TPWD News Release — Feb. 13, 2006
WASHINGTON, Texas — Under siege at the Alamo on March 3, 1836, commander William B. Travis dispatched a horseman with a terse message imploring the 59 men convened here in a drafty frame building to continue their deliberations to give birth to the Republic of Texas.
The resulting Texas Declaration of Independence, the only handwritten copy still in existence, comes home March 4-5 to “The Birthplace of Texas” to highlight the annual Texas Independence Day celebration.
An 1836 newspaper copy of Travis’ last letter imploring “let the convention go on and make a declaration of independence,” the original handwritten Texas Declaration of Independence and several other rare documents will be on public display together for the first time in 170 years at Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site.
The historic papers will be part of the “Let the Convention Go On” exhibit that opens March 2, Texas Independence Day, at the historic site’s Star of the Republic Museum.
The exhibit includes the declaration, Travis’ letter, the Constitution of the Republic of Texas, journals of the Convention of 1836, William Fairfax Gray’s diary detailing convention proceedings and other key documents clarifying the Texians’ grievances against the Mexican government and reasons for seeking independence.
Visitors to Washington-on-the-Brazos can view the documents at the museum from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the two-day celebration.
Travis’ two-sentence missive to those gathered at the convention, attended by such Texas heroes as Sam Houston, Thomas Rusk and Jose Antonio Navarro, concludes, “If independence is not declared, I shall lay down my arms and so will the men under my command.”
“The reason the letter is so important to us,” Houston McGaugh, director of the Star of the Republic Museum, explained “is that Travis was imploring the convention to continue so the world would recognize Texas as an independent country and the United States would protect Texas. He knew if they (the delegates) didn’t declare independence, Mexico would come back into Texas and wipe them out.”
The unprecedented exhibit results from collaboration among the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (Texas Declaration), Texas General Land Office (Constitution), University of Texas at Austin’s Center for American History (Gray’s diary), the Dallas Heritage Society (Convention journals) and Star of the Republic Museum. The documents will be on display through March 16.
Gray, a Virginia soldier and lawyer, arrived in Texas in 1835 and attended the Convention of 1836, recording proceedings in his diary. Gray’s diary was published in 1909 under the title From Virginia to Texas 1835.
In addition to the “Let the Convention Go On” exhibit, park visitors attending the two-day celebration can experience the early days of the republic through costumed re-enactors engaged in 19th century folkways, such as blacksmithing and quilting, military drills and old-timey music performed by the No Foolin’ String Band and Fathers of Texas. The latter band features Texas favorite K. R. Woods.
At 2 p.m. Sunday, Houston television personality Ron Stone will emcee a special program honoring invited guests, signers of the 1836 Declaration of Independence and their descendants, concluded by the Texas Army’s black gunpowder salute. A Fathers of Texas concert, featuring Austin music legend Rusty Wier, follows as a lead-up to the traditional cutting of a giant Texas birthday cake.
During the two-day celebration, park visitors can see a replica of Independence Hall on the original site where the Convention of 1836 took place, tour the Star of the Republic Museum and experience 1850s farm life at the Barrington Living History Farm, which includes the original home of Anson Jones, the Republic of Texas’ last president.
All admission fees will be waived during celebration weekend. Festival vendors will offer a variety of food and drinks.
The Washington-on-the-Brazos State Park Association sponsors the Texas Independence Day Celebration.
The historic complex is open daily from 8 a.m. to sunset. Barrington Living History Farm is open to visitors from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. The Star of the Republic Museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site is located off Texas Highway 105 on FM 1155 between Brenham and Navasota, approximately an hour northwest of Houston. For additional details of the weekend celebration, please call (936) 878-2214.
Special Media Photo Op: The historic Republic of Texas documents will be arriving at approximately noon on Tues., Feb. 28, at Washington-on-the-Brazos aboard the Fanthorp Inn State Historic Site’s authentic replica of an 1850 Concord stagecoach. Costumed schoolchildren and historical re-enactors will greet the fire engine-red stagecoach.
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