James and Jane Long

Texas has a proud history, and the names of Texas heroes—Sam Houston, Juan Seguin, and, my hero, William Barrett Travis—are still remembered and venerated by Texans. Two names that are often unjustifiably left out of this group are James and Jane Long. 

A veteran of the War of 1812, Dr. James Long was a doctor living in Natchez, Mississippi, in 1819. In that year, the United States and Spain agreed on the Adams-Onis treaty, in which Spain relinquished control over Florida and the United States rescinded claims to the land west of the Sabine River in Texas.

Long and his friends didn’t like that they no longer had access to a land they considered their birthright. They decided to take action.

Dr. Long proposed the establishment of Texas as an independent and sovereign nation. Together with eighty of his friends, as well as his wife, Jane, and their newborn infant, Long rode to Nacogdoches. 

By the time his group reached the Texas settlement, they were over 300 strong. Internal resistance and uncertainty had plagued Spanish Texas, and so Long’s party easily took control of Nacogdoches. 

They then gathered for a solemn convention. On June 23, 1819, under the heat of the Texas sun, the group proclaimed Texas a free and independent nation and elected Dr. Long as its first president.  

They became the first to champion the Lone Star. Indeed, the Lone Star featured prominently on their flag, which adopted the 13 red and white stripes of the American flag and placed a single star in the top left-hand corner. 

The fate of Long’s new Texas Republic was cruel and short-lived. Spanish forces, upon hearing of Long’s presence in Nacogdoches, marched east from Bexar (modern-day San Antonio) and drove Long’s forces out, killing his brother in the process. 

Long traveled with his young family to New Orleans, and, determined not to give up on his dream, attempted to stir up support for a second expedition. He found a willing partner in Don Felix Trespalacios, and in 1829, the two departed by sea, bound for the Texas coast.

After landing at a place they named Point Bolivar, in honor of the South American revolutionary, Long took forces inland while Trespalacios sailed onward to spread revolution elsewhere. When his forces took La Bahia, however, Spanish troops struck back and forced their surrender.

Long became a captive and traveled to Mexico City to await his fate. Amid mysterious circumstances, Long was shot and killed while in Mexico City, leaving his young wife and two children alone to fend for themselves at Point Bolivar. 

Texas women are fiercely courageous, and Mrs. Long was no different. Though she was just twenty-one years old, she was determined not to become a victim of her own circumstances.

She fended off would-be Indian assailants while wintering in Galveston Bay, and in the spring, she traveled on horseback with her two young children and an enslaved woman to Bexar and then to Monterrey, hundreds of miles across the open, rugged Texas landscape. She was determined to bring her husband’s murderer to justice, but even her indomitable spirit could not overcome a turbulent political climate.

Unsuccessful but not unbowed, she rode back to Mississippi with her children. She later made her way back to Texas, settling at Richmond near the coast, and died on Texas soil in 1880. 

James and Jane Long are vital to the history of Texas. These two individuals helped sow the seeds of independence in the minds of Texans.

Members of Long’s expedition, in particular Ben Miram and Jim Bowie, later played integral roles in winning Texas independence from Mexico. While their contribution has often been overlooked by history, their names should live beside those of Houston, Seguin, and Travis as true Texas heroes.

And that is just the way it is.


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