This article is the first in a series about Texas Heroes. The articles are inspired by stories highlighted in the Texas Heroes Museum, located in the Fayette County Old Jail.
The first display visitors see when they enter the Texas Heroes Museum is about Moses Austin. In 1820, he traveled from Missouri to San Antonio to ask the Spanish Governor for permission to bring colonists. The Governor rejected the proposal. Moses then chanced to meet the Baron de Bastrop in one of the most famous turns of history in Texas. They had met 19 years earlier in New Orleans. They had not contacted each other during the interim, but the two recognized each other. Bastrop, a resident of San Antonio, was impressed with Austin’s colonization plan. The baron accompanied Moses to the governor’s office to request permission to establish the colony. On December 26, 1820, Governor Martinez endorsed and forwarded the plan to higher authority.
On January 17, 1821, the government of New Spain granted Moses Austin a permit to settle 300 families in Texas. This momentous agreement began the process of Anglo-American colonization in the future state. These 300 families are known as the “Old 300.”
Moses returned to his home in Missouri, but on the trip home he contracted pneumonia. He neglected his health and devoted all of his energies to the “Texas Venture.” Two days before he died, Moses called his wife to his bed. “After a considerable exertion to speak,” she wrote in one of the most famous letters in Texas history, Moses begged his son, Stephen F. Austin, to complete his project of colonizing Texas. Moses Austin died on June 10, 1821.
We consider the “Old 300” as the first group of Texas Heroes because of the sacrifices they made living in extremely harsh conditions. When the first settlers came to this land there was no Walmart; there was no HEB; there was not even a corner store. The Old 300 came with what would fit on a small wagon. They had to build their own shelters. They had to provide their own food and water. They worked in blazing heat and frigid cold without central air and heat. They might be killed by hostile Indians.
Some of these settlers could not endure the brutal conditions in this unsettled land. They abandoned their land and went back East where life was easier. But those who stayed… those who made the sacrifice of living in this Spartan environment… they are the people who made it easier for the next generation of Texas heroes.
Now take a moment to think about what Texas would be like if the Old 300 had all gone back East. What would Texas be like if Sam Houston had been defeated at San Jacinto? What would Texas be like if it had remained under the control of the dictator Santa Anna as a part of Mexico? What would Texas be like if it had not become part of the United States? Would Texas be different from Mexico?
Today we enjoy an easy life with many comforts. We should all appreciate the sacrifices that our ancestors made in creating this great country where life is good. One of the goals of the Texas Heroes Museum is to teach young people about how difficult it was for our ancestors to carve out homes in an inhospitable environment. These ancestors should be honored and respected.
Parents and grandparents: Tell your children and grandchildren about Texas Heroes Moses Austin, Stephen F. Austin, and the Old 300.
Tales of Texas Heroes #2 - Audie Murphy
This article is the second in a series about Texas Heroes. The articles are inspired by stories highlighted in the Texas Heroes Museum, located in the Fayette County Old Jail.
When you ask a senior person to name a Texas hero, he is likely to name Audie Murphy. If you ask a younger person, he might say Chris Kyle. If you ask a teen, they might not be able to name anyone. This is sad. A nation needs heroes for role models. To quote Cicero, “Poor is the nation that has no heroes, but poorer still is the nation that having heroes, fails to remember and honor them.”
Let’s start with Audie Murphy. He grew up near Greenville, Texas. His family was dirt poor. Murphy was 16 years old when Pearl Harbor was bombed. He was rejected by the Marines, the Army, and the Navy because of his small stature and being underweight. He was finally accepted by the Army infantry.
Now let’s get to the headline: Audie Murphy was the most decorated American combat soldier of World War II.
Murphy received 33 awards, citations, and decorations. He was given every U.S. military combat award for valor available from the U.S. Army for his World War II service, two of them twice. He received a battlefield promotion to Second Lieutenant. He was awarded several French and Belgian decorations for valor. Murphy fought in eight campaigns in Sicily, Italy, France, and Germany. He participated in two amphibious assaults, Sicily and Southern France. Murphy was wounded three times, and he had reoccurring bouts of malaria.
In 1950, Murphy joined the Thirty-sixth Division of the Texas National Guard, hoping to fight in the Korean War. This division was not called to active duty, but Murphy stayed with the “T-patchers” for several years. (As a sidenote, the Thirty-sixth Division is still active at Camp Mabry in Austin. They have an outstanding museum. Visit our Texas Heroes Museum to learn about the origin of the Thirty-sixth Division, its shoulder patch, and how the “Texas Division” developed a secret that helped win battles in both World War I and II.)
The things that Audie Murphy did to win his honors are truly amazing. As you can guess, his exploits could fill a book. In fact, they do fill a book, written by Murphy, titled To Hell and Back. This book, published in 1949, then became the basis for a movie by the same title in 1955, staring Audie Murphy as himself. That launched his movie career that included almost 50 films, mostly westerns.
There is an old song with a chorus that starts “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.” I am asking all parents and grandparents, please, don’t let your children grow up without knowing about Audie Murphy, a true Texas hero.
The Texas Heroes Museum is located in the Fayette County Old Jail, 171 S Main St, La Grange, Texas. Our mailing address is PO Box 1110, La Grange, TX 78945, and our email address is TexasHeroesMuseum@gmail.com. We have a Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/TexasHeroesMuseum/. The Texans in War Museum Association, DBA Texas Heroes Museum, is a non-profit, tax-exempt corporation, TIN 46-4084521, which makes your contributions tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. We do not charge admission, but donations are appreciated and needed.