Angelina Fires Her Cannon: The Archives War of 1842-1843

By Anna Reznik, Archivist

In the early hours of December 30, 1842, a group of men lead by Colonel Thomas I. Smith and Captain Eli Chandler began loading Republic of Texas’ government archives into wagons. Smith and Chandler had instructions from President Sam Houston to move the records for safekeeping.

In Houston’s eyes, the advancing Mexican army made Austin unsafe. Earlier in 1842, Houston instructed the government to move to a safer location. Government officials began operating from Washington-on-the-Brazos; however, the archives remained in Austin. In December 1842, the president ordered men to move the archives.

Citation: File No. 1713, “To Arm! To Arms! Texians!!” broadside warning citizens of Austin of the approaching Mexican Army, March 5, 1842, Texas General Land Office incoming correspondence, 2015/087-7.

Citation: File No. 1713, “To Arm! To Arms! Texians!!” broadside warning citizens of Austin of the approaching Mexican Army, March 5, 1842, Texas General Land Office incoming correspondence, 2015/087-7. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission

In the eyes of Austin citizens, Houston’s orders were an excuse to move the capital away from a city the president disliked. Many felt that Houston’s peace negotiations with Native American peoples made Austin safer than it had been previously.

Citation: A Texas scrap-book: made up of the history, biography, and miscellany of Texas and its people by Baker, D. W. C., 976.4 B17s 1875.

Citation: A Texas scrap-book: made up of the history, biography, and miscellany of Texas and its people by Baker, D. W. C., 976.4 B17s 1875. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Under the cover of darkness, Smith, Chandler, and twenty men loaded three wagons before widow Angelina Eberly realized the implications of the archives leaving Austin. To alert other Austinites, Eberly fired a cannon outside her boarding house. Her shot missed the men but hit the General Land Office building. Smith, Chandler, and clerks from the General Land Office fled with three wagons. The vigilantes followed with the cannon. Shortly after, near Brushy Creek, the vigilantes forced Smith and Chandler to surrender. The archives returned to Austin.

This letter, sent to the citizens of Bastrop after the Archives War, states that in the haste of securing the wagons containing the removed records, some archival materials may now be missing. The citizens of Bastrop are urged to search any passing wagons for stolen and missing records.] [Citation: File No. 1757, Letter to the citizens of Bastrop to search wagons, April 12, 1843, Texas General Land Office incoming correspondence, 2015/180-7.

This letter, sent to the citizens of Bastrop after the Archives War, states that in the haste of securing the wagons containing the removed records, some archival materials may now be missing. The citizens of Bastrop are urged to search any passing wagons for stolen and missing records. Citation: File No. 1757, Letter to the citizens of Bastrop to search wagons, April 12, 1843, Texas General Land Office incoming correspondence, 2015/180-7. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Both houses of the legislature investigated the matter.  The House Select Committee stated that Houston requested that the Congress order the archives be removed from Austin, but Congress had refused. The committee also found that Houston had acted beyond his powers in moving the capital to Washington-on-the-Brazos. The full House rejected the committee’s report by a vote of 19 to 18.

Message of his excellency, the president in relation to the removal of the archives to the House of Representatives, January 4, 1843, Andrew Jackson Houston collection, 2-22/184.

Message of his excellency, the president, in relation to the removal of the archives to the House of Representatives, January 4, 1843, Andrew Jackson Houston collection, 2-22/184. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

On January 13, 1843, the Senate Committee on Public Lands recommended that the government should move back to Austin to save taxpayer money. Despite strong words from the legislature, the Republic government continued operating in Washington-on-the-Brazos for two more years.

Without the government, many Austin businesses closed, and the city almost became a ghost town. But the records created before the 1843 remained in Austin. In 1845, Austin once again became the capital, and the government records were united. Five years later, in 1850, Austin became the permanent capital of Texas.

In the 175 years since Angelina fired her cannon, the Archives War has become symbolic of the importance of government records. Archives allow citizens to monitor government operations, understand actions of all three branches of state government, and assist in determining property rights.

The Archives War is reflected in the following materials at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission:

The Andrew Jackson Houston collection contains correspondence to and from Sam Houston throughout his life. Of special interest is an order to remove the archives from Austin and a draft of Houston’s response to Congress’ investigations of the Archives War.

The materials at the center of the Archives War were the Republic’s land records. Though many of Texas’ land records are preserved and maintained at the Texas General Land Office, TSLAC holds the General Land Office’s incoming correspondence from the 19th century. Included in these records are a warning about the Mexican Army in San Antonio, efforts to recover “lost” records, and the government struggling to operate in Washington-on-the-Brazos while the archives remained in Austin.

Our publications collections include books and articles about the Archives War as well as Angelina Eberly and others who played central roles in the Archives War.

Additional publications can be found by searching the library catalog.

Title Author Call number Collection
The Archive War of Texas Jewett, Henry J. 976.404 AR25w Main (non-circulating)
The Archive War in Texas Yager, Hope 976.404 Y103a OVER-T Main (non-circulating)
The Houston Story; A Chronicle of the City of Houston and the Texas Frontier from the Battle of San Jacinto to the War Between the States, 1836-1865 Bartholomew, Ed Ellsworth 976.414 B283 Main (circulating)
A Texas scrap-book: made up of the history, biography, and miscellany of Texas and its people Baker, D. W. C. 976.4 B17s 1875 Main (non-circulating; available online from the Internet Archive)
The Lady Cannoneer: A Biography of Angelina Belle Peyton Eberly, Heroine of the Texas Archives War King, C. Richard 976.404 K58L Main (circulating)
Sam Houston: A Biography of the Father of Texas Williams, John Hoyt 923.273 H818WILJ Main (noncirculating)
Peg Leg: The Improbable Life of a Texas Hero, Thomas William Ward, 1807-1872 Humphrey, David C. 327.73 H884p Main (non-circulating)
Journals of the Senate of the Republic of Texas, 7th Congress Texas. Congress. Senate. L1793.6 J826 7TH Texas Documents (non-circulating; available online from the Legislative Reference Library)
Journals of the House of Representatives of the Republic of Texas, 7th Congress Texas. Congress. House of Representatives. L1791.6 J826 7TH-9TH Texas Documents (non-circulating; available online from the Legislative Reference Library)
Secret journals of the Senate, Republic of Texas, 1836-1845 Texas. Congress. Senate. L1793.6 J826sj 1836-45 Texas Documents (non-circulating; available online from the Legislative Reference Library)
Southwestern Historical Quarterly. (Indexes) Texas State Historical Association 976.406 SO8 INDEX V. 1-107 Reference Reading Room (non-circulating)

For more about the Archives War and its importance to Texas history, check out our website at https://www.tsl.texas.gov/treasures/republic/archwar/archwar.html.

 

 

 

 

Let Their Voices Be Heard!: Working with the Texas International Women’s Year Coordinating Committee Records

By Rebecca Romanchuk, Archivist

Mary Murphy is a Master of Arts in history candidate at Texas State University, specializing in women, gender, and sexuality. She recently completed an internship at the Texas State Archives to arrange and describe records of the Texas International Women’s Year Coordinating Committee. These records document a crucial period in the women’s rights movement in the late 1970s as the push to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment gathered strength and then failed to achieve its goal.

Romanchuk: Mary, tell us why you were interested in working with the Texas International Women’s Year Coordinating Committee records at the State Archives.

Murphy: My interest in women’s studies and desire to work with an assorted set of records and media was a good match for this collection. It was also an opportunity to learn about a subject I had surprisingly never come across in my formal education.

Romanchuk: What was International Women’s Year and how was this committee involved with it?

Murphy: The United Nations declared 1975 as International Women’s Year to draw attention to efforts by women around the world to achieve equal status as a human rights issue. The first international conference to discuss women’s status in the world occurred in Mexico City from June 19 to July 2, 1975.

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