a pioneer newspaper editor, David E. Lawhon may have subscribed to the belief
that the pen was mightier than the sword, but as a Texas Ranger he never saddled
up without his rifle and pistol.
Born in Tennessee in 1811, he came to
Nacogdoches in early November
1835 from Natchitoches, La. Like many coming from the United States that fall,
Lawhon arrived looking for a fight. Texas had begun
its pull away from Mexico
and a bloody revolution lay ahead.
A tall, barrel-chested, ham-fisted man,
Lawhon signed up to serve in the nascent Texas army shortly after hitting East
Texas. But when it became known he was a printer, local businessman William
G. Logan talked the young Tennessean into editing a newspaper instead.
a hand press and type that had been used in 1829 to produce a short-lived Nacogdoches
newspaper called the Mexican Citizen, the 24-year-old Lawhon brought out
the first issue of the Texian and Emigrant’s Guide on Nov. 28, 1835.
Family legend has it that as editor of one of the province’s only two newspapers,
Lawhon was on the reception committee greeting former Tennessee Congressman David
Crockett as he passed through Nacogdoches
on his way to San Antonio and what
proved to be immortality.
winter Lawhon also printed legal forms and official documents for the provisional
Texas government. On Jan. 25, 1836, acting Gov. James W. Robison wrote Lawhon
Felipe de Austin that the General Council had ordered the publication of its
“ordinances & decrees & Resolutions” in “your useful newspaper” and that Lawhon
should consider himself “one of the publishers of the Laws of Texas.”
In addition, Lawhon printed handbills appealing to the people of New Orleans,
Nashville, Cincinatti and elsewhere for money and volunteers to the Texas
cause. His press announced the arrival of government agents seeking to buy horses,
guns, corn and supplies for the army and distributed the lyrics to patriotic songs
stoking the revolutionary flames.
Lawhon continued the newspaper through January 1836 and possibly as late as March
24. By then, having taken the Alamo,
Mexican troops were marching eastward across Texas.
While Sam Houston maneuvered
what remained of Texas’ army, most of the civilian population fled toward Louisiana
in what came to be called the Runaway
Scrape. After Houston
defeated Santa Anna at San Jacinto on April 21, people began returning to
Lawhon stayed in Nacogdoches
is unclear, but if he left, he came back. Having closed his print shop, he enlisted
as a Texas Ranger under Capt. Sam Davis on Sept. 10, 1839. A second lieutenant,
he served through that November.
Lawhon’s company and others under the
command of Col. John C. Neill scouted up the Brazos River from the old port of
Nashville past future Waco
to a point on the Clear Fork of the Brazos southwest of what would become Fort
Worth. In the process, the Rangers had three different Indian fights.
long after he left the Rangers, Lawhon moved to newly founded Beaumont,
where he married Nancy Carr, daughter of one of that area’s earliest settlers.
He served eight years as chief justice of Jefferson County, a position similar
to today’s county judge. Shortly before the Civil War he moved his family to Bastrop
When Lawhon visited Austin
in the spring of 1878, the Daily Democratic Statesman ran a frustratingly brief
“David E. Lawhon, the first Editor, was in the City last week.
He published in 1835 the first paper ever printed in Texas.
His recollection of the stirring scenes occurring in the early history of Texas
are as fresh and vivid in his memory as though they transpired only yesterday.
He was associated in various capacities with General
Sam Houston and was entrusted by him with some delicate and important services
during the War of Independence. The name of his paper was ‘Texian and Emigrants’
Guide’ and its publication continued nearly one year when the advance of the enemy
compelled its suspension. Mr. Lawthon then enlisted to fight the Indians and during
the campaign was wounded three times. Mr. Lawhon resides near Elgin
and is engaged in farming. He is 70 years old and over six feet tall.”
of Lawhon’s granddaughters later wrote that about all she knew about her noted
grandfather was that he had accidentally been wounded by one of his own men near
Waco during his
short but active Ranger service.
granddaughter later wrote that her mother, one of Lawhon’s daughters, told her
that Lawhon “had a wonderful voice and late in the evenings would take a song
book and sit on the porch and sing for a while and she loved to hear him….”
Lawhons raised six sons and four daughters, beginning with a daughter born in
Jefferson County in 1841 and continuing with a final daughter born in Bastrop
during the Civil War.
“Few families have a longer or more distinguished
record in Texas history than that of the Lawhons,” Francis W. Johnson wrote in
his multi-volume work, “A History of Texas and Texans.”
Lawhon died Feb.
14, 1884 and is buried in the Lawhon family cemetery in Lee County, about 15 miles
Cox - March
22 , 2012 column
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