from the Alamo
"I know not
what the truth may be - I tell it as 'twas told to me." - Popular
Motto of 19th Century Newspaper Editors
When we "open" the mail here at Texas Escapes - we never know what
it might contain. Frequently we hear from descendants of founding
families, descendants of famous Texans and occasionally we get new
historic information - that is - information that has never been released
to the public. On July 30th, 2005 we received an interesting letter
from Mr. David London of Bonham,
Texas - with an attached image of a very brown - but easily-read
letter. The letter is dated 1836 from what the world now knows as
the Alamo. The signature is that of William B. Travis.
We are honored that Mr. London is allowing us to share this document
with our readers. The wording of Mr. London's Alamo letter and the
one in the Texas State Archives is nearly identical - down to the
abundant ampersands. One very important difference is the spelling
in the signature of William Travis' middle name of Barrett - or Barret.
Travis' middle name spelled "Barrett"
Letter from Bonham
Photo courtesy David London & Patricia A. Rochette
Initial Letter from Mr. David London
from the Alamo
I am sending a copy of a letter
written by William B. Travis at the Alamo that has been
in my family for over 160 years. We allow you to use it in Texas Escapes
and hope that you [and your readers] appreciate it. We have never
offered it for sale and are not charging for its use.
It had never been published [until] we recently allowed a relative
to use it in her book about Capt. James Bourland (Bourland in North
Texas and Indian Territory during the Civil War). Her web site
During a trip to the Texas Archives in l915, my grandmother discovered
that the famous letter from Col. Travis is probably a fake; it was
purchased by the State of Texas from the Travis family in 1892 - 66
years after the Alamo had fallen. None of his relatives had been in
Texas during that period.
If you search Google, you will see that Col. Travis
spelled his middle name [Barett] with two 't's, like our letter does.
Also, the handwriting on our letter is identical to law papers filed
by Col. Travis in Texas before the Alamo.
We believe the letter was sent to North Texas by Joel Fuller -- who
married Bailey Inglish (the founder of Fannin County and [one of]
the first white settlers in North Texas). Fuller married one of Inglish's
daughters, and their offspring married into the Bourland clan. The
letter was controlled by Cora Fuller, my great aunt - a maiden schoolteacher
who taught for 51 years in Bonham. She raised my mothers' mother and
died in l952.
Capt Bourland was my great great Grandfather. He was a Texas Senator
in l846 and we have documentation about him waving this letter from
Travis as he campaigned. He was later commander of North Texas Confederate
forces during the Civil War.
We had debated for years whether to ever release this letter; since
it may cause embarrassment to some people...In fact, it was hidden
by my great aunt (who is still alive at 101) until she went to the
nursing home last year.
- David London, Bonham, Texas, July 30, 2005
Lee Fuller, 1864-1952
"The letter was [once] controlled by Cora Fuller, my great aunt
- a maiden schoolteacher who taught for 51 years in Bonham. She raised
my mothers' mother and died in l952. Cora was a member of the Daughters
of the Republic of Texas and the Daughters of the American Revolution."
Photo courtesy Patricia A. Rochette
Subject: Travis Letter
Dear Texas Escapes,
I have been studying William Barrett Travis for many years, and notice,
I spell it with two t's. I have traced his genealogy in detail, paying
close connection to his Jamestown Virginia roots. Many of his lines
parallel my own and go back to the same locations and time periods.
Since his ancestral route of migration follows closely to my own,
and my grandmother was a Barrett, my grandfather a Cloyd/Cloud (Rosanna
Cato Travis later married Samuel Cloud, a distant relative) and he
and his family had so many close dealings with various members of
my family from Virginia, to South Carolina, to Alabama, and then Texas,
I feel a close kinship with the man. It was my gggrandfather James
Stephenson, an original land grantee in Austin/Washington
County Texas who called for the probate of WBT's will after he
died at the Alamo.
I believe that James Stephenson and WBT were friends. I know that
Travis often attended the Methodist Camp meetings on Caney Creek where
my James lived. Travis bought land a short distance from there and
bought more land from my James on New Year's creek in Washington
County. Ironically, another of my gggrandfathers, Balthazar Hoffman,
purchased Travis'tract of land in 1840 near Buckhorn, Texas where
other Texas revolutionary patriots lived. My grandmother, Lillie Hoffman
Smith, James Stephenson's great granddaughter was born on this land.
My James Stephenson arrived with his family from Florida in 1826 where
he had been fighting the Seminole Indians, presumably with Andrew
Jackson. He had been in the Florida territory at least from 1819 when
his oldest son Thomas Bell Stephenson was born. My James Bell and
his brother Thomas Bell left Florida in 1821 to come to Texas to join
Stephen F. Austin's colony. They later donated land to form the town
of Bellville in
1848 when the county seat of Austin
County was moved from San
Felipe. In my first book, From Jamestown to Texas, I tell all
these stories and many other stories about Travis and his relationship
to my own family here in Austin
I have seen Travis signature on many of my own family's deeds
(he was an attorney here in the 1830's), and I believe that he did
indeed use the double T at times. But as we all occasionally do when
in haste, which of course the Alamo letters would have been written,
Travis may have tended to run off the last letters quickly, making
it look like one T instead of two. There are other earlier William
Barrett Travises that I believe are his same family line. I have some
strong evidence for the middle name being Barrett as a family name,
but regardless of how he spelled it, the relationship to this family
is strong. I learned long ago not to pay attention to the particular
spelling of a name. Sound it out and that is what literate clerks
wrote down many years ago with whatever letters they thought they
heard. Remember that only a small portion of the early population
of America was literate. Many did not have the slightest idea how
to spell their names. I am not saying this of our WBT because he definitely
came from a prominant and educated lineage. Spelling changes often
happened as early as the 1500's in Scotland or Ireland or England
long before they ever made it to America.
I tackle this argument of his Barrett relationship in an upcoming
book that is a sequel to my first published history. It is entitled
From Jamestown to Texas II: Virginia the Cradle of Civilization. For
a good many years, I have been working on this and other proofs of
how American Patriot families were the ancestors of the early pioneer
families of Texas and their intricate relationship to our founding
fathers. I hope to finish this latest segment for publication no later
than September of this year.
Some of my history and also a description of the historically based
books I have written can be found at www.bettystrails.com. Thank you.
- Betty Smith Meischen, August 14, 2005