previous next
[146]

General Sam Houston. From the New York Herald, Dec. 29, 1907.

Explanation of causes which led the soldier-governor to Forsake the three-months' bride to live with Cherokee Indian Tribe.


Austin, Tex., Saturday, December 28, 1907.
The mystery of that chapter in General Sam Houston's life which caused him to suddenly resign as Governor of the State of Tennessee and go into the wilds of the West, where he joined the Cherokee Indians, leaving behind a bride of three months, has been an eyer fruitful subject of discussion among the people who are familiar with the life of that strange man, who did so much in later years to win for Texas her independence.

That there was a romance behind his mysterious withdrawal from civilization is well known and many have been the surmises as to the details. Thomas Boyers, an aged resident of Gallatin, Tenn., who was a friend of both Houston and his bride, has just thrown new light on the romance. He says:

In the life of the celebrated Sam Houston, which is as romantic as any in the annals of fiction, there is no event of deeper interest than his first marriage.

In every man's history there is a time when woman's influence is the determining force that makes or mars it. And in the life of Houston his meeting with Miss Allen and his subsequent marriage with her are the influences that turned the whole course of after events. At first the change brought the lawyer and statesman to the condition of a barbarian living in forest wilds, but finally the liberty loving barbarian became the patriot who devoted his best energies to obtaining the freedom of Texas and the upbuilding of this great State.

Marriage Cause of Flight.

From facts in my own memory and others obtained from [147] contemporaries now long dead I believe that this marriage and the mysterious separation that followed are easily explained by a single analysis of the physical and spiritual natures of Houston and his bride, rather than the wild rumors and exaggerations current at the time it occurred.

General Houston, as I remember him, was a man powerfully built, wonderful in animal strength and vitality and of an ardent and romantic temperament, revelling in the ideal. He idolized his wife extravagantly; to him she was the fairest woman that ever the sun shone on. He gave her admiration and devotion and expected the same from her.

Their courtship reads like an old romance. There was a stately house three miles from Gallatin, Tenn., on the bluffs of the Cumberland River. Here lived John Allen, an old fashioned country gentleman, whose daughter was at once the delight and despair of the young cavaliers. Beautiful and queenly, the lily was not purer nor marble colder than this stately lady. She was a Greek in her repose, perfect in feature and figure, but with a spiritual something that the Greeks never possessed.

All are turned away.

The wooers came from far to woo. She listened to them patiently; said “no” gently, but decidedly, and then turned away unmoved by their entreaties, never even looking around as they galloped off. She was well educated and her conversation, like herself, was at once sensible, graceful and dignified.

In her train was one who never spoke of his love, feeling that his suit was hopeless. And him she loved, as she confessed to one of her bridesmaids on the eve of her wedding. Who the unknown suitor was, why he never spoke, there are only conjectures; his name never passed her lips.

Meanwhile Houston came to Gallatin—Houston the soldier, friend and comrade of General Andrew Jackson; Houston the Governor, and always Houston the cavalier, booted and spurred, “the glass of fashion and the mold of form.”

Surely there was never a lover whose honors clustered as thick around him; no wonder the unknown suitor hung back [148] when such a gallant entered the list. He wooed and won and wedded the beautiful Miss Allen in January, 1820.

One of the bridesmaids, who died only a few years ago, described to me all the details of the wedding. For weeks before she said, the bride was in a state of melancholy, openly acknowledging that she acceded to the Governor's suit only at her parents' solicitation. But it was not until the wedding day came, and they were decking her in her bridal finery, that she confessed that although many had addressed her, the one whom she loved had never spoken, yet she knew he loved her.

It was too late then, for soon there was a clatter of hoofs, and the Governor and his cavalcade of friends came galloping up on gayly caparisoned horses, with spurs jingling. The Governor, the bridesmaid told me, was faultlessly arrayed in a magnificent suit of black over which was thrown a voluminous Spanish cloak lined with scarlet. Shortly afterward the marriage ceremony was performed.

The Governor took his bride to the capital, and there the honeymoon was passed amid great festivities. The citizens of every rank vied in attention to the distinguished couple; never before had the executive mansion been so graced.

Part at manor house.

After three months of what was to outward appearances a happy honeymoon, the bride went home on a visit. The Governor followed in a few days, and there at the manor house, where they were married, husband and wife parted forever. What passed no one knows, as the lips of both were ever afterward sealed on the subject.

Governor Houston returned to Nashville and sent his resignation as Governor to his old comrade, General William Hall, Speaker of the Senate, who succeeded him. After resigning he went into the forest, and, forsaking civilization, lived with his old friends, the Cherokee Indians. The nation was startled to learn that in a day the Governor of a flourishing commonwealth had been transformed into an Indian brave.

“Eliza stands acquitted by me,” General Houston said in a [149] letter to a friend. “I received her as a virtuous and chaste wife, and as such I pray God I may ever regard her; and I trust I ever shall. She was cold to me, and I thought did not love me.”

This is the true explanation of the seeming mystery. To a man like Houston, all fire and passion, the constant rebuffs of a cold nature like his wife's were unbearable.

After the Governor had abandoned civilization many wild rumors were rife, and to repel any blame that might attach to his wife, a public meeting of prominent citizens of the town and county was held, at which strong resolutions were unanimously adopted upholding the good name of his wife.

Called in disguise.

Here I wish to present a chapter in the narrative that has not before been known to the world, which was given to me by the bridesmaid mentioned before, who received it from Mrs. Houston herself. One day, while in the garden of the manor house on the river bluff, the housemaid came and announced to Mrs. Houston that a stranger, tall man, was in the reception room, asking to see her.

On entering the room, with her woman's instinct, she saw at a glance that the stranger was the late Governor Houston, artfully disguised. He arose and made his old time courtly salutation, which alone might have betrayed him to a less shrewd person than his wife. She requested him to be seated.

He did not suspect that his disguise was detected, nor did he during the interview give any explanation of the object of his visit. He conversed in a commonplace manner about the weather and condition of the river. Neither did she in any way hint that she knew him, but all the time the visitor was gazing intently at her as if to fasten her features more surely in his memory. Then he arose, made another profound bow and passed out, going down the river by a difficult passage in the high bluff.

There he entered a canoe, which had been tied by his own hands, paddled to the opposite bank, and disappeared in the thick forest. [150]

General Houston's subsequent career, his life among the Indians, leading him finally to the West; his eventful course in Texas, fighting for the independence of the State; rising to the rank of commander-in-chief, and driving out the Mexicans; his election to the Presidency of Texas, and, after the annexation to the United States, his serving as Governor, and later as United States Senator, are all matters of history.

In the early months of 1853 I met him at Washington, and was invited to his room at his boarding house. Very adroitly, after more than one interview, he led me to speak of his wife, and then succeeded question after question, many of them of the most trivial character, in regard to her.

Mrs. Houston finally obtained a divorce on grounds of abandonment, and was afterward married to Dr. Elmore Douglas, of Gallatin. She met her death in the winter of 1862 in the opera house at Gallatin. She was there with her children, who were rehearsing for private theatricals. A trapdoor, having been carelessly left open, Mrs. Houston fell through it, suffering a fracture of the hip. She died shortly afterward.



Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Gallatin, Tenn. (Tennessee, United States) (5)
United States (United States) (2)
Tennessee (Tennessee, United States) (1)
Edgefield (Tennessee, United States) (1)
Austin (Texas, United States) (1)

Visualize the most frequently mentioned Pleiades ancient places in this text.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Sam Houston (18)
John Allen (2)
Andrew Jackson (1)
William Hall (1)
Elmore Douglas (1)
Thomas Boyers (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
December 29th, 1907 AD (1)
December 28th, 1907 AD (1)
1862 AD (1)
1853 AD (1)
January, 1820 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: