Nearly two centuries ago, people in East Texas were invested in the Texas Revolution.
“Definitely from that area there was just a huge support, which really made a difference because that was such a nucleus of early settlements,” Ms. Thompson said.
Today marks the 177th anniversary of the signing of the Texas Declaration of Independence.
Dr. Patricia Richey, chairwoman of the Social Science Department at Jacksonville College, said many people were pioneers around this time and came — just as immigrants do today — looking for a better life for their family.
In fact, “Gone to Texas” became a common phrase because a lot of people went to Texas in search of cheap land, she said.
Dr. Richey said she believes there were likely many settlers in the East Texas area who tried to have peaceful relations with American Indians and wanted to find land here and raise families in peace.
But according to the book “A History of Tyler and Smith County, Texas,” white settlers before 1837 moved into areas occupied by Cherokees and associated tribes and “were not always on friendly terms with the Indians.”
Dr. Richey said via email that U.S. citizens were allowed to come to Texas to help protect the Mexican citizens.
“The Mexican government expected people who received cheap land to follow through with their promise to become Catholic and to learn Spanish, but in reality, many signed this pledge who never intended to follow through with those conditions,” she wrote in the email.
She said that was when Texas was part of Mexico, and only later, when Mexican officials realized white people outnumbered the Mexican population, did they begin to worry about it.
“As tempers began to flair, we began to say, ‘We don’t want to go through grievances. We want to be independent,’” Dr. Richey said.
Today — as people celebrate that independence — both Ms. Thompson and Dr. Richey discussed March 2, 1836, and what makes the state special.
Dr. Richey referenced the phrase, “Texas is a state of mind,” and that, according to the state anthem, is the “boldest and grandest.”
“We all hear how Texans brag about the state,” she said.
She recalled when her family played host to a Japanese exchange student in the 1990s. She said the Japanese students could choose any place in the United States, but she was told they want to come to Texas.
“How many states can you identify by its shape?” she said. “Texas is just one of those states you immediately identify. It just has the mystique of being an exciting place because it’s so big and diverse. We were an independent republic. There’s no other state that has that claim.” She even cited a passport that was on display at a museum for people who wanted to visit Texas.
“I just think it lends to the whole mystique of Texas. That we were a republic just shows the … pride that Texas has,” she said.
Dr. Richey said she also likes to put herself in the place of those pioneers and how they felt when they were inspecting the land they wanted to live on. She said it reminds her of East Texas resources such as “pine trees and beautiful rivers.”
“These settlers with their pioneer spirits chose this area even though there was danger with Native Americans,” she said. “You hear opinions (that) some (American Indians were) friendly and some weren’t. Just as we would fight to keep our way of life, so did they.”
For Daughters of the Republic of Texas, Texas Independence Day is a time to reflect on the 177 years that have passed since the Texas Revolution and gives a chance to pay tribute, Ms. Thompson said.
She said there are 13 known copies of Texas Declaration of Independence, one of which is known as the Maverick Declaration of Independence. She said Samuel Augustus Maverick was delayed in signing the document but wrote a note, indicating that he was delayed.
Ms. Thompson and the Daughters of the Republic of Texas encouraged everyone to fly their Texas flag for Texas Independence Day.