A Guide to the Margaret Moffette Lea Letters, 1840-1867
Margaret Moffette Lea Houston (1819-1867) grew up in and met her future husband Gen. Sam Houston in Marion, Alabama. They were originally introduced at a party hosted by her sister, Antoinette Bledsoe, and following a year of courtship, were married and moved to Texas. Margaret had a strong effect on her husband, convincing him to declare total abstinence from alcohol (a pledge he kept to with some difficulty) and to be baptized by the Baptist Church.
Because of her health issues, particularly chronic asthma, Margaret was unable to accompany her husband on the majority of his personal and professional travels as President of the Republic of Texas, United States senator, and Texas governor. Instead, she maintained their various residences, including their primary residence of Cedar Point on Trinity Bay, the Steamboat House and Raven Hill in Huntsville, their home in Independence (near old Baylor college), and the Governor’s Mansion in Austin. Margaret established a nurturing home atmosphere, which Houston came to greatly love and long for during his travels.
For several years, the family, which eventually included eight children, spent different seasons in different residences. Margaret, who left the running of the household for several years to her mother, Nancy Lea, was frequently pregnant and ill. She devoted herself to religious studies, a topic which at times caused her great stress (she was frightened by the idea of hell) but also strengthened her in difficult times. When Sam was removed from the office of governor of Texas in 1861, Margaret supported him as much as she could. Two years later, he died from pneumonia after being ill for several weeks and in a decline for longer.
The state legislature delayed until 1867 to give Margaret the unpaid balance of Houston’s salary as governor, leaving her in a state of financial distress. She moved to Independence near her mother until the money arrived, then began planning to move to Georgetown to live with her married daughter, Nancy Morrow, a trip she never made as she contracted yellow fever and passed away while still in Independence.
Sam and Margaret Houston’s children included: Sam Houston, Jr. (1843-1894), Nancy “Nettie” Elizabeth Morrow (1846-1920), Margaret Lea (1848-1906), Mary William (1850-1930), Antoinette Bringhurst (1852-1932), Andrew Jackson (1854-1941), William Rogers (1858-1891), and Temple Lea (1860-1905).
Anderson, John Q. “Bringhurst, Antoinette Power Houston.” Handbook of Texas Online. Accessed July 27, 2010.http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fbr53.
Seale, William. “Houston, Margaret Moffette Lea.” Handbook of Texas Online. Accessed July 26, 2010.http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fho72.
Kreneck, Thomas H. “Houston, Samuel.” Handbook of Texas Online. Accessed July 26, 2010.http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fho73.
Personal and familial correspondence comprises the Margaret Moffette Lea Houston Letters, 1840-1867. The correspondence includes letters written to and from Margaret Houston’s husband Sam Houston, her mother, Nancy Moffette Lea, and her son Sam Houston, Jr. Topics in the letters relate to visiting family, social gatherings, weather, marriages and deaths in the area, health of family members, the family’s finances, and current events.
The collection is open for research use.
Margaret Moffette Lea Houston Letters, 1840-1867, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
Basic processing and cataloging of this collection was supported with funds from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) for the Briscoe Center’s “History Revealed: Bringing Collections to Light project,” 2009-2011.
Detailed Description of the Papers