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Texas | History

New Letter 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
Editor's Note:
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.
Signature of William Travis' with the middle name spelled with one T.
Alamo Letter in Texas State Library and Archives
http://www.tsl.state.tx.us/treasures/republic/alamo/travis-01.html
Travis signature in new Alamo Letter
William Travis' middle name spelled "Barrett"
Alamo Letter from Bonham
Photo courtesy David London & Patricia A. Rochette

New Travis Dispatch
from the Alamo

Our Initial Letter from Mr. David London
[Dear Editor,]

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 is www.bourlandcivilwar.com.

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
Cora Lee Fuller of Bonham, TExas, 1864-1952
Cora 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

The following links tell the story (as of August 2005)

  • ALAMO LETTER:
    From Travis' hand to the State Archives
    or Is there a Graphologist in the house?
    by John Troesser

  • Bonham New Travis' Alamo Letter - Image


    The State Archives Website and
    images of the well-known letter that the Archives hold:
    www.tsl.state.tx.us/treasures/republic/alamo/travis-01.html

  • Readers' Forum

    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 County, Texas.

    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

    Any constructive or informative letters are invited.
    Contact editor@texasescapes.com

    See The Alamo
    August 11, 2005



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