Houston and Mirabeau B. Lamar, the first
two presidents of the Republic
of Texas did not agree on anything, and the policy of their
administrations toward Indians offers ample evidence of their differences
-- Houston loved them and Lamar did not.
fondness for the Cherokee
grew from his boyhood experiences with them in Tennessee. Raised
by a widow and often disapproving older brothers, Houston spent
a large part of his younger years living among the Cherokee. After
he left Tennessee late in the 1820s, he again lived with and operated
a trading post for Indians in western Arkansas-eastern Oklahoma.
Lamar, on the other hand, came from Georgia, where many regarded
as enemies because they occupied land by treaties dating from colonial
days. Georgians drove them out of their state, contrary to a Supreme
Court decision upholding the Indian's right to the land, when President
Andrew Jackson refused to enforce the Court's ruling. The Battle
of the Neches, fought in Smith
and Van Zandt
counties on July 15-16, 1839, had similar cause.
administration, the first for the new Republic of Texas, the president
tried vainly to get the Texas Congress to honor a treaty he had
negotiated with Cherokees
in East Texas
that kept them pacified during the Revolution in exchange for title
to their lands. When Lamar succeeded Houston he adopted a policy
similar to that of his home state -- to chase the Indians out of
Texas so their land could be
occupied by white settlers. Many East Texans agreed with Lamar.
in East Texas
were led by Chief
Bowl, or Duwali in the Indian tongue. His people
had been forced westward before and were unwilling to abandon established
homes again. And so was fought the Battle of the Neches, with the
predictable outcome -- surviving Cherokee
were driven north into Indian Territory, later known as Oklahoma.
Quite a few prominent Texans engaged in the battle, among them Kelsey
H. Douglass, former Texas secretary of war and later U.S. Senator
Thomas Jefferson Rusk, former interim president of Texas David G.
Burnet, later Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston, and later
Confederate Postmaster John
The Texans brought about 500 men to the fracas, the Indians a few
more with estimates ranging from 600 to 700. Even so, they were
over matched. Bowl, or Duwali, was shot by Henry Conner and Robert
W. Smith. Lamar and many other Texans considered this noble work.
They had ended Indian difficulties forever in the eastern
part of Texas and gained control
of additional land for whites to settle. The Cherokee
-- and Houston
-- had a different view.
All Things Historical
12-18, 2000 Column
A syndicated column in over 70 East Texas newspapers
Published by permission.
(Archie P. McDonald is Director of the East Texas Historical Association
and author or editor of more than 20 books on Texas)