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Early Texans Sing

Shhh. . .listen . . .can you hear it?  The singing?  It’s faint, but if you really concentrate you can hear it.  It’s getting louder now. I think . . .Yes, I think I can make out the tune. dada da dada. . .

Texas our Texas…It’s the state song!

That’s strange. . . I even recognize some of the voices. You hear them too, don’t you?  The Spanish voice?  That’s Cabeza de Vaca. Apart from the native Americans, I suppose we might call him one of the very first Texans. In 1527, he was shipwrecked on the coast of Texas and spent six years in servitude to the Indians and two years wandering. When he finally made his way back to Spain, it was to ask the king of Spain to let him lead a royal expedition to explore and claim Texas for the Spanish crown. Unfortunately for de Vaca, the king had already granted the commission to Hernando de Soto.

Hear the singing Frenchman?  That must be La Salle, a daring and aggressive explorer who in the 1600s claimed the territory drained by the Mississippi River and all its tributaries for French King Louis XIV. He then returned to France and gained permission to found a colony at or near the mouth of the Mississippi. In July of 1684, La Salle left Rochelle, France with four ships and 280 people. Missing the mouth of the Mississippi, the ships landed in Matagorda Bay in Texas.

It was an ill fated expedition. Quarrels developed and LaSalle was murdered in 1687 by jealous rivals among his men and the early colony ultimately vanished. A year after La Salle’s death, six of La Salle’s faithful men, having fled Texas, finally reached the French outpost in Montreal, Canada.

Hear the wavering older voice singing now?  That’s the voice of a visionary—Moses Austin. His dream was to fill the vast and beautiful wilderness called Texas with American colonists. After years of negotiation, he convinced Mexico to let him bring Americans to settle the Mexican state. Mexico agreed largely because they believed a Texas settled with Anglos would serve as a buffer between the dangerous marauding Comanche and Apache and the settled population of Mexico bordering Texas to the south. But, before Moses Austin could see his dream come to pass, he became ill and died. His son, Stephen F. Austin shared his father’s dream and brought 300 American families into Texas between 1824 and 1828.

That loud and confident deep voice? You know it has to be Sam Houston. Houston was the governor of Tennessee. He fell in love with  a sweet young thing. No  knows exactly what happened on the honeymoon, but the tearful girl refused to see him any more and Sam Houston was quickly among those G.T.T.—or “Gone To Texas.” He arrived in time to lead the Texas army in its battle against Mexican leader Santa Anna. The Texans won quickly, overcoming a substantially larger Mexican force. But legend has it that Houston had the help of a patriotic young woman whose voice you hear so sweetly in the background.  The yellow rose of Texas is what we call her—a mulatto slave girl from a nearby plantation. The story goes that she kept Santa Anna occupied during the siesta hour so that Texans could make their surprise attack. Houston went on to become President of the Republic of Texas and the first governor when Texas became a state. in 1860 and 1861, he was a warning voice against secession and against joining the confederacy. Ultimately, his refusal to sign an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy cost him his governorship.

But back to the 1830s, there was another battle before San Jacinto, a battle the Texans did not win—The battle of the Alamo. Fewer than 200 courageous men tried to hold the Alamo against thousands of Santa Anna’s Mexican forces. It was a hopeless cause, but it was not a fight in vain. “Remember the Alamo” became the rallying cry for Texas independence. The voices of William Barrett Travis and Jim Bowie were last heard at the Alamo, yet I imagine that I hear them now echoing in our state song chorus.  The fiddler? That has to be Davie Crockett.  Fiddling was not his only talent. The Mexicans came to fear his deadly shot. He too was silenced at the Alamo.

Ah, there’s another charming soprano voice. That’s Cynthia Ann Parker. What a sad story she could tell. In 1836, her family was killed in a Comanche attack. She was captured and spent 25 years with the Comanche, marrying a brave who became a chief and bearing three children. In 1860, against her wishes, she and her baby daughter (Prairie Flower) were taken and returned to her white relatives. Her daughter died of pneumonia. Legend says Cynthia Ann Parker died of a broken heart. Her son Quannah took his mother’s name and, as Quannah Parker, became a famous Comanche chief.

Listen to the two strong voices leading now. Charles Goodnight and Captain Kleburg. Each one carved a vast cattle empire out of what had been the Texas Prairie. 

The song goes on, but there are more voices than I can name, yet everyone is important in the historic tapestry of this great state.  Listen, the refrain is ending now. . .

“God bless you Texas and keep you brave and strong

that you you might grow in power and worth

throughout the ages long”