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    Two years before the Alamo, San Felipe de Austin lawyer W. Barret Travis organizes the Succession Rights of Early Texas Settler Ezekiel Thomas.

    William Barret Travis: Legal Document Signed "W B Travis". Two pages of a bifolium, 8" x 13.25", San Felipe de Austin, Texas; December 22, 1834. A legal document signed by the famed Texan, concerning proper inheritance rights following the death of Ezekiel Thomas. Thomas (c. 1797-1834) was a South Carolina native who settled around San Jacinto, Texas circa 1822. As a member of the Old Three Hundred, he was granted a plot of land on August 19, 1824 that would eventually become Harris County. After his death, Travis helped draw up this document, which reads in full:

    "In the Town of San Felipe de Austin on the 22nd day of December 1834, before me, David G. Burnet Judge of the 1st instance of the Municipality of Austin, & the witnesses named at the end, appeared the citizen Joseph T. Callihan as principal, and John W. Moore as secrety, whom I know and to whose word I give faith, who declared; That they acknowledge themselves to be held & firmly bound with the judge of the 1st instance of the Municipality of Austin & to his successors in office in the sum of one thousand dollars, for the payment of which well & truly to be made, they bind themselves their persons & property - heirs & successors, Conditioned that, the said Joseph T. Callihan, who has this day been appointed, as Curator to the succession of Ezekiel Thomas and tutor to the persons and property of Fanny Thomas, Mary Thomas, Jane Thomas, William H. Thomas, Samuel Thomas, and Lindsay Thomas, shall well & faithfully discharge the duties of said several trusts, and that he will make faithfully & correct settlements of his said Administration & guardianship, whenever he shall be thereunto legally required. All which they declared, and signed the same with and before W. Barret Travis and J.L. Martin witnesses present and residents of said town, together with those of my assistance with whom I authenticate." The document is also boldly signed by David G. Burnet. The piece has usual mail folds and is toned throughout, with darker toning at the folds. There are some small separations and tears where the paper was weakened at folds and edges, and it appears that some of the tears have been professionally repaired on verso. A few spots of soiling, and chipping at the edges, else good; the text is very bold. The piece is housed in a custom-made portfolio folder.

    William Barret Travis (1809-1836) was born and raised near Saluda, South Carolina, but moved with his family to Alabama when he was nine years old. He attended school in Claiborne, Alabama, and eventually was accepted as an apprentice to the town's leading attorney, James Dellet. By the time he was 21, W. Barret Travis founded the Claiborne Herald, becoming the publisher and editor. However, when his newspaper was not profitable and income from his law office was not enough to pay his debts, he abandoned his wife, young son and unborn daughter and settled in Texas in April 1831. Arriving in San Felipe de Austin, he obtained land from Stephen F. Austin on May 21, 1831, listing his marital status as "single." The town of San Felipe de Austin had been formed in 1823, and Austin formerly established the town, located in modern-day Austin County, as his colony's unofficial capital in July 1824. It soon became the colony's first urban center.

    Upon arrival in Texas, Travis established a legal practice in Anahuac on Galveston Bay, and traveled through Texas doing legal work. Following the disturbances at that city in 1832, he moved his law practice to nearby San Felipe de Austin. He became associated with a group of militants who opposed the Law of April 6, 1830 (designed to stop immigration from the United States to Texas and to encourage Mexican and European settlement). Eventually this group became known as the "War Party" as tension increased between the Mexican government and American settlers in Texas. Open rebellion soon erupted, and Travis would be one of the first to sign up for the Texan forces.

    Popular with Texas rebels, Travis rose in the ranks to become a lieutenant colonel of cavalry in the Texan volunteer army by 1835. That December, Texans drove Mexican forces from San Antonio de Bexar and reinforced the Texan force already occupying the Alamo. Travis and his men arrived on February 3, 1836, and nine days later, he and Colonel James Bowie took overall command of the garrison. Less than three weeks later, Santa Anna and his army of 1,800 arrived and surrounded the Alamo. The Texans numbered less than 260. In desperate need of reinforcements, Travis sent out pleas for assistance and supplies from Texas and the United States. Possibly the most famous document in Texas history, the letter called on both Texans and Americans to come defend the Alamo, vowing never to surrender or retreat and adding the words "Victory or Death" before his signature. The only reinforcements Travis and his fellow defenders would receive would be a company of Texas Rangers, accompanied by 32 men, who arrived at the Alamo on March 1. On March 6, after a 13-day siege, Mexican troops overran the Alamo and Travis, Bowie, Davy Crockett, and the rest of the Alamo's defenders were killed in the fierce struggle that followed. Despite the tragedy that befell those at the Alamo, Travis' letter was later reprinted in newspapers around the country as well as in Europe. Newspapers began publishing transcripts of the letter as early as March 2, the same day on which delegates at Washington officially declared Texas' independence.

    David G. Burnet had studied law in Cincinnati, Ohio, and was appointed head of the Brazos District Court. Eleven days after the fall of the Alamo, Burnet was elected as interim president of the Republic of Texas, a position that he would hold until October 1836. He would go on to serve as the second vice president under Mirabeau B. Lamar and first secretary of state for the State of Texas from 1846 through 1848.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2019
    4th-5th Saturday-Sunday
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