The Mother Of Texas
Mrs. Jane Herbert Long, called “The Mother of Texas,” was born on the 23rd day of July 1798, in Clark County, the State of Maryland 1. Her father was General William McCall Wilkinson, of the United States Army, and her mother was Annie Herbert Dent. They were married February the 24th, 1774, and Jane Herbert was their tenth child. One of her sisters, Barbara, was born in June 1784, and she married a Mr. Wood. He died and she married Alexander Calvitt, December 18th, 1814, and she died December 19th, 1858, in Brazoria County, Texas, where her husband also died. The mother of Mrs. Jane Long died when she was an infant, and she was raised by her sister, Mrs. Calvitt, at Natchez, Miss., where she received her education, her father most of the time being in the army. After the battle of New Orleans, fought on the 8th of January, 1815, in which the British army was defeated and sailed away, Miss Jane Wilkinson met and became acquainted with Dr. James Long, who was a surgeon in the army of General Andrew Jackson, and as such participated in the battle of New Orleans, and such was his daring on that historic field that General Jackson called him the “Young Lion.” He formed a strong attachment for the accomplished Miss Jane Wilkinson and asked her hand in marriage. She reciprocated the feeling, and gave her heart and promised her hand to the brave and hand-some young surgeon and physician, and on the 14th day of May, 1815, they were married and took up their abode at the fine plantation called Walnut Hills, owned by Dr. Long, near Natchez. Here for a few years, and the only time during her married life, Mrs. Long enjoyed the peace and quiet of a happy home. Here a daughter was born, Annie Herbert Long, on the 26th of November 1816.
Ill fated hour when Dr. Long became enthused and carried away with the popular idea then prevalent among many noted men around Natchez, of the conquest of Northern Mexico, which then included the vast country of Texas and other provinces and all under the dominion of Spain. Dr. Long subscribed of his means liberally to help raise funds to defray the expenses of an expedition, and at a public and enthusiastic gathering in Natchez made a stirring speech in favor of it, but at the time had not the remotest idea of being its leader, but expressed his willingness to accompany it. It was understood that Colonel Adair, of Kentucky, was to be the commander, but that gentleman declined the honor, and it was then tendered to Dr. Long and he accepted it. He lost no time in preparing and raising men to march with him into Texas for the purpose of wresting that province from the King of Spain. He crossed the Sabine River with a sufficient force to take possession of the old Spanish town of Nacogdoches, and there set up his government, distributing his forces at various points. We cannot tell what the feelings of Mrs. Long were, or what she suffered mentally in regard to the action of her spirited young husband, or whether her feelings were in accord or not with his plans, but one thing we do know, that she bravely and devotedly followed him and shared his triumphs and reverses until, finally, left alone with her child and servant girl at Bolivar Point, on the coast of Texas.
When General Long started to Texas with his little army he left his wife and two children (another daughter, Rebecca, being born June 16, 1819), with her sister, Mrs. Calvitt, until he should establish himself in Texas, and when that was accomplished he sent one of his gallant captalus, Randall Jones, to convey her to Nacogdoches, leaving the children still at Mrs. Calvitt’s, the youngest dying soon afterwards. This journey was accomplished on horseback. Here she was again left by her husband, but under the protection of brave and devoted men, while he went to the Island of Galveston to confer with the pirate, Lafitte, and to induce him, if possible, to aid him in his conquest. The pirate chief refused his assistance, and General Long commenced his return trip to Nacogdoches, but before reaching that place learned the startling and unexpected news that his forces had been scattered and many killed by a Spanish army under Colonel Perez. We know not in what manner Mrs. Long escaped the vengeance of Perez, except that faithful followers of her ill-starred husband conveyed her to a place of safety beyond the Sabine River, where she remained until joined by General Long. He was not discouraged by this unfortunate catastrophe, but resolutely went to work raising means and enlisting men to further prosecute the war. Men of wealth and standing at New Orleans came to his rescue, and he was soon ready to start again with a small force to Texas. This time his wife and child and a colored servant woman, named Klan, who belonged to Mrs. Long, accompanied the expedition. They coasted in boats around the shores of Texas and landed at Bolivar Point, opposite Galveston Island, in the summer of 1820. Here about seventy-five of the scattered forces of Long had assembled, and these, added to the force which came with the General, made a showing, as he thought, which would justify him in recommencing hostilities. Here they built a kind of mud fort and planted a cannon upon it, and soon after the command set out for the west to further prosecute the war. In the previous history of the expedition, we stated what befell General Long and his men, and will not recapitulate that again here. Mrs. Long was not left alone at Bolivar Point by her husband; but, on the contrary, at first had pleasant associates, her companions, besides, her own household, being Dr. Edgar and his wife and the wife of Dr. Allen (the latter having gone with General Long) and four soldiers. The time passed agreeably enough for a time under existing circumstances. They enjoyed the scenery, fished, and watched for distant sails to come in sight on the Gulf, a rare occurence then since the pirates had gone away from the Island of Galveston.
As the weeks and months passed away, and no tidings came from General Long, the inmates of the fort became restless and anxious to leave, all except Mrs. Long. Her companions finally begged her to consent to leave, but she refused again and again, until when they determined to leave, and in answer to their last appeal she said, “No, my husband left me here and he said he would come back, and I will remain faithful to the trust, and if I should not survive he will at least find my bones here when he returns.” Noble, devoted. woman! They left her, and we are unable to put on paper all that she suffered in mind and body during that long and severe winter of 1820 and 1821. She was bound to know, from the long silence of her husband, that something had gone wrong with him, or a message would have come from the west to her. But still she waited and hoped, and day after day gazed out upon the lonesome sea and along the desolate coast, with no friends or protectors for a hundred miles or more around and no companionship except her own sad thoughts, that of her little girl, Annie, the servant girl, Klan, and the dog, “Galveston.” Klan was very devoted to her, and seemed perfectly willing to die for her at any time if necessary. One day she told Klan that they were acting Robinson Crusoe now and for her to go out along the beach and see if she could discover any footprints in the sand. She did so and soon came running back and informed Mrs. Long that she had seen moccasin tracks. This denoted the presence of Indians and, no doubt, they had during some night reconnoitered the place. Mrs. Long never allowed anything to frighten her, and, being possessed of a red skirt she fastened that to a pole and displayed it on the fort for a flag, as if it was manned by warlike men.
She knew not what day or what hour the fierce Craunkaway Indians would come and murder them, which she had reason to expect. The pirates were gone and the Indians again inhabited Galveston Island, and she knew their deadly animosity toward the whites. She saw the French schooner wrecked and the crew butchered by them before her husband left, and he had gone to the island with a portion of his men and fought them, and was compelled to retreat to his boats and come back to the Point.
There were firearms at the fort, and Mrs. Long knew how to use them, as well as fire the cannon, and she was determined to fight them as best she could if they came, and one morning they did so-canoe loads of them, painted and decorated for war, and pulling straight for the Point. Her courage, however, remained in this trying time. She was the daughter of a soldier, of a general. Calmly telling Sian and her little daughter not to be frightened, she boldly and with a firm step entered the little fort, manned the cannon, directed it, applied the mach and fired. The boom of the gun echoed far out across the bay and along the shore, and when the smoke cleared away the Indian canoes were no longer together, and each oarsman pulling with all his might back to the island. Mrs. Long loaded the cannon again, and it was some time before an Indian was seen again, but once more they ventured, not very near, however, and a shot from the fort frightened them away again. No doubt had the Indians known that only the weak hand of a woman was the sole defender of the fort they would have taken it and massacred the inmates, but this fact they were ignorant of, and the courage and self-possession of Mrs. Long saved them.
The winter of 1820 and 1821 was one of unusual severity for this climate, and incredible as it may seem to some who live on the Texas coast, the bay was frozen over, and during the time Mrs. Long saw a large bear cross on the ice from the main land to Galveston Island, moving slowly and serenely along his way, without in the least being disturbed in any manner, although followed and barked at by the dog “Galveston” for some distance.
Provisions gave out, and for months Mrs. Long and those with her had to subsist on salted fish, but fortunately fish were tin abundance and easily obtained. Hundreds of them were frozen and Kian would break the ice and get them, packing them down in the brine of mackerel barrels. They also had hooks and lines with which to get a supply of fish in good weather. Only once since 1820 has the bay been frozen over, and that occurred several years ago-about 1886.
One more terrible ordeal this brave woman had to pass through while at Bolivar Point-another child was born, a little girl, December the 21st, 1821. This frail little child was named Mary James, but its earthly career was short, dying at four years of age. What a sad. Christmas to these isolated ones, and this was the second they had passed here, but evidently the first was spent in company with those whom Dr. Long had left with his wife. It seems that the rude “mud” fort, as it was called, was not constructed so as to furnish shelter and protection in in-clement weather, but for defense and to mount the cannon on. Mrs. Long lived in a tent, and so severe was the winter, and so much snow fell and accumulated on the tent that the top was weighted down so as almost to touch the beds on which they had to sleep and finally broke in, and it was during this time, and in this snow and ice-laden tent that the child was born. We will, however, no longer dwell on these sad scenes. Early in 1822 two white men came to Bolivar Point, the first Mrs. Long had seen in nearly a year, and she joyfully recognized her faithful friends, Captain Randall Jones and his brother, James. They, however, brought her the sad news of her husband’s death, and had come to convey her away. With a sad heart she made ready to accompany them and bid farewell to the desolate, wave-lashed shore of Bolivar Point. They went to San Antonio, where Mrs. Long remained a short time, and then continued the journey on to the City of Mexico, where she viewed the spot on which her unfortunate husband breathed his last, struck down by the bullet of an assassin. Why she went on this long trip, what incidents happened by the way, and who accompanied her, unless it was the Jones brothers, we cannot tell. She, her little girl, and Kian made the trip on the backs of Mexican burros.
The Mexican authorities treated her kindly, and from Colonel Ben Milam, one of her husband’s companions, she learned the particulars of her husband’s death. He told her that General Long had a presentiment of his death, and that he walked the floor all night ‘before he was killed on the following morning. When Colonel Milam insisted on him going to bed, he said, “No, Milam, I cannot rest, I feel that I will never see my family again, and I want you to be a brother to my wife and a father to my children.” The promise was given and Colonel Milam faithfully kept his promise to General Long, and aided his bereaved and widowed wife to the extent of his ability, which was at times interrupted ‘by being thrown into prison himself, until finally he met his death at .San Antonio while storming that city with a force of Texans in 1835. His remains rest in Milam Square, San Antonio, and a handsome monument has been erected there to his memory.
Mrs. Long returned to Texas and took up her abode in Brazoria., county seat at one time of Brazoria County. Here she opened a. boarding house and took in washing, the latter work being ably attended to by Klan. Another sad feature connected with this truly sad history was the fact that a debt hung over Mrs. Long; contracted by her unfortunate husband in order to raise means to further his enterprise, and Kian, the faithful servant, was under mortgage for this debt, and was finally taken to cancel it. Mrs. Long now went to work with renewed energies in order to save money enough to buy the devoted woman, Kian, back. She was, however, relieved from this burden by the kind-hearted General Peck, an old schoolmate and former suitor for the hand of Mrs. Long who, on learning of the circumstances, bought the servant and restored her to her former mistress. Before leaving Brazoria Mrs. Long saved money enough to buy a Negro man, and soon after moved to Richmond, Fort Bend County, where her grant of land was located, all of the middle and southern portion of the city now occupying it. Mrs. Long now bought an-other negro man and had a nice farm put in cultivation, and from that time on to the day of her death had all that she wished as far as the comforts of this life were concerned. She also started another boarding house in Richmond, which was well patronized. Mrs. Long had several offers of marriage from noted and worthy men, but she refused them all, saying that she could never give her hand and heart to but one man. When Klan died her mistress mourned her truly and gave her a nice burial. The devoted servant left four children, James, Fed, Clarisa and Lizzie. Clarisa had a daughter also named Kian, who was the waiting maid of Mrs. Long, and attended upon her every want.
When Mrs. Long became old and feeble she seldom left home, but one morning told Klan to hitch the horse to the buggy and take her driving for the last time. They first went to the home of Doctor Ferris, and that polite old gentleman seeing Mrs. Long at his door in her buggy was agreeably surprised and came hastily to assist her in alighting. She refused his aid, however, saying, “Doctor, let me get out myself, you might let me fall.” A pleasant and agreeable hour was passed in conversation upon the various topics of the day, and then she was driven to the home of her granddaughter, Mrs. Mary Miles, where she remained some time, and then at her request was taken to the home of Clarisa, her former servant and mother of Klan. Although the latter was free, she never ceased to wait upon Mrs. Long, and she still lives in Richmond, being known far and near as “Aunt Ki,” and she also keeps a boarding and lodging house, but for whites only. From the house of Clarisa Mrs. Long was driven to an ice cream parlor, where she partook of some cream, and then ordered the carriage home. After entering the house she sat in a chair for a short time, said she felt bad, and had taken her last ride. She was undressed soon after and placed in bed and failed to get up on the following morning, but lingered a month, getting up occasionally and being dressed, but not leaving the room. Toward the last said she was just waiting on the Lord, that she was ready and had tried to do her duty all her life-told Klan to be good, and that she did not want any one when she was dead to wash and dress her and lay her out but Klan and Clarisa. Thus she died happy, and in the full hope of the resurrection, on the 30th day of December 1880, aged 82 years and 6 months. She was buried in the cemetery at Richmond and a nice monument erected over the grave. A large concourse of people attended the burial of this “Mother of Texas” and showed her all the respect possible. She always treated her servants kindly and would allow no one to correct or chastise them. Mrs. Long was a true heroine and one of the most estimable women and noble mothers known to the early annals of Texas. The only surviving daughter of Mrs. Long, Annie Herbert Long, married Edward Winston at Richmond, and they ‘had one child, James Edward, he survived Mr. Winston and married the Hon. James S. Sullivan and they had four children–Mary, Sarah (the latter dying at 13 years of age), and two who died in infancy. Mary married Mr. J. W. Miles, of Richmond, and lives in Beeville, a widow. Captain Sidney Winston, of Richmond, is the great grandson of Mrs. Jane Long, he being the son of James Edward Winston. The other children were: Lilly, Roberta, and Eddy. Lilly married Dr. John L. Dillard, of Richmond, now dead. She still survives and lives in Richmond. Roberta married Jorden Farmer, no children, both living in Richmond. Mary A. Miles, of Beeville, granddaughter of Mrs. Long, has three children, Sullivan, Annie and Collier. The first named married a Miss Black, and Annie married Benny Cochran, now dead. Collier married at Beeville.
Captain Sidney Winston, one of the solid citizens and representative men of Richmond, married Miss Kate Blakely, and they have two children, Nettie Laura and Blakely.
Mrs. Sullivan (Annie Herbert Long) died at Richmond June the 1st, 1870, her mother surviving her ten years.
- The author erred in the location of her birth. There has never been a county called Clark in Maryland. Her birth took place in Charles County MD.[↩]