‘Farewell Dear Martha’
Texas Independence Day festivities last weekend included a memorial service at the Acton Cemetery gravesite of Elizabeth Crockett, widow of Alamo hero David Crockett.
The group included Crockett descendant Ken Hendricks of Granbury and deCordova resident Gerald White who portrayed Texas hero Jim Bowie.
The following is White’s representation of Bowie and a poem he penned.
AT ACTON CEMETERY
In life I was Jim Bowie – the Indians called me “Knife That Cuts Two Ways”- and David Crockett was my friend.
By the time of the Alamo, I was already a high stakes player in Texas politics, having got rich the old fashioned way – by marrying the Governor’s daughter.
Texas under the well written Mexican constitution of 1824 was truly a land of liberty and opportunity, and we had all sworn to uphold it. That is why the numbers 1824 were sewn onto our flag. We had no way of knowing that 4 days earlier, the Texans at Washington on the Brazos had declared independence.
The tyrant, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, who called himself the Napoleon of the West, usurped power in Mexico and set this constitution aside in favor of his hated “Siete Leyes”(7 laws) which he enacted by decree. This was done without the consent of the people – both Mexicans, many of whom fought and died on our side, and Texians (as we Anglos were called). Such is the way of tyrants. By his arrogant abuse of power, the narcistic dictator set in motion the chain of events that has led to our meeting here today.
Much has been written about David Crockett and his career just prior to the Alamo. There was the famous remark to a Washington politician after he lost a re-election bid – “I am going to Texas and you can go to hell.”
Then there was the explanation to a friend in Tennessee when asked where he was going – “I am going to Texas to fight for my rights.”
These remarks, although witty, fall way short of conveying a full understanding of just what were his motives and expectations.
The typical high school history class exam is focused on names and dates. The serious historian is more concerned with issues and questions of “why” particular events took place. Since these stalwart Tennesseans were pretty much like minded, it seems reasonable to turn for insight to the written words of one of Davy’s companions, in this case one Micajah Autry, an educated man of letters and a poet of his times. The following letter to his wife, written along the trek to San Antonio, presents a glimpse into the minds of these soon to be immortals. In it he describes the intellectual character of several of his companions as well as some poignant personal reasons for taking this great risk.
It seems to be the quintessence of the love of liberty and free enterprise. Clearly these men understood the subtle difference between freedom and liberty as witnessed by the desire for establishing a good government. Excerpts from this insightful letter to his wife (right) are well worth noting.
Nacogdoches, Jany. 13th, 1836
My Dear Martha,
I have reached this point after many hardships and privations but thank God in most excellent health. The very great fatigue I have suffered has in a degree stifled reflection and has been an advantage to me. I walked from nachitoches whence I wrote you last to this place 115 miles through torrents of rain, mud and water. I remained a few days in St. Augustine when Capt. Kimble from Clarksvelle, Ten, a lawyer of whom you may recollect to have heard me speak arrived with a small company of select men, 4 of them lawyers.
I joined them and find them perfect gentlemen. – – – I have become one of the most thorough going men you ever heard of. I go whole hog in the cause of Texas. I expect to help them gain their independence and also to form their civil government, for it is worth risking many lives for. From what I have seen and learned from others there is not so fair a portion of the earth’s surface warmed by the sun.
Be of good cheer Martha I will provide you a sweet home. I shall be entitled to 640 acres of land for my services in the army and 444 acres upon condition of settling my family here. Whether I shall be able to move you here next fall or not will depend upon the termination of the present contest. Some say Santa Anna is in the field with an immense army and near the confines of Texas – – – – – –
Tell Mr. Smith — to be ready to come to this county at the very moment the government shall be settled, as for a trifle he may procure a possession of land that will make a fortune for himself, his children and his children’s children of its own increase in value and such a cotton country is not under the sun. Give my most kind affection to —– Dear Mary and James give a thousand tender embraces and for you my Dearest Martha may the smile of heaven keep you as happy as possible till we meet.
Tell brother Jack to think of nothing but coming here with us; tell him to study law as this will be the greatest country for that profession, as soon as we have a government,that was ever known.
We stand guard of nights and night before last was mine to stand two hours during which the moon rose in all her mildness but splendor and majesty. With what pleasure did I contemplate that lovely orb chiefly because I recollected how often we had taken pleasure in standing in the door and contemplating her together. Indeed I imagined that you might be looking at her at the same time. Farewell Dear Martha.
P.S. Col. Crockett has joined our company.
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