Cushing Memorial Library, Texas A & M University

Inventory of the Alexander Thomson Letter:

5 Aug. 1832



Descriptive Summary and Abstract

Creator Thomson, Alexander, 1785-1865
Title Inventory of the Alexander Thomson Letter
Dates 5 Aug. 1832
Abstract 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. Alexander Thomson died 1 June 1863 (the biographical note gives May 1865), and was buried in a family graveyard at Yellow Prairie, Tex.. 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. 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. 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 immigrants 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 in June 1832, which followed after entreaties failed on the prisoners' account. Further hostilites, however, were prevented by the mediation of Colonel José de las Piedras, commanding Mexican troops stationed at Nacogdoches, who ordered Bradburn relieved of command, and the prisoners handed over to the civil courts. The letter details the subsequent show of support by the colonists, led by Stephen Austin, for General Antonio López de Santa Anna, seen as a champion at that time of the colonists republican ideals. Accompanying the letter are three items: a picture labeled "Alexander Thomson," apparently taken of an unidentified portrait oil painting; a one page, undated and unsigned biography of Alexander Thomson, on St. Louis Southwestern Railway Lines letterhead; a photocopy (ca. 1980) of a booklet 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, the current disposition of which are unknown.
Identification Texas MSS 00115
Extent 4 items
Quantity: (.2 linear ft.)
Language English.
Repository Cushing Memorial Library,  College Station, TX 77843-5000

Biographical Note

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.

  • Bibliography:
  • "CHRIESMAN, TX."The Handbook of Texas Online.
  • Republic of Texas."Officials from Milam County."
  • "ROBERTSON'S COLONY". The Handbook of Texas Online.
  • Some Early Citizens of Milam County.
  • "Sterling C. Robertson (1785-1842)."Lone Star Junction..
  • "THOMSON, ALEXANDER, JR." The Handbook of Texas Online.


Scope and Content Note

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.

  • Bibliography:
  • Chambers County, Texas: Anahuac Area History.
  • Presidents of Cotton Belt: 1877-1969..
  • "THOMSON, ALEXANDER, JR."The Handbook of Texas Online.
  • Texas: the Lone Star State. Ed. by Rupert Norval Richardson, Ernest Wallace, and Adrian N. Anderson. 3rd ed. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1970.


Restrictions

Access

No restrictions.

Usage Restrictions

Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.


Online Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the online catalog of Cushing Memorial Library. Researchers wishing to find related materials should search the catalog under these index terms.
Names
Thomson, Alexander, 1785-1863.
Robertson, Sterling C.
Santa Anna, Antonio López de, 1794?-1876.
Thomson, William D., 1806-1866.
Bradburn, Juan Davis, 1787-1842.
Austin, Stephen F. (Stephen Fuller), 1793-1836.
Piedras, José de las.
Subjects
Pioneers--Texas--Biography.
Land grants--Law and legislation--Texas.
Emigration and immigration law--Texas.
Places
Texas--History--To 1846--Sources.
Coahuila and Texas (Mexico)--Emigration and immigration--History--Sources.
Anahuac (Tex.)--History--Sources.
Texas--Colonization--History--Sources.
Coahuila and Texas (Mexico)--History--Sources.

Related Material

Texas Collection monographs donated by Gardner and William Osborn cataloged separately shelved by call number in the stacks.

Digitized image and transcript of letter made in October 2001 by Don Dyal, Director of Cushing Memorial Library, are available on the Internet at


Administrative Information

Provenance

Received from William and Gardner Osborn of Bryan, Tex. in March 2002.

Processing Information

Processed by Aletha Andrew in September 2002.


Detailed Description of the Letter

 

Item 1. Letter, 5 Aug. 1832.

Letter is in good condition and framed in uv protectant glass so that both sides of the letter may be read. This is the only original letter referred to in the booklet of transcriptions [see Item 4.] for which the location was known by the family as of its donation to the repository in March 2002. The digitized image of the letter available on the Cushing Memorial Library website is accompanied by a transcription composed directly from the letter held by the repository, by Don Dyal, Director of Cushing Memorial Library in Oct. 2001.



 

Item 2. Picture of Alexander Thomson, undated.

Apparently a photographic reproduction of an oil painting portait of Alexander Thomson, probably in his old age. "Alexander Thomson" is written in pencil on the back of the cardboard on which the picture is pasted. The original painting is unknown as to location or artist.



 

Item 3. Biographical note about Alexander Thomson, ca. 1940s?-1950s?.

Handwritten in pencil, undated and unsigned, the biographical note is written on a sheet of St. Louis Southwestern Railway Lines letterhead. Discrepancies such as referring to Washington, Tex. as Old Washington, indicate the information must have been composed at least after the American Civil War, and at least as late as 1885, since Yellow Prairie was renamed Chriesman in that year. Furthermore, if the present note was either composed or copied down contemporary with the stationary, then it may have been written sometime during the period 1947-1951, when F. W. Green served as President of the Cotton Belt Line of the St. Louis Southwestern Railway Lines, as indicated on the letterhead.



 

Item 4. Photocopy of booklet (ca. 1936) by Ralston P. Haun, ca. 1980.

The photocopy includes a copy of the cover featuring an image of the Alamo, a flyleaf printed with "Ana Gardner Thomson," the orginal owner of the booklet, the Contents page, p1-55 of text, including transcriptions of five other letters and two memoirs, and a typed letter date 1 May 1980, signed Jim Glass, Houston, Tex., which details the authorship and provenance of the original booklet, and as much as is known in the family about the subsequent disposition of the documents transcribed therin. Glass states that only three copies of the booklet were produced around 1936. Of the transcribed letters, one is dated 1833, the rest in the 1840s to 1860s. The memoirs are by James Monroe Hill, and Jane Hallowell Hill.