Raising the Curtain on Texas History

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Newsletter No. 103 

Edited by Brenda Magee October


Jeff is dispatched to fetch Andy and bring him to his father. Under duress, the boy tells him where he has thrown the key, and the “prisoners” are finally freed after two hours. The Governor loves to tell the story and laughingly says that his young son handled the Senators better than he, with all his powers as Governor.

Another proud day in Jeff’s life is when the Governor makes him his “office boy” - this is in addition to his usual duties in the house and as the Governor’s driver. This position allows Jeff an opportunity to observe important and interesting events.

On one occasion because of his new position, Jeff may have saved the Governor’s life. For several days running, Jeff noticed two young men around the capitol building. Once, while the two were peeking in the window of the Governor’s office, one pulled out a pistol and Jeff heard one ask the other why he did not fire. The man replied that the Governor’s secretary was in the line of fire. Rushing inside, Jeff tells Mr. Penland, the secretary, what he has seen and heard. The secretary goes outside and confronts the men, telling them they should come inside to air their grievances like men. The men refuse and go on their way.

Mr. Penland advises the Governor to carry a pistol for protection and to be mindful of people in his comings and goings. Sam’s reaction is that he is not afraid of any man alive and besides, feels it unseemly for the chief executive of the state to carry a gun. A pair of derringers would be easy to conceal, the secretary points out.

Governor Houston consents and the next day he has Jeff drive him to a German tailor in Austin to have back pockets put into two pairs of trousers. The plan is to conceal the little guns in the hip pockets. Jeff reports that the Governor only carried the guns for a month or so, then gave up the practice.

On presidential election day 1860, Jeff drives the Governor to the polls to vote. Before casting his vote, Sam stops to talk with friends. Jeff recalls Houston saying that he does not believe in secession, and hopes God might perform some miracle to save the country. For whom his master votes, Jeff never learns, but he is witness to several speeches in favor of Senator John Bell of Tennessee, the Constitutional Union party candidate, that the Governor makes. Democrat Party candidate Stephen A. Douglas, Kentuckian John C. Breckenridge, the Southern Democrat candidate, and Bell are defeated, of course, by Republican Abraham


The following January, the State Convention of Secession meets in Austin and draws up the secession ordinance aligning Texas with the Confederate States. The Governor is asked to appear before the convention at noon; Jeff accompanies him, but is not allowed into the chamber. The Convention meets in the House of Representatives chamber and Jeff is determined to observe the proceedings. Running quickly upstairs to the balcony, Jeff manages to slip in.

It is with strong emotion that Governor Houston addresses the Convention, saying that the South will be beaten and thousands of men will march away, never to return. He states that secession will wreck the whole fabric of the Constitution and with tears in his eyes, says he will not agree to sign Texas away to secession. Ever given to the dramatic, he shows his battle scars to a silent chamber. It does not sway them - the vote to adopt the ordinance passes 174 to 7. The people of Texas confirm that vote on February 23, 1861, and on March 5, just three days after the Governor’s 68th birthday, Texas joins the Confederate States.

On March 16, the oath of allegiance to the Confederacy is to be taken by state officials, and the first name called is Sam Houston. But the Governor is not present; he stays away, unable to bear the turn of events. The Governor's office is declared vacant and Lieutenant Governor Edward Clark is sworn in as Governor. Secretary of State E. W. Cave also refuses to take the oath of allegiance to the Confederacy.

Later, the former governor receives a letter from Abraham Lincoln offering him a commission in the Northern Army, as well as 50,000 Federal soldiers to put down secession in Texas. Sam asks four of his Unionist friends to meet with him, and after reading the letter, asks their advice. Three of the men advise against accepting the offer of troops simply because the people of Texas voted for secession. The number of troops, they point out, will not be sufficient to be successful against the secessionists. Houston agrees, not wanting to cause civil war between Texans.

It is time to go back home to Huntsville.

From “My Master” by Jeff Hamilton, as told to Lenoir Hunt, originally published by Manfred, Von Nort and Co., Dallas, 1940. Reprinted by State House Press, Austin, 1992.


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