James Power & Sam Houston
By Pam Stranahan
Friends of the History Center for Aransas County
In the 1830s, colonists to Tejas settled under Mexican rule, but when Santa Anna abolished the Mexican Constitution of 1824, they objected. Texians sent messages from consultations held in 1832 and 1833. Stephen F. Austin tried to negotiate for the colonists’ rights, but was jailed.
When their objections fell on deaf ears, an election for delegates to a Convention was held Feb. 1, 1836. Delegates gathered in the village of Washington on the Brazos. Richard Ellis was elected president of the Convention. A committee chaired by George C. Childress was appointed to draft a declaration of independence. The committee produced a rough document by March 2 (although it was corrected and signed on March 3). Refugio representatives were James Power and Sam Houston. Aransas County was part of Refugio County at that time. Edward Conrad and David Thomas from Refugio went along and were seated as delegates to represent the army.
James Power was born in Ireland in 1788 and died overlooking Copano Bay in 1852. Power, along with Dr. James Hewitson, was named empresario for the territory between the Guadalupe and Nueces rivers. He brought Irish settlers to Texas in the 1830s. Power married Dolores Portilla and later, after her death, he married her sister, Tomasita. He had six children by two wives. He laid out Aransas City and represented Texas in treaty making with the Lipan Indians at Live Oak Point in 1838. Power represented Refugio County in the Texas Congress in 1837-1838 and was a delegate to the Convention of 1845 that agreed to statehood in the U.S.
Sam Houston was born in Virginia and was briefly governor of Tennessee. He served in the U.S. Congress from Tennessee and fought in the War of 1812. The Washington Convention appointed him Commander in Chief of the Texas Army in March 1836. As soon as he signed the Declaration, he left to organize the volunteers into an army. He served as president of the Republic in 1836-1838 and 1841-1844. He was also a congressman and senator from Texas. Houston served as governor of Texas from 1859-1861. He married Margaret Lea in 1840 and they had eight children. He died in Huntsville in 1863.
Edward Conrad came to Texas from Pennsylvania where he was a printer. He was a 2nd Lt. in the U.S. Independent volunteer Cavalry Co. organized at Nacogdoches in 1835. Conrad sat on the committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence to represent the soldiers’ interests. He was ordered to New Orleans to recruit volunteers in March 1836. Conrad died in July 1836 while in the Texas Army in Victoria.
David Thomas was a lawyer who came to Texas from Tennessee. He joined the Independent Volunteers at Nacogdoches in December 1835. In early 1836 he was Commander of the Mustang Company at Refugio. Thomas was elected Attorney General by the Washington Convention and served as Secretary of War when Rusk left to join the army. He was shot and died on April 16, 1836 on board the Cayuga as the interim government escaped the Mexican advance on Harrisburg.
The stories of these men and other signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence will be on exhibit at the History Center, 801 E. Cedar St. – March 21 through May 16.
Learn more at www.aransashistorycenter.org. The History Center is a venue within the Aransas Pathways project. The History Center is open Fridays and Saturdays, 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.