Tennesseans to Texas: 1830-1860

Tennesseans began migrating to Texas by 1830. Sam Houston and David Crockett garnered celebrated legacies. Nashvillian Howell Tatum Davis and his relatives helped expand economic and social practices such as the cotton trade and slavery. 

[Letter to Howell Tatum Davis, March 1, 1847] [Letter to Howell Tatum Davis, March 1, 1847] [Letter to Howell Tatum Davis, March 1, 1847]

[Letter to Howell Tatum Davis, March 1, 1847] by John W. Horton
Howell Tatum Davis Family Papers,
Vanderbilt University Special Collections

Howell Tatum Davis, who lived in Matagorda, Texas, received this letter from his nephew John W. Horton. He resided in Nashville, as Davis once did. They were both from a prominent family who owned plantations. Horton discusses the health of family members and settling the family debt by selling off some of their slaves. This correspondence shows us that despite his migration to Texas, Davis still maintained his ties to Tennessee.

[Letter to Howell Tatum Davis, July 6, 1847]

[Letter to Howell Tatum Davis, July 6, 1847] by Robert McClure
Howell Tatum Davis Family Papers,
Vanderbilt University Special Collections

A number of Tennesseans moved to Texas purchasing land with which to farm cotton using the slave labor of African Americans. Such was the case for Robert McClure and Howell Tatum Davis. Shortly after the state was annexed into the U.S. in 1846, Robert McClure wrote this letter confirming that he would again hire out one of Davis' slaves for another season. McClure also indicates he was traveling to Houston to sell his cotton.

[Letter to Howell Tatum Davis, April 23, 1853] [Letter to Howell Tatum Davis, April 23, 1853]

[Letter to Howell Tatum Davis, April 23, 1853] by Samuel W. Hardeman
Howell Tatum Davis Family Papers,
Vanderbilt University Special Collections

Samuel Hardeman was the cousin of Howell Tatum Davis. The Hardeman family was prominent in early Texas history. Samuel's father Bailey Hardeman helped draft the Texas Declaration of Independence in 1835. The family maintained plantations in Matagorda County, Texas, producing corn and cotton. This letter suggests Davis is transferring legal ownership of his male slave named Kit to Hardeman. Other letters in the collection note Davis owned two male slaves that he regularly hired out to others. The role of the cotton trade and the slave labor of African Americans, forced migrants to Texas from other areas of the South, was crucial in the economic and social development of early Texas.

Col. Crockett's Exploits and Adventures in Texas : Wherein is Contained a Full Account of his Journey from Tennessee to the Red River and Natchitoches, and Thence Across Texas to San Antonio : Including his Many Hair-Breadth Escapes : Together with a Topographical, Historical, and Political View of Texas Col. Crockett's Exploits and Adventures in Texas : Wherein is Contained a Full Account of his Journey from Tennessee to the Red River and Natchitoches, and Thence Across Texas to San Antonio : Including his Many Hair-Breadth Escapes : Together with a Topographical, Historical, and Political View of Texas

Col. Crockett's Exploits and Adventures in Texas by Davy Crockett
Publisher: T.K. and P.G. Collins; Philadelphia, 1836
Sevier Collection,
Vanderbilt University Special Collections

Richard Penn Smith loosely based this work on the diary of Davy Crockett. The book discusses Crockett’s supposed escapades in his migration from Tennessee to Texas. Crockett led militia and served in Congress before losing his seat finally in 1835. As a politician, Crockett opposed some of the policies of Andrew Jackson, including the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Weeks after Crockett arrived in Texas in early 1836, he was killed at the Battle of the Alamo. Crockett became legendary in death, a martyr for manifest destiny as Americans of European descent expanded across the continent. The Davy Crockett narrative, as fact and myth, sparked the desires of white Americans to seek economic and political freedom. However this came at the expense of Native American, African American, and Mexican lives.

The Life of Sam Houston: the Hunter, Patriot, and Statesman of Texas The Life of Sam Houston: the Hunter, Patriot, and Statesman of Texas

The Life of Sam Houston by Charles Edwards Lester
Publisher: G.G. Evans; Philadelphia, 1860
Stanley F. Horn Collection,
Vanderbilt University Special Collections

Sam Houston, first President of the Republic of Texas, was one of many Tennesseans who moved to the Lone Star State. Once Governor of Tennessee, Houston left for Texas by 1832, leaving personal and political troubles behind. This 1860 edition of The Life of Sam Houston was published while Houston was Governor of Texas. It includes an illustration of Houston in his hunting attire and discusses his life and military exploits. This included serving under Andrew Jackson at the Battle of Horseshoe Creek in 1814 to his victory at San Jacinto against Mexican forces in 1836. Houston helped forge major expansion of U.S. territory. A number of white Tennesseans supported this effort and, in turn, brought with them Antebellum economic and social practices such as slavery helping build the state.

[Letter to Andrew Jackson from James Gadsden] [Letter to Andrew Jackson from James Gadsden] [Letter to Andrew Jackson from James Gadsden] [Letter to Andrew Jackson from James Gadsden] [Letter to Andrew Jackson from James Gadsden] [Letter to Andrew Jackson from James Gadsden]

[Letter to Andrew Jackson from James Gadsden]
July 8, 1844
Stanley F. Horn Collection,
Vanderbilt University Special Collections

South Carolina businessman and diplomat James Gadsden composed this lengthy letter to Andrew Jackson shortly before the former President's death. Gadsden discusses the Republic of Texas as its secession to the U.S. He expresses concerns that Sam Houston was being influenced by the British. Gadsden was appointed ambassador to Mexico in 1853. He purchased lands that later became the southern borders of Arizona and New Mexico. 

Tennesseans to Texas: 1830-1860