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Texas | Columns | Lone Star Diary

Angel of The Alamo...
Remembering Adina De Zavala

by Murray Montgomery
Murray Montgomery
I'm not sure if some citizens of Texas realize just how much they owe to a handful of ladies who saved from ruin, our most precious historic structure, the Alamo.

One of those women, Adina De Zavala, has been credited as the one most responsible for saving the old mission and if it hadn't been for her efforts, the Alamo might well have been replaced by a parking lot. It was in her blood to fight for something she believed in, the lady had an historic legacy - her grandfather, Lorenzo de Zavala, was the first vice-president of the Republic of Texas. According to The Handbook of Texas Online, Miss De Zavala organized a group of women who met for the purpose of discussion and study of Texas heroes. These ladies became part of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas in 1893. De Zavala and her group prevented the destruction of the Alamo chapel, after it had been purchased from the state by the wholesale grocery firm of Hugo and Schmeltzer Company
Adina De Zavala, Alamo savior
Adina De Zavala

Photo courtesy of Murray Montgomery
Miss De Zavala obtained a verbal promise from the company that her chapter of the DRT would be given the first chance to purchase the Alamo property. In 1903, Clara Driscoll joined the DRT and De Zavala's group of preservationist women. Driscoll soon purchased the property from the grocery firm to prevent it from falling into the hands of another group, referred to as an "eastern syndicate." In 1905, the Texas legislature authorized the state to purchase the property from Driscoll and custody was turned over to the DRT.

However, trouble soon began to brew between De Zavala and Driscoll. The rift was over Driscoll's desires to tear down part of the old Hugo and Schmeltzer building, as it was her contention that it had been built long after the famous battle in 1836. Miss Zavala opposed this action; as she was sure that the building was part of a structure know as the "long barracks" which was of great historical value. Even though Driscoll's group won several decisions in state court against De Zavala, it didn't deter this granddaughter of a patriot from sticking to her guns and fighting for what she believed to be the truth of the matter.

At one point, in 1908, Miss De Zavala went so far as to barricade herself inside the north barrack of the Alamo for three days to protest its destruction. It was her belief that this section was of even more historical worth than the Alamo chapel. De Zavala's efforts were not in vain, and history has proved that she was right in her belief about the value of the old barracks. It has been confirmed that that section of the Alamo grounds is where much of the fighting took place in the legendary 1836 battle.
Alamo & Barracks - Bird's Eye View San Antonio TX
Bird's-eye view showing the Alamo
Postcard courtesy www.rootsweb.com/ %7Etxpstcrd/
Although the noble lady had saved her beloved mission, she never seemed to venture far away from the place. In her book, The History and Mystery of the Menger Hotel, Docia Schultz Williams writes that Adina De Zavala was a resident of the old hotel, located on Alamo Plaza, from 1926 to 1932. According to Williams, "She must have lived at the hotel in order to be close to the shrine which meant so much to her."
Alamo Plaza showing Menger Hotel proximity to Alamo, San Antonio TX
Alamo Plaza showing Menger Hotel on the right
1915 Postcard courtesy www.rootsweb.com/%7Etxpstcrd/
Adina De Zavala went on to be instrumental in saving the Spanish Governors' Palace in San Antonio. She organized, in 1912, the Texas Historical and Landmarks Association. She also wrote several books about San Antonio and the Alamo. She was a member of the Texas Folklore Society, the Philosophical Society of Texas, and the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the Texas Women's Press Association, and many other organizations.

This great lady of Texas died on March 1, 1955, and is buried at St. Mary's Cemetery in San Antonio.

Murray Montgomery
Lone Star Diary
April 20, 2004 column

Adina Emilia De Zavala
Grave and Historical Marker

Adina Emilia De Zavala grave  historical marker
Adina Emilia De Zavala grave and historical marker
Photo courtesy Sarah Reveley, 2009
Adina Emilia De Zavala historical marker showing text
Adina Emilia De Zavala historical marker
Photo courtesy Sarah Reveley, 2009
Historical Marker Text:

Adina Emilia De Zavala

Teacher, historian and preservationist Adina Emilia De Zavala was born in Harris County, Texas, on November 28, 1861. She was the daughter of Augustine and Julia Tyrrell De Zavala, and the granddaughter of Lorenzo De Zavala, first Vice-President of the Republic of Texas. Adina spent her early years in Galveston, before moving with her family to a ranch near San Antonio circa 1873.

Miss Adina was a founding member of "De Zavala's Daughters," one of the earliest preservation groups in the state of Texas. Among de Zavala's most renowned contributions to the preservation of Texas history was her role in saving the Alamo Long Barracks from demolition. De Zavala not only secured funding from philanthropist Clara Driscoll for the purchase of the structure, but she also barricaded herself inside the military quarters in February of 1907 when she feared the building was to be razed. Besides her dedication to saving portions of the Alamo compound, De Zavala initiated a public effort that culminated in protecting several of Texas' most revered historic structures and sites, including the legendary missions and Spanish Governors' Palace in Bexar County, and Mission San Francisco de los Tejas in east Texas. In 1938, De Zavala organized the Texas Historical and Landmarks Association. The civic group installed thirty-eight markers at historic sites thorughout Texas.

Two months after her death in 1955, the Texas Legislature honored Adina De Zavala for her "life of devotion to Texas history, folklore, and general civic and patriotic work," as well as her commitment to "immortalizing Texas history for the ages."
Adina Emilia De Zavala granite marker with bronze star
Adina Emilia De Zavala granite marker
Photo courtesy Sarah Reveley, 2009
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