A Guide to the Robert B. and William H. Beard Manuscript, 1843
Robert B. Beard (1816-1843) and William H. Beard, Jr. (1820-1843) are two of the five children of William H. and Martha Harris Beard, a couple who moved to Texas from Arkansas in 1831. The brothers served as privates in Captain William Ryon’s Company C during the Mier Expedition of December 1842, which developed out of the Somervell Expedition. General Alexander Somervell had recognized that his expedition had failed and had commanded his men to return home via Gonzales. Five captains, including Ryon, and almost all of the men, refused the order and moved down the Rio Grande, turning into the Mier Expedition. The brothers lasted through the expeditions without being wounded, surrendered with the rest of the army, and were marched into the interior of Mexico. In February 1843, they participated in the Salado break for liberty and though they again were not wounded, Robert fell very ill. They were soon re-imprisoned.
The brothers were known for starting the story of the "noted black bean," relating to drawing white or black beans in the "lottery of death." The bean lottery started when Mexican President Antonio López de Santa Anna ordered the execution of every tenth Texan soldier captured in Mexico. To determine who among the prisoners would face the firing squad, a jar of white beans and black beans was brought forward, and whoever picked a black bean would die. Robert told William that if William drew a black bean and Robert drew a white one, he would trade with his brother because he was so sick he was going to die anyway. In fact both brothers drew white beans, but they both died in prison at San Luis Potosí, Robert in April and William in July of 1843.
Sources: Wade, Houston. Notes and Fragments of the Mier Expedition. La Grange, Texas: La Grange Journal, 1936.
Handbook of Texas Online, s.v. "Mier Expedition," http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/MM/qym2.html (accessed August 5, 2010).
Stevens, Peter F. "The Black Bean Lottery." HistoryNet. http://www.historynet.com/the-black-bean-lottery-october-97-american-history-feature.htm (accessed August 5, 2010).
The Robert B. and William H. Beard Manuscript, 1843, contains "The True History of the Noted Black Bean: Sketch of the Beard Brothers, March 25, 1843," an oversized document from an unknown author. The handwritten manuscript concerns the Mier Expedition and the Black Bean Episode.
The collection is open for research.
Robert B. and William H. Beard Manuscript, 1843, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The 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