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Especially Texan is a weekly dive into historical topics that make up the tapestry of Texas history.
Especially Texan: The Daughters of the Republic of Texas
Since its establishment in 1891, the Daughters of the Republic of Texas has been on a mission to preserve the memory and spirit of those who achieved the independence of Texas. Continue reading to discover more about the ongoing success of the organization.
The Daughters of the Republic of Texas is the oldest patriotic women’s organization in Texas and one of the oldest in the nation. In 1891 Betty Ballinger and Hally Bryan (later Hally Bryan Perry ) formulated plans for an association to be composed of women who were direct descendants of the men and women who established the Republic of Texas. They were encouraged in their efforts by Hally Bryan’s father, Guy M. Bryan, a member of the Texas Veterans Association. The organizational meeting was held on November 6, 1891, in the Houston home of Mary Jane Briscoe. Mary S. M. Jones , widow of the last president of the Republic of Texas, agreed to serve as president. The motto “Texas, One and Indivisible” was suggested by Colonel Bryan. The name first chosen for this group was Daughters of Female Descendants of the Heroes of ’36; the association was renamed Daughters of the Lone Star Republic, then Daughters of the Republic of Texas at the first annual meeting in April 1892. The organization was planned as a companion to the Texas Veterans Association, and the two groups held joint meetings until the veterans disbanded in 1907.
The objectives of the association are to perpetuate the memory and spirit of the people who achieved and maintained the independence of Texas and to encourage historical research into the earliest records of Texas, especially those relating to the revolutionary and republic periods. The DRT encourages the preservation of documents and relics, the publication of historical records and narratives, and the celebration of important days in the state’s history. It also encourages the teaching of Texas history in public schools and sponsors the placement of historical markers.
The Daughters hold an annual business meeting on or about May 14, the day on which the Treaties of Velasco were signed. Between the annual meetings the board of management, consisting of the president general and twenty-five officers general, oversees the association. Members are required to be women who can prove lineal descent from a man or woman who served Texas before annexation (1846).
As of 1994 more than 6,500 members were organized into 108 chapters throughout the state. Local chapters also sponsor chapters of the Children of the Republic of Texas, a junior association organized in San Antonio in 1929. Members must be under the age of twenty-one and must prove the same lineal descent as DRT members.
One of the association’s early projects was to persuade the Texas legislature to purchase the land on which the battle of San Jacinto was fought.
The Daughters placed battlefield markers on the important sites pointed out by members of the Veterans Association. A more recent and continuing project is the placement of bronze medallions on the graves of citizens of the Republic of Texas. The Daughters were instrumental in the state’s decision to purchase life-size statues of Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston sculpted by Elisabet Ney for the rotunda of the Capitol in Austin. The DRT also used its influence to place a monument at Washington-on-the-Brazos, where the Texas Declaration of Independence was signed.
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In 1905, through the combined efforts of the association and two of its members, Clara Driscoll and Adina de Zavala , the Daughters became custodians of the Alamo in San Antonio. In accordance with their agreement with the state, they have maintained the chapel and surrounding grounds and gardens without cost to taxpayers and with no admission charge. The Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library at the Alamo is open to all researchers. The original Long Barrack building has been restored and is currently being used as a museum. Additional buildings, including a museum and greenhouse, have been erected on the grounds.
In Austin the DRT maintains the French Legation , built in 1840 for the French diplomatic mission to the Republic of Texas. The sale of the property was finalized by the state of Texas on May 6, 1949, and the building was placed in the custody of the Daughters on August 25, 1949, who researched the legation with the help of historians and architects. The restored legation was opened to the public on April 15, 1956.
The DRT appealed to the legislature to save the Old Land Office Building on the southeast corner of the Capitol grounds in Austin, and in 1917 it was designated for use as a museum and headquarters for the association, which maintained a museum and business office on the top floor until 1989. The United Daughters of the Confederacy had a Confederate museum on the lower floor. The DRT purchased its own building in Austin to house the museum and headquarters, which they opened to the public on November 6, 1991. The DRT also owns and maintains the Cradle, a small building in Galveston where Betty Ballinger and Hally Bryan made plans to organize the association.
On August 11, 1961, the legislature adopted the Daughters’ design for the reverse side of the Great Seal of Texas . Sarah Roach Farnsworth of San Antonio produced the design, which incorporates the six flags of Texas, the Alamo, the Gonzales “Come and Take It” cannon, and Vince’s Bridge, destroyed by Erastus (Deaf) Smith on orders from Gen. Sam Houston at the battle of San Jacinto. The original watercolor painting of the design, by Joy Harrell Carrington of Medina, hangs in the office of the Texas secretary of state.
In 1986 the Daughters buried a time capsule containing memorabilia of the Sesquicentennial celebration at the Cradle in Galveston. The capsule is to be opened during the Texas Bicentennial in the year 2036. On April 12, 1987, the DRT dedicated a bronze and marble plaque at the site where the original international boundary marker between the United States and the Republic of Texas still stands.
The DRT has sponsored the publication of several volumes of Texas history and biography and has published the lineages of its members in the multivolume Founders and Patriots of the Republic of Texas (1963-). Since 1928 the DRT has sponsored an annual fellowship, named for Clara Driscoll in 1930, awarded to a University of Texas student doing research on the state’s history. In 1986 the association established the Texas Sesquicentennial Fellowship under the same guidelines.
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