History from Home – Sam Houston

Sam Houston

Adopted by Cherokee, led Texas to Independence, was President of Texas, Governor of two States, Congressman, Senator

The son of Major Samuel Houston & Elizabeth Houston, Sam Houston was born in a log cabin on the family’s plantation March 2, 1793 in Timber Ridge, Virginia. He was the fifth of nine children.

After the death of his father, the Houston family moved to Maryville, TN near the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. There, the family farmed 419 acres and opened a store.

Sam cared for neither farming or storekeeping and ran away at 16 to live with the Cherokees. It was here that he met Chief Oo-loo-tek-a, known to the whites as John Jolly, who became his adopted father and gave him his Cherokee name “Colonneh,” the Raven.

Three years later, Sam Houston returned to Maryville, Tennessee. Houston tried several jobs, including opening a one-room schoolhouse, which was very successful.

He joined the army and fought in the War of 1812. Houston fought under General Jackson against the Red Stick Creek Indians at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend on March 27, 1814. 

An arrow struck Sam Houston near his upper thigh. He had the arrow removed, was bandaged, then returned to the fight. He was struck again with bullets in his shoulder and arm. General Andrew Jackson took notice of Houston and began mentoring him.

In 1818, Houston moved to Nashville, Tennessee to study law with Judge James Trimble. He passed the bar, and opened up a legal practice in Lebanon, Tennessee. Houston was also appointed the local prosecutor and was given a command in the state militia.

Houston was nominated by Andrew Jackson’s Democratic Party for the U.S. House of Representatives. He won the election and serve as a U.S. Congressman from 1823 to 1827. Houston was also elected Governor of Tennessee in 1827.

After a short, failed marriage in 1829, Sam Houston resigned as governor and moved to the Arkansas territory to live with the Hiwassee Cherokees he had helped place there 10 years before.

In 1833, he went to Texas. Houston was elected to represent Nacogdoches, Texas at the Convention of 1833, which was called to petition Mexico for statehood. In 1836, Houston signed the Texas Declaration of Independence from Mexico and was named commander of the army.

After Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna’s army killed all the defenders at the Alamo on March 6, 1836, including Tennessean David Crockett, Santa Anna went after Houston.

On April 21, 1836 at San Jacinto, Houston surprised and defeated Santa Anna’s larger forces. Santa Anna was forced by Houston to sign a treaty giving Texas its freedom.

Sam Houston was the hero of Texas. He was elected president of the new Texas Republic on September 5, 1836 and then as U.S. Senator after the area was annexed by the United States. He later became governor of Texas in 1859, becoming the only man to serve as governor of two different states.

Houston and Jackson continued to have a tight bond with one another until Jackson’s death.  According to accounts in June of 1845, Houston was crying at the deathbed of Andrew Jackson. Houston hadn’t made it to The Hermitage in time for Jackson’s final moments.

The former American President died shortly before the former Texas President arrived, and the towering Texan sank to his knees and openly wept over the body. Houston remained for the funeral and served as one of Jackson’s pallbearers.

In 1861, as the Civil War loomed, Texas Governor Sam Houston watched his constituents vote to secede from the Union. Houston could not believe that two decades of his work was about to unravel.

His loyalty to the Union was genuine, and he was not willing to switch his allegiance to the Confederacy. Houston was forced out of office but not before saying, “I love Texas too well to bring civil strife and bloodshed upon her.”

Sam Houston’s fighting days were behind him, and he retired to a quiet life in Huntsville, TX. Two years later in 1863, as the Civil War was raging, Sam Houston died quietly in the downstairs bedroom of the Steamboat house. The funeral service was held in the upstairs parlor on July 27, 1863.

Sam Houston was laid to rest in Oakwood Cemetery during a rainstorm, with Masonic gravesite services. Few attended the service due to the strife of the nation.