Mirabeau B. Lamar
At Evening on the Banks of the Chattahoochee
Mirabeau Lamar tried several careers as a young man. He moved to the Alabama frontier and was a partner in both a general store and a newspaper. But this creative and intellectually curious young man soon found himself bored with life in the backwoods. Looking for something more exciting, he soon found his true calling: politics.
When he was 25, Lamar joined the staff of George M. Troup, the governor of Georgia, and became his secretary. The major issue of Troup's time in office was the fate of the Creek Indians in Georgia. Federal authorities wanted to reserve land in Georgia for the Indians' use, while Troup wanted to eject them. As Troup's aide, Lamar formed strong views that would be critical to his later career. He became passionate on the subject of states' rights, believing that state decisions should not be subject to review by federal authority. Idealistic about democracy, he nonetheless believed civil rights did not apply to blacks or Indians.
In 1826, Lamar married Tabitha Jordan, a frail teenage beauty he had known for several years. They soon started their family with the birth of a daughter, Rebecca Ann. The Lamars moved to Columbus, a new town, where Lamar started a newspaper called the Enquirer. He returned to politics in 1829, winning election to the state Senate.
But there was a shadow in the sunshine. Tabitha had been diagnosed with tuberculosis. Lamar spent much of his time nursing her. In August 1830, she died at the age of 21, leaving behind her husband and Rebecca, not yet three years of age. Grief-stricken, Lamar withdrew from public life for several years, spending his time traveling and writing poetry. He composed two of his best-known poems, "At Evening on the Banks of the Chattahoochee" and "Thou Idol of My Soul" during this period. Young Rebecca was taken in to be raised by an aunt and uncle.
When Lamar was ready to reenter politics, he found Georgia wasn't ready for him. He ran twice for Congress and was defeated. Lamar also had more tragedy to deal with in his personal life. Within the space of a few months, his sister and father died, and his brother Lucius, to whom Mirabeau was especially close, committed suicide. Tired of feeling miserable and defeated, Lamar decided to go to Texas to visit his friend James W. Fannin, an old neighbor who had become a slave trader and agitator for Texas independence. The year was 1835, and the decision would prove to be the most fateful of Lamar's life. He fell in love with Texas and the cause of independence. After his visit, he raced home to settle his affairs so he could move to Texas and make a new start.