and desolate for two or three years. There was nothing but wild game to subsist upon. They must bring their corn from the Colorado, or from Washington County, and grind it by hand upon steel mills. Groceries and store supplies could only be obtained at Houston or the Lower Brazos. Having no cattle to spare, they hunted deer, which were plenty; while wildhogs, bears, and occasionally a buffalo, were found. By the last of June of this year, among others who had got back, were judge McClure, ten miles east of town, occupying one of the most exposed places in the country; Mr. Havens, and the Lockharts, ten miles below on the west side; the DeWitts, and old Simon Bateman, beyond whom the wide extant of land reaching to the San Antonio, was uninhabited; over in the forks, were Mr. Duncan, and the Hodges, with Colonel King, nine miles above, and still more remote, was Colonel J. D. Clements. Nearer town, were the widow Rowe, Frazier, George W. Davis, Almon Cottle, the Berrys, Daniel Davis, John Clark, I. J. Good, and in the inner town, there were Eli Mitchell, Captain M. Caldwell, James Patrick, Esquire, Adam Zumwalt, Ezekiel Williams, E. Bellinger, M. G. Dikes, the Sowells, Nichols, and Darst.
In June, Mr. -, while traveling home via Big Hill and McClures, was killed by the Indians. He lived near Berry's. The Fourth of July, 1838, was observed with some festivities, including the wedding of Captain William A. Mathews and Mrs. Fuqua. The same day brought sorrow into Mr. Bellinger's family, whose son, William, was drowned at the watering place of the town. In June of 1838, Major V. Bennett, who was also from Gonzales, was instructed to visit the important points on the frontier, especially San Antonio, and report to military headquarters at Houston, and during the following winter, two companies of the army were brought out, one of which was stationed at Gonzales, Major Bennett furnishing transportation and subsistence for both companies. Among those previously mentioned, two were signers of the declaration of Texas' independence, and there were also a few of the eighteen men who, in 1835, comprised the first company mustered to prevent the Mexicans from removing the cannon from Gonzales. In the spring of 1839, Captain Ben McCulloch and H. E. McCulloch, had an efficient company of minute men, and kept their scouts in the field from time to time. Their encampment was up the Guadalupe, at Walnut Springs. The friendly Indians, the Lipans and Tonkaways, frequently encamped at Gonzales, and in one or two instances co-operated with the McCullochs in pursuing other hostiles. On one occasion, the Indians were encamped just below town, on the river, driving a pretty brisk trade in ponies, deer-skins and trinkets, during which time, John McCoy, of McCoy's creek, in the lower part of the county, who owed the red men a grudge, treated one of them pretty freely with whisky, and accepting in return his proposal to ride behind him from town to camp, deliberately scalped the Indian on the road, for which he was blamed by the citizens generally.
In addition to the citizens already mentioned, there were others of more or less prominence, who may have been earlier or later identified with Gonzales and its surroundings, viz: Wilson and Barney Randall, A. Swift, the Smiths, Kings, Days, V. Henderson, Callahan, John S. Stump, an expert hunter; Baskes and Rhodes, successful bear hunters; Putnam, Kinkennon, William Morrison, Asley Miller, C. Acklin, Clem Hinds, E. Henkins, Nathan Burkitt, Cockrill, Wolfin, Cooksey, Hoskins, George Edwards, A. Gipson, John Archer, Arch Jones, Josh Threadgill, W. B. Hargis, Grubbs, Baker, R. Miller, Joe Martin, Killin, C. C. Colley, Frazier, Poney Hall, and Robert Hall. Some of these men were in the humble walks of life, but all counted in times of alarm and distress, for the war with Mexicans and Indians continued to harrass Western Texas long after San Jacinto days. Witness the bold excursions into Mexico under such captains as Jordon, Ross, Switzer and King, in 1839; the burning of Linville, and the battle of Plum Creek, in the summer of 1840: the Santa Fe expedition, in 1841-42; the Vasquez inroad in the spring of 1842; the battle of the Salado, and the Wall campaign, in the fall of 1842, followed in the winter by the Summerville campaign, including the Mier expedition. In all of these, our men participated pretty freely; some fell in actual battle; some endured long and harsh imprisonments; some were permanently disabled by honorable wounds, and a few of them lie in unknown graves in the public burying-ground in Gonzales. "B."
The Runaway Scrape by Mrs. Kate Scurry Terrell from Wooten's Comprehensive History of Texas. In the last council of war held in the Alamo, when every man pledged himself to die if need be at his post, Travis used these words:
It was "a deed so well done" that it not only saved from worse than death the women and children of the colonies, but the flames of its funeral pyre flashed in every blade at San Jacinto, and gave freedom to Texas. The story, credited in some of the histories, that Houston ordered Travis to retreat from the Alamo is without foundation. The writer's father left the convention at San Felipe with Houston to join the army in West Texas, and served as aide on Houston's staff until he volunteered with Ben McCulloch as gunner for the "Twin Sisters" at San Jacinto. No such order was ever sent to Travis. Houston expected to raise a sufficient force on his march to San Antonio to relieve Travis, and retreated himself after the Alamo bad fallen. To disparage the sublime martyrdom of the heroes of the Alamo does not add to Houston's fame, nor can it stain the memory of Travis. The news of the fall of the Alamo, and the inhuman butchery at Goliad, flew with be wind to the pioneer families scattered between San Antonio on the west and Nacogdoches on the eastern border of the State. Houston sent Lieutenant Sharp to assure the people that there was no cause for alarm; but the fact that his army was retreating flew faster than his courier, and added panic to the widelyspread terror.
All the able-bodied men of the settlements were with the army, only a few old men and boys being left to guard the homes. On the women-brave wives and mothers of brave men fell the responsibility of protecting their families. Knowing the quality of Mexican mercy, they gathered their children and servants and started at once for the Brazos. Any kind of vehicle served for transportation; in carriages, wagons, ox-carts (sometimes with cows hitched to them), were piled the bedding and babies, the women driving, or following on foot or on horseback as they could. The panic was so great that frequently families would leave a meal on the table to join the rush, and the next one that came that way would snatch it as they raced by. It was an unwritten law that smoke-houses were to be left open for the hungry to supply their wants, but nothing was to be wasted. Many pathetic incidents are related of this women's exodus as well as ludicrous ones. In Jasper County, a woman tied a feather bed on her one pony and fastened three of her children on it; taking the fourth in her arms and leading the pony, she joined the "flying squadron" of Jasper's "runaways." Another started from home in a wagon with a baby nine days old. While camping for the night there came up a terrific rain-storm, when the women in camp gathered around the sick woman and held blankets over her to keep her and her baby dry and warm. No "red badge of courage" shows finer than this.
It had been an unusually wet winter, and the roads were long quagmires of bottomless mud, the prairies trackless sheets of water. Colonel Guy M. Bryan, in a paper on early days in Texas, says he can never forget the pitiful sight of the runaways when his family joined them at Cedar Bayou. On the road, as far as the eye could reach, east and west, a motley crowd of suffering and perplexed humanity struggled, uncomplaining, through the mud. Many women and children were walking, some barefooted and bareheaded. A woman whose cart-one of those rude "truck-carts" with wheels sawed from a large tree, into which the spindle of a wooden axle worked, the rough body being fastened to the axle by wooden pegs, and covered with a cotton sheet for tent; you may see many such in old Mexico today was bogged in one of the numerous reedy mavilas of the Neches prairie, the oxen lying in the water with only their noses out for air. The woman, with two little girls, sat on a little knoll patiently waiting for help. Colonel Bryan took his mother's carriage to her assistance, but she would drive her oxen herself. Cracking her whip, she called to them, "Rise, Buck! Rise, Ball! Now is the time to do your best!" And Buck and Ball rose to the occasion. The cry of "Mexicans," though of daily occurrence, always created a panic. Bedding, provisions, any and everything, would be thrown off to lighten the wagons, and the horses whipped into a run. The prairie at times was white with feathers emptied from beds, and the road lined for miles with household goods. Mrs. Anson Jones, wife of the last President of the republic, tells of camps suddenly abandoned, where trunks were left open from a hasty rummage for some needed article, and mirrors were left hanging on the trees. Danger from the disaffected Indians was another source of alarm. A solitary horseman across the prairie would often cause a stampede. Soon hunger and sickness added their gaunt forms to the general distress. Women sank by the roadside from exhaustion, and many little children died. The stronger women became veritable Sisters of Mercy as they went about nursing, encouraging, and comforting the less fortunate. General Rusk pays a glowing tribute to these noble women. He said:
General Rusk's wife [Mary Cleveland Rusk] was one of the heroines of those trying times. Calm, thoughtful, and steadfast, she set an example of fortitude and self-reliance to all who came under her influence. A true and fit "helpmeet" she was to the noblest and most disinterested patriot Texas ever knew. When General McLeod advised the women and children to leave Nacogdoches, Mrs. Rusk and the other women, with quiet self-control, placed their children and such things as were indispensable in the wagons, and started on their perilous march to the Brazos.
Not so the men. They were wild with excitement and terror, and would ride at full speed along the line of the wagons loaded with women, shouting, "The Indians are coming!" Mrs. Rusk would beg them "not to be alarmed; the army was between them and the Mexicans, and the thirty men at Nacogdoches would fill bloody graves before the Indians could reach them." And she would look so calm that her courage became infectious. The runaways from the west found the Trinity River out of its banks, and were compelled to halt until such time as they could be ferried over. The old rule "first come first served" held good here as elsewhere in the colonies. The eastern contingent halted, for the same reason, at Groce's Ferry on the Brazos, and some time was spent in camps. At Donoho's, three miles from Groce's, General Houston and the little army on their way towards Harrisburg passed the runaways. A young officer on Houston's staff, attracted by a blue-eyed tot of a girl in the camp, leaned from his saddle and patting her pretty head, called her a "little heroine." Ten years afterwards, in the old town of Washington, the then capital of the republic, this same soldier, now member of Congress and Speaker of the House, met this "wild rose" and a love-match followed!
The 16th of April, after a long march in a cold rain, the runaways halted at McCauley's plantation, on Buffalo Bayou, the women refusing to go another step. They had borne privation and suffering so far without complaint, but human nature could bear no more. "Rest, only rest," was their crying need. On the 20th, a squad of soldiers riding into camp found a Sabbath stillness, the children asleep under the trees, the women in groups talking quietly or reading aloud, the old men dozing around the campfires. The 21st day to be remembered of all time was misty and cold, but strangely electric; the suspense was intense and the waiting agony, Suddenly, as the sun shone out, the booming of cannon came faintly across the prairie.
"God of battles, remember the helpless! Let thy strength be with us this day!" Towards sunset, a woman on the outskirts of the camp began to clap her hands and shout "Hallelujah! Hallelujah!" Those about her thought her mad, but, following her wild gestures, they saw one of the Hardins, of Liberty, riding for life towards the camp, his horse covered with foam, and he was waving his hat and shouting "San Jacinto! San Jacinto! The Mexicans are whipped and Santa Anna a prisoner." The scene that followed beggars description. People embraced, laughed and wept and prayed, all in one breath. As the moon rose over the vast flower-decked prairie, the soft southern wind carried peace to tired hearts and grateful slumber. As battles go, San Jacinto was but a skirmish; but with what mighty consequences! The lives and the liberty of a few hundred pioneers at stake and an empire won! Look to it, you Texans of today, with happy homes, mid fields of smiling plenty, that the blood of the Alamo, Goliad, and San Jacinto sealed forever "Texas, one and indivisible!"
Sutherland Letter 5 June 1836. Alamo Defender and casualty, William Sutherland's mother, Frances Menefee Sutherland, expressed her grief over sons death and described subsequent events in a letter of 5 Jun 1836 to her sister Sarah Norment in Tennessee.
Uncle Jeff Parsons of Jackson Municipality. Jeff Parsons was a slave who worked for the Sutherland family in current JacksonCo. He gave the following account in an interview to the Galveston News in his later years.
We had hardly settled down before trouble began with Texas and Mexico. I remember the "runaway" very well, as we went ahead of General Houston's army. The women, children, slaves and a few old men reached the Sabine before the battle of San Jacinto. There was a lot of scared folks in the "runaway" crowd. Some went on sleds, some on contrivances made with truck wheels, some on wagons, some on horseback, some on foot, or any way they could get there. I can't begin to describe the scene on the Sabine. People and things were all mixed, and in confusion. The children were crying, the women praying and the men cursing. I tell you it was a serious time. Before we started on the "runaway" to the Sabine, we buried the wash tubs, pots, kettles, cooking utensils, and old master's secretary, the same one which his grandson George S. Gayle, had in his possession for a number of years. The Mexican army never found them, but they swept the country of poultry, sheep, hogs, and horses. On our return we found nothing but the wild animals on the prairies, and hard times met us at home. We had to live there months on game and without the taste of bread. We built scaffolds for drying the meat. We ate it dried, fried, boiled, broiled, stewed, baked and roasted, but we had to live on it so long we became tired of it, anyway we could cook it. Finally at the end of three months we heard a cannon fire on the bay, and it was a joyful sound. It was the signal telling the people that the vessel had arrived and they could come and get supplies. Old master was not long in getting off. He bought ten barrels of flour, three barrels of pickled pork, one hogshead of rice and sugar and coffee. There was a feast on his place when these supplies came. I know the president never smacked his lips with more relish over a Thanksgiving dinner than we did over the first meal we ate after the groceries came.
Flight from Gonzales by William P. Zuber in My Eighty Years in Texas. Having learned that the Alamo had fallen, we proceeded no farther toward it. On the morning of the fourteenth, we elected lieutenants for our company. James Gillaspie became first lieutenant and Matthew Finch, second lieutenant. Both were volunteers from Tennessee who had joined us at Washington and both were elected without opposition. Then we commenced to dig an entrenchment on the east bank of the river, intended for use in repelling any attempt by the enemy to cross it. We felled a large cottonwood tree, a few feet south of the landing at the ferry, so that it lay on the brink of the bank and parallel to it. We stuffed under the tree some brush from its branches. Then we dug a ditch about five feet east of the fallen tree, parallel to it, about two and a half feet deep and three feet wide. We piled the excavated dirt by the tree, saving a space about two feet wide between the embankment and the ditch on which to stand or walk. Now our entrenchment was complete. If a body of the enemy should attempt to cross the river, we could stand on the space, use the embankment for a breastwork, and fire upon them. Then we could step down into the ditch and reload in perfect safety from the effect of their small arms. I think we could have repelled or destroyed a whole regiment if they had attempted to cross at that point, but we had no occasion for using our entrenchment. On the fifteenth of March a number of families in flight from Gonzales encamped near us. I saw old Mr. Martin, the father of Capt. Albert Martin who fell at the Alamo. He was sitting on the bank of the river, gazing into the flowing stream. He shed not a tear, but his whole body was convulsed in grief. His son had been in command of the thirty-four citizens of Gonzales who had entered the fort on the night of March 1.
General Sam Houston had been in Gonzales and had assumed command. On the twelfth, the little force there consisted of about three hundred men. Then, on the night of the thirteenth, Mrs. Dickenson arrived in the camp and informed General Houston of the fall of the Alamo. The General ordered an immediate retreat. This intelligence was not unexpected, but Mrs. Dickenson, suffering great fear, said that she believed the Mexican army would arrive before day. Her anxiety so excited our soldiers that they departed in confusion, some of them leaving their baggage and horses. The confusion and hurry was so great that they forgot to relieve their pickets west of the river. During the night, they retreated, very disorderly, over a dim and muddy road, to Peach Creek, ten miles east of Gonzales, where they arrived about daybreak on the morning of the fourteenth. Arriving at Peach Creek, the front of the army, in obedience to the General's order, rested till the rear came up, and here the whole army rested for a short time. This rest allayed the undue excitement, and from Peach Creek the army continued the retreat in excellent order. Mr. Connell O'Donnell Kelly was a member of the picket guard left behind when the army retreated. He later told me that on the morning of the fourteenth, after the hour had passed when they should have been relieved, our pickets, judging that something extraordinary had occurred, recrossed the river to report and hear the news. They found the encampment vacant, except for some men who had returned to recover their horses and baggage left behind in the hurry of departure. They also found that all the families in the town had gone, leaving nearly all their effects, and that a company of men were burning the houses, on order of General Houston, to prevent the enemy from occupying them. But no enemy had yet arrived. Another soldier, encamped at Peach Creek while en route for the army with a small company commanded by Capt. John Bird, told about seeing two women who were next door neighbors, whose husbands had fallen in the Alamo. They were at supper, with their children, when news came that the Alamo had fallen and that the army was hastily preparing to retreat. Having no means of conveyance, each woman immediately arose from the table and snatched and tied up a little bundle of drygoods. Then, each with two children holding to her skirts and one carrying an infant in her arms, they departed. They were a short distance ahead of the army and thus they traveled, over a wet and slippery road, ten miles to Peach Creek. They arrived at Captain Bird's encampment a short time before day and told the Captain of their sad condition. He mounted his baggage wagon, threw out two large boxes to make room for them, helped the women and children to mount, and seated them in the wagon. They rode on the wagon during the retreat to the Colorado, where they joined some other friendly retreating families.
Reminiscences of the Texas Revolution in 1836. (Newspaper clipping from the Valentine Bennet Scrapbook by Miles S. Bennet). When sitting in my old one-armed rocking chair reading THE GALVESTON NEWS---which has always been the friend of the true veteran of 1836---my thoughts turned back to the times when four men were camped at what is now know as Shiloh Church some ten miles from Liberty. It was about the last of February, 1836. Preparations for dinner were soon made, and while eating a horseman came up in haste, who was cordially invited to share our meal. That man was Joseph Dunman, bearing that immortal letter from our friend Travis for assistance as he was surrounded by the enemy. After a hasty repast, Dunman proceeded to the Whites and Anahuac. The question was who will go? Thomas Belknap, Joseph Farwell, Nat Moss and the writer agreed to go, the latter purchasing two horses from Moss for Belknap and Farwell, also rifles and ammunition from a merchant on credit; and as the merchants soon after left Texas he has never been paid to this day. The writer afterward gave both horses and rifles to Farwell and Belknap.
Runners were sent in all directions for volunteers to meet in Liberty on a certain day in march. On that day the volunteers form Beaumont under D.I. Harper, twenty-eight strong; some twenty from the settlement above Liberty with Frank Hardin as captain, and the Liberty boys, united one company and elected Wm. M. Logan captain, F. Hardin first lieutenant and B.T. Harper second lieutenant. When nearly ready to start the company were agreeably surprised by the appearance of that true lover of Texas, Make M. Soinks driving up with a load of fine bacon as a present to the company. Seeing one of the boys without a coat, the noble-hearted man gave him his and went home without any, saying his old woman could spin and weave another. Such men should have cities named after them.
Well, about the 5th or 5th of March Captain Logan with his company, turned their faces toward the Alamo, to reinforce Colonel Travis. Those are the men who must take that most disgraceful of all oaths, that he is a pauper, before the great and wealthy State of Texas will give him a pittance in his old age, to keep him and his from want. That law is a disgrace to very member who voted for it. Texas is the only government on earth that makes any distinction in the pension law between the rich and poor. The veterans of 1836 expect something better of the legislature now in session. We will see. TRINITY COTTAGE.
In my last, Captain Logan, with the Liberty boys, was on the way to the relief of Colonel Travis, who was besieged in the Alamo, determined to reinforce him if possible. Next day was met the first of the runaways---a Mr. Coleman, with his family, going east of the Trinity. He told us that Travis was surrounded by overwhelming forces; that an army was at Labahie [La Bahia], and that every one was coming east into Louisiana. We bid him cheer up, that Texas was not lost yet, and rode on the faster. Movers were met as we pushed on toward our point of destination, which we were never destined to reach. The day before we reached San Felipe we camped at a large mound, where we met some fugitives from west of the Colorado. At this campfire, we heard the terrible news that the Alamo had fallen; that all were fallen except Mrs. Dickenson and her infant, and Traviss negro servant, al three of whom had been sent to Gonzales under a flag of truce to General Houston; also that the Mexicans under Santa Anna were marching east to drive from Texas every American. This was distressing news, which caused some to wish they had not joined us, and several concluded to desert the command; one Dr. Belding did so, but when starting, Menard Maxwell stepped up to him and in more forcible than polite language said that no coward who deserted could carry his rifle with him, but some braver men must use it. The last that was seen of the doctor he was making fast time on his pony for the Trinity, spreading the most extravagant news about the fate of Texas---she was doomed, and everyone had better get away as soon as possible. This was the first desertion, but no the last. From our camp at this mound to the Brazos we witnessed such scenes as made the heart sick---women walking with infants in their arms, husbands and youths on foot driving the trucks or slides with a little bedding and provisions, just enough to keep them from starving, and cover them when night overtook them on their long journey to a place of safety from a ruthless foe. Many a god-speed and well wishes were given us by those who had to abandon their hearthstones and household goods, leaving their all, as many thought, forever. That days sights mad such an impression on a few that we made a vow never to cross the Sabine, but to form a band and continue the was as banditti, if the army was driven into Louisiana. At every few minutes we met those going east and bearing the most extravagant rumors of acts of the enemy, who was carrying all before him, threatening death to all Americans. We camped on the Brazos at San Felipe. TRINITY COTTAGE.
SONS OF DEWITT COLONY TEXAS