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Clay Coppedge
Texas | Columns | "Letters from Central Texas"

The Horse
George Childress Rode In On

by Clay Coppedge
One of the first cases of horse stealing in the very early days of the Republic of Texas involved George C. Childress, author of the Texas Declaration of Independence, and his six-year old roan stallion.

Childress, a lawyer and former editor of the Nashville Tennessean and the nephew of Empresario Sterling Clack Robertson, first set foot in Texas in 1834 as his uncle was establishing Robertson's Colony. He returned to Nashville to recruit Tennesseans for the Texas cause and returned in January of 1836. A month later somebody stole his horse.

The May 31, 1836 edition of the Arkansas Gazette carried a notice from Childress offering a $50 reward for a "Bay Roan saddle-horse about six years old." Childress noted that his missing horse "walks and gallops finely, and has black legs, mane and tail. He was stolen from the undersigned (Childress) at the falls of the Brazos, in Texas, about the 1st of February last, and is supposed to have been taken to upper Red river, or into Arkansas. The above reward, and all reasonable expenses, will be paid for his delivery to Col. R. Childress of Little Rock, or to the agent of Mr. Robert Hamilton, on Red river."

The crime took place a month prior to the Convention of 1836, where Childress introduced a resolution calling for five people to draft a declaration of independence from Mexico. Childress is generally recognized as the author of that document, which states in part "that our political connection with the Mexican nation has forever ended; and that the people of Texas do now constitute a free and sovereign independent republic."

Childress probably drafted the document before he arrived at the convention, possibly about the same time his horse went missing. That's the last we hear of the horse. It's almost the last we hear of Childress.

After the convention, Texas president David J. Burnet sent Childress to Washington with Robert Hamilton to lobby for U.S. recognition of the republic. He returned to Texas three more times to open law offices in Houston and Galveston, but without success.

In October of 1841, in Galveston, Childress killed himself with a Bowie knife, one of four Texas founding fathers to die by his own hand. Childress County, Texas was formed and named in his honor on Aug. 21, 1876.

Though Childress' powers of expression were considerable his penmanship was sloppy at best, illegible at worst. He presented his draft on March 2, 1836 - Texas Independence Day - but it wasn't signed until the next day after a clerk made a copy. That copy resides today with the Secretary of State in Austin. The original draft by Childress is presumably lost forever. Along with his horse.
Clay Coppedge
"Letters from Central Texas" July 16, 2018column

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