Inventory of the Alexander Thomson Letter:
5 Aug. 1832
According to the biographical information received with the letter and other sources, Alexander Thomson, Jr. was born 29 Aug. 1785 in St. Matthews Parrish, S.C., the only son of Alexander and Lucy (Fontaine) Thomson. Thomson lived in Georgia in his youth, and married Elizabeth Dowsing in Lincoln County, Ga. 31 July 1805. Thomson and his family left Georgia in 1814, moving to Giles County, Tenn., where Thomson rented land from Sterling Clack Robertson, who later became a land empresario, second only to Stephen Austin in the size of his holdings. Thomson emigrated to Texas, and settled at Washington, Tex. around 1830, becoming one of the first settlers in what is now Burleson County in east Central Texas. According to the biographical note, Alexander Thomson and his wife had twelve children, but other sources state they had thirteen. The Thomson letter is addressed to his son William D. Thomson, who later served as the first county clerk of Milam County, and Engrossing clerk of the House of Representatives, First Congress, Republic of Texas, which convened at Columbia, Tex. on October 3, 1836.
As a surveyor and full partner of the empresarioSterling C. Robertson, who represented the colonization project called Robertson's Colony, which was variously known as the Texas Association, Leftwich's Grant, and the Nashville Colony, Alexander Thomson encouraged the colonization of Central Texas, and invested $20,000.00 himself in Robertson's colonization plan. As a result of drawn out legal disputes with the much more influential empresarioStephen F. Austin over the ownership of the area covered by Robertson's colony, mainly caused by the passing of the Law of 6 April 1830 in which the Mexican government banned any further emigration from the United States into Texas, Thomson settled in Austin's colony in 1830. The land disputes were not settled until 1834, at which time colonists were legally permitted take up their land grants in Robertson's Colony and settle there. The handwritten biography accompanying the Thomson letter notes that Thomson was also related to Sterling Robertson, since Helen P. Robertson was Alexander Thomson's cousin, and that a more complete record of Alexander Thomson's various services to the development of Texas is recorded in the April 1904 issue of the Texas Quarterly.
Among his services to Texas after this 1832 letter was written, Alexander Thomson participated as a member of the General Council, which helped govern Texas as a part of the provisional government established by the Consultation in San Felipe de Austin, which adjourned 14 Nov. 1835, until the opening on 1 March 1836 of the Convention which wrote the Texas Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the Republic of Texas. Alexander Thomson is particularly credited with naming Milam County, introducing a resolution as a delegate from the Municipality of Viesca (Milam County) to the Consultation on 26 December 1835, naming the County in honor of Ben Milam who had just been killed in San Antonio. Thomson probably also helped bring Methodism to Milam County, significant since the Mexican government had earlier specified in their land grant agreements that all colonists must be Catholics.
After his first wife's death 24 Dec. 1849, Thomson married Elizabeth Hill, widow of Asa Hill 28 May 1850. Alexander Thomson died 1 June 1863 (the biographical note gives May 1865), and was buried in a family graveyard at Yellow Prairie, Tex., renamed Chriesman in 1885, in honor of Horatio Chriesman, a later pioneer. Though declined by 1993 to barely thirty citizens, Chriesman is still located seven miles northwest of Caldwell, Tex. in northwestern Burleson County.
The Alexander Thomson letter, dated 5 Aug. 1832, from Texas, Austin's Colony, is handwritten in ink on both sides of a sheet of paper measuring 31 cm. by 37 cm., originally folded in half to form four pages, each measuring 31 cm. by 18 and a half cm. When further folded the fourth page became the address area and is postage stamped in red: "Little Rock Arks, Sep 6." Traces of the red sealing wax remain on this page. The letter is framed in a brown wooden frame, with cream matting, between two pieces of uv protectant glass, so both sides of the letter can be viewed. The letter is addressed to "Mr. Wm. D. Thomson, Giles County, Tennessee, Cornerville P.O.," with the salutation "My dear son," and signed "your Aff. Father, Alexs. Thomson."
The text of the letter recounts recent events in Austin's colony which, in retrospect, have direct bearing on the brewing struggle for independence of the colony from Mexico. Most noteworthy is the account of the early revolt of Anglo-Texas colonists against the Mexican government's steady encroachment on the freedom of colonists to conduct free trade, or encourage further immigration into Texas from the United States.
In the letter Thomson details the build-up of hostilities between Colonel Juan Davis Bradburn, born in Virginia, but in service to Mexico, who was made commander of Fort Anahuac. Fort Anahuac had been established in May 1831 in what is now Chambers County, Tex. by the Mexican govenment to collect customs duties, and to enforce the decree of 6 April 1830 that forbade further colonization by emigrants from the United States. On a high bluff overlooking the mouth of the Trinity River, Anahuac was an essential port of entry for early Texas colonists. As the Fort had been built, Bradford had angered colonists by conscripting labor and supplies from them for the construction. In 1832, he unjustly imprisoned William Barret Travis, Patrick C. Jack, Munroe Edwards, and other colonist. The letter vividly recounts the explosion of anger and artillery which followed after entreaties failed on the prisoners' account.
Friends and relatives of the prisoners persuaded other colonists to attack the Fort and by 10 June 1832, 160 Texans had gathered before the fort of Anahuac. Several unsuccessful parleys and skirmishes later the colonists desisted, waiting for cannon to arrive from Brazoria. Colonel José de las Piedras, commanding Mexican troops stationed at Nacogdoches, arrived to mediate and as a result, the prisoners were released to the civil courts, Bradburn was relieved of his command, and he later resigned.
Noteworthy also in the letter are the expressions of loyalty and admiration shown toward General Antonio López de Santa Anna by the colonists, who saw him as championing their rights in the condemnation of Bradburn, who was known to be a supporter of the hated General Anastacio Bustamante. Bustamante, who had been dictator of Mexico since January 1830, was now involved with Santa Anna and his allies in a fierce civil war. As the Thomson letter records vividly, the Texas colonists threw their support to Santa Anna, believing him to favor their freedom to enforce their own laws and maintain their own system of trade and civil courts. The letter records Stephen Austin's whole-hearted support of Santa Anna, and Thomson's encomium on Santa Anna as "a true republican ... determined not to lay down his arms until republicanism prevails," rings ironically optimistic in the face of events only a few years later, culminating in the bitter defeat of the colonists by Santa Anna at the Alamo, and the equally bitter final defeat of Santa Anna at San Jacinto, assuring Texas's independence from Mexico.
Accompanying the letter are three other items. Item 2. is a sepia toned picture, apparently reproduced from an oil painting. The picture is pasted inside a dark brown oval paper matting on a piece of cardboard measuring about 20 cm. by 15 cm. The image measures about 13 cm. by 7 cm. Though the original painting is as yet unidentified, "Alexander Thomson" is written on the back of the cardboard in pencil. Item 3. is a sheet of letterhead stationary for the "St. Louis Southwestern Railway Lines, St. Louis 2, Mo.," with the logo for the "Cotton Belt Route," and below that "F. W. Green, President." On this much folded piece of letterhead is an undated and unsigned biography of Alexander Thomson handwritten in pencil. Finally, Item 3. consists of a photocopy (ca. 1980) of a booklet originally prepared by Ralston P. Haun in Coleman, Tex. around 1936, which includes a transcription of the 5 Aug. 1832 letter, as well as other family letters and papers. According to the copy of an explanatory note appended to the booklet, dated 1 May 1980 and signed Jim Glass of Houston, Tex., one of the three copies made by Haun was given to Ana Gardner Thomson, and passed down to her grandaughter Ana Haun Frómen, thence apparently to Gardner Osborn. The booklet includes transcriptions of five other family letters and two memoirs. Though speculated upon in the Glass note, the current disposition of the other letters and papers is still unverified.
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Received from William and Gardner Osborn of Bryan, Tex. in March 2002.
Processed by Aletha Andrew in September 2002.
Detailed Description of the Letter