(EDITOR'S NOTE: The Polk County Historical Commission is preparing to celebrate Texas Independence Day with a program set for 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 28, at the Old City Cemetery in Livingston)
BY WANDA BOBINGER Curator,
Polk County Museum
Stephen F. Austin's Colony was the first legal settlement of North American families in Mexican-owned Texas. The initial grant for 300 families in 1821 opened up Texas to a flood of immigrants, as many as 30,000 by the time of the Texas Revolution in 1835.
Once the land had been chosen, Austin advertised for colonists. To each man over the age of 21 he promised, in the name of the Mexican government, 640 acres of land; if married, the man received 320 more; each child brought the father 160 acres, while each slave brought his master 80 acres. The Colonists were to pay Austin 12 and one-half cents per acre.
The Mexicans, fearing the aggressive land-hungry Anglos, tried to keep them under control with laws and restrictions and in 1829, sent a military expedition to observe the actions of the colonists. The report led to a law which attempted to slow down emigration from the United States and balance these Anglos with Mexican and European settlers.
The publication of the law fueled dissent. Tension between the colonists and Mexican officials became more marked with each day.
A corporal with four men was dispatched to fetch back a six-pound brass cannon from Gonzales. The gun had been there four years for the protection of the settlers and had been a gift. The people would not give it up. Word spread and 160 Texans assembled to aid the people of Gonzales.
On the morning of Oct. 2, 1835, the Texans draped the cannon with a flag and an invitation, "Come and Take It!" There was a brief skirmish but the cannon stayed in Gonzales. The war had begun!
The little brass cannon had made a very loud roar. As Mexicans fled toward Bexar, the whole country was aroused and now realized that war was inevitable.
The Texas army had marched to Bexar and found a place to camp with a defensive position near the Mission Concepcion. Ninety men were attacked by about 400 Mexicans. The Texans prevailed and after some days slowly forced their way into San Antonio, fighting hand-to-hand and house-to-house.
Finally on Dec. 9, 1835, the Mexicans ran up a white flag and terms of surrender were written. Of 780 Texans, between 30 and 35 were wounded, with five or six killed. Approximately 150 Mexican soldiers were killed or wounded.
After the war, those who could prove they had participated were granted 320 acres of land.
Eventually, 504 claims were certified. At least 79 later died fighting at the Battle of the Alamo or at the Goliad Massacre.
In less than three months after the Siege of Bexar, the Mexicans would return under the command of Santa Anna for the slaughter at the Alamo.
Filled with rage, Santa Anna vowed never to rest until the Texans be humbled in the dust. Toward the last of February, he led an army of 3,000 into San Antonio. As they got closer to the garrison, the numbers increased to perhaps 5,000.
William Barrett Travis had sent out a most pitiful plea, "To the People of Texas and all Americans in the World, in the name of Liberty, of patriotism and everything dear, come to our aid, with haste." This death cry brought no response to the 182 men, including the sick and wounded.
It was still dark on March 6, 1836, when the Mexicans sounded the bugle for attack. Our Texans were literally cut to pieces and the court ran with blood. This had taken only about one hour. It was then ordered that the bodies of Texans be collected into a huge pile and burned. As the Sabbath sun set in the west, the smoke from the funeral pyre continued to rise toward the heavens.
Several weeks later, Colonel Fannin and his army were rounded up and imprisoned at Goliad in the old fort. On March 27, Palm Sunday, the troops were awakened and marched out of the fort. They numbered between three and four hundred. After marching one half a mile, the Mexicans commanded a halt. In the next moment, a volley of balls hailed upon the unarmed men till not one was left standing. The bodies were burned.
Word of the Goliad Massacre quickly spread not only in Texas, but in the United States. Recruitment soared for the "Texas Cause", as rage built up. Cries of "Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliadl" would be heard around the world and at the Battle of San Jacinto, just one short month later.
There will be a Celebration of the Declaration of Independence at 11:00 A.M. on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015, at the Old City Cemetery. Everyone is invited.