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The Women of 1836
Part III

Mary Millsap

By Linda Kirkpatrick
A small entourage of sad people made their way from the smoking ruins of the Alamo to what would soon be the smoking ruins of Gonzales, Texas. This group of people consisted of Susannah Dickinson, her baby daughter Angelina, Ben, the free black servant of Col. Almonte and Joe the black servant to Col. William Travis. Joe, in fear, had made a quick departure from that Alamo and began to make his way toward Gonzales. To his relief, Susannah, Ben and the baby caught up with him and he didnít have to make the trip alone.

Anxious for news, Sam Houston had sent army scouts, Henry Karnes, Deaf Smith and Robert Handy towards San Antonio. The scouts met up with Susannah and her escorts and guided them back to Gonzales.

News of their arrival preceded the group to Gonzales and as they drew closer to the town, the women and children anxiously gathered to hear the news of their loved ones at the Alamo. From the lips of Susannah the news she delivered informed them that they were all now widows and orphans. No one took the news any harder than Mary Millsap, wife of Isaac Millsap, Gonzales Ranger. Isaac was the oldest defender at the Alamo and Mary was now one of the oldest widows. Not only was Mary left with the burden of seven children to raise but she had been blind for many years depending on Isaac and her oldest children for almost everything.

Her mind raced back to the day the men rode out and to the cherished last letter that had arrived only a few days ago.

ďMy Dear, Dear Ones,
We are in the fortress of the
Alamo a ruined church that has most fell down. The Mexicans are here in Large numbers they have kept up a constant fire since we got here. All our boys are well & Capt. Martin in good spirits. Early this morning I watched the Mexicans drilling just out of range they were marching up and down with such order. They have bright red and blue uniforms and many canons. Some here at this place believe that the main army has not come up yet. I think they are all here even Santanna. Col Bowie is down sick and had to be to bed I saw him yesterday & he is still ready to fight. He didnít know me from last spring but did remember Wash. He tells me that help will be here soon & it makes us feel good. We have beer and corn to eat but no coffee, bag I had bell off on the way here so it was split. I have not seen Travis but 2 times since here he told us all this morning that Fanning was going to be here early with many men and there would be a good fight. He stays on the wall some but mostly to hi room I hope help comes soon cause we canít fight them all. Some says he is going to talk some tonight & group us better for Defense. If we fail here get to the river with the children all Texas will be before the enemy we get so little news here we know nothing. There is no discontent in our boys some are tired from loss of sleep and rest. The Mexicans are shooting every few minutes but most of the shots fall inside & no harm. I donít know what else to say they are calling for all letters, kiss the dear children for me be well & God protects us all.

If any men come through there tell them to hurry with powder for it is short I hope you get this & know---I love you all.

There are rumors that this letter is fabrication. The signature here did not match another signature made by Isaac. As far as the signature, Isaac may have been illiterate and had someone else pen his name. So is it or isnít it, I will allow you the reader to decide.

The widows of Gonzales hung around for a bit letting the words that Susannah delivered sink in. The strength of these women showed on their faces as they listened to every word Susannah said about the fate of their loved ones. The crowd disbursed after Susannah delivered the letter to Houston from Santa Anna. They seemed to know that soon their lives would be changing forever.

Mary Millsap had no time to grieve. She had her children pack what few belongings they could carry and with the help of her oldest daughter Mary did as Isaac told her to do, they started for the river. The next evening, as Houstonís remaining army burned the town of Gonzales, the women and children fled behind the soldiers towards Louisiana and away from the wrath of Santa Anna. This daring trek by these desperate people would be recorded in history as The Runaway Scrape.

In the haste and confusion of the departure from Gonzales, the refugees would be several miles east before someone realized that Mary Millsap and her children were not with them. General Sam Houston, when informed of this news sent a couple of his personal guards and a wagon to search for Mary. They found her and the children hidden in the brush not far from the river.

Mary and the other evacuees found the trip extremely difficult. It was great news the day of the battle of San Jacinto. But now, what would they do. Left alone except for her children proved to be a great burden for this very strong lady. Mary realized that the widows and orphans of the Alamo were not to receive any support. In her desperation she sent a plea to the Republic of Texas.

ďTo the Honorable members of the Senate and House of Representatives of the Republic of Texas in Congress assembled. Your petitioner the under signed begs leave to represent that she is the widow of Isaac Millsaps who fell in the Alamo on the 6th of March 1836. While fighting under the command of the gallant Travis, that in March 1835 he had made application for lands in Austinís colony which will be seen by reference to the books of that colony now in the general land office that about that time he selected and settled upon a League of Land on the head waters of Labaca where he with his family resided when he was called to the defense of the country and where we were when they heard of the retreat of Houston and the advance of the Mexican forces. My self-blind and seven small children were not allowed one hour to prepare and no means of transportation we left all behind were thrown upon the world helpless and destitute in this situation. I have been struggling for 2 years and not able to return to the place we left. The prayer of your petitioner is that you pay an act to secure to me and my children land selected by my husband as I am informed that a man by the name of Jujac Roberson is making surveys that will interfere with my rights.
Mary MillsapsĒ

The Republic of Texas granted Mary two hundred dollars annually for ten years with one hundred dollars paid in advance. The first payment made on November 21, 1838. Mary was unable to pay the taxes on the 4,505.5 acres and on March 3, 1840 she sold the land for one hundred and fifteen dollars to James A. Sylvester.

Somehow she managed, as did many others, to survive the situation. What actually happened to Mary and her children, they just blended into Texas like the rest. The strength of people like Mary and the others became the backbone and support of the state of Texas. Texas is what it is today because of the foundation laid by these individuals.
The Women of 1836 - Part I | Part II

© Linda Kirkpatrick
Somewhere in the West
June 3, 2008 Column

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