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Texas | Columns | "Wandering"

Friendships in Texas

by Wanda Orton
Wanda Orton

With the thread of friendships running through pages of Texas history, let's explore some of those relationships.

I've compiled a list, albeit incomplete, of Best Friends Forever in early Texas.

Anson Jones and Ashbel Smith
Sam Houston and Ashbel Smith
James Spillman and David Kokernot
Mirabeau Lamar and David G. Burnet
David G. Burnet and Sidney Sherman
Isaac Moreland and Emily "Yellow Rose of Texas" Morgan

At one time Sam Houston and Anson Jones were good friends. Jones even named one of his sons after the hero of San Jacinto. After he and Houston had their falling out, he changed the son's name to Sam Edward Jones.

The oldest sons of Anson Jones - Sam and Charles - would become Confederate Army buddies of Sam Houston Jr. in the Bayland Guards, commanded by Ashbel Smith.

Jones was an Army surgeon at San Jacinto. After the war, both Houston and Jones would serve terms as president of the Republic of Texas. During Houston's presidency second time around, he picked Jones as his secretary of state. That's when they were still talking to one another.

When Texas entered the union, voters sent Sam Houston and Thomas Rusk to Washington as U.S. senators. Jones was jealous. He wanted to be a U.S. senator but the voters didn't want him. As his jealousy grew worse, Jones became seriously depressed and in 1858 committed suicide.

Ashbel Smith's friendship with the fellow physician never wavered, and he presented the eulogy at the funeral for Jones.

But Smith's best friend of all was Houston. They first bonded in the early days of the Republic when they were roommates in the primitive capital city of Houston.

Friends James Spillman and David Kokernot shared a love of the sea and both were skilled sailors. Spillman, as far back as the 1820s, knew Kokernot, a native of The Netherlands, and he rescued him once from the island of San Domingo where he had been stranded.

In future years the seafaring pals would live in the bay area, with Kokernot's home located in the present-day Baytown Nature Center and Spillman's home on an island that one day becamed the site of the Baytown-La Porte Tunnel.

President Mirabeau Lamar and his vice president and good friend, David G. Burnet, had in common an utter hatred of Sam Houston. For a while when Lamar was ill, Burnet ran the government for the ailing president.

An even closer friend to Burnet was Sidney Sherman, a San Jacinto warrior who made his home in the La Porte area before moving to Galveston. Burnet, after his wife Hannah died at Lynchburg, moved into the Sherman home in Galveston. The graves of Sherman and Burnet are side by side in a Galveston cemetery. (Mrs. Burnet's grave is in Baytown's Lakewood subdivision near Lynchburg.)

In the aftermath of San Jacinto, Isaac Moreland of Liberty and Emily Morgan of Morgan's Point became friends. You can call her by her real name, Emily West, or by her musical name, "Yellow Rose of Texas."

Moreland, a lawyer and San Jacinto veteran, arranged for the indentured servant to return to New York in 1837. On a trip to New York in 1835, Morgan had hired to be his housekeeper at Morgan's Point.

Caught in the middle of the battle at San Jacinto in 1836 - thanks a lot, Santa Anna -- Emily lost all her papers proving who she was and where she came from. Moreland, who manned the Twin Sisters cannon at San Jacinto, came to her rescue.

After all, what are friends for?


Wanda Orton Baytown Sun Columnist
"Wandering" June 24, 2015 columns

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