Location: Williamson County, Texas
This page is supplemental information for the David E. Lawhon profile.
The marker was dedicated on October 7, 1967. The dedication speech is presented below. It states the location is at the Taylor Ranch which is now known as the Down Home Ranch. The marker is located near the entrance to the ranch on Texas Farm-to-Market road . Inside the ranch is the Gardner-Lawhon Cemetery where David Lawhon is buried.
Dedication of David E. Lawhon Historical Monument Taylor Ranch, near Taylor, Texas 2:30 p.m., Saturday, October 7, 1967 R. Henderson Shuffler
We are here this afternoon to perform an act of historical justice by giving due credit to a man who has been too long overlooked in books dealing with the history of Texas. We are here to honor a truly remarkable pioneer who played a key role in the Texas Revolution, did his share of fighting in the frontier Indian campaigns, served in posts of importance and trust in the days of our Republic, pioneered in pushing the frontiers of civilization north and west from the original settlements on the Gulf and lower Brazos -- and most importantly of all, established a family of strong and God-fearing Texans to carry on in the proud tradition of his example.
David Ervin Lawhon was born in Tennessee on July 15, 1811, and grew up on that frontier in the days when it was being developed from a wilderness to a staging area for further migrations westward by the restless out-reaching people of a young nation. He received what was for his time a solid education and learned a skilled and much-needed trade. He was a printer.
By the time he was 21, young Lawhon had caught the fever for new lands and new opportunities. By 1835 he was at Natchitoches, in Louisiana, 'working at his trade and apparently establishing himself as a man of some importance in that old French-Spanish-Anglo center of trade and intrigue. One historian says that when David Crockett and his small party of companions came through Natchitoches in 1835, David Lawhon was a member of the local committee which gave a dinner in honor of the bear hunting Congressman.
Crockett was headed for Texas, not, as it is so often written, to "fight for his rights", but, like everyone else, in search of free land and a chance for a new start in life. Whether the young printer caught "Texas fever" from David Crockett is not definitely known, but he well might have. Col. Crockett was a most convivial and convincing fellow.
Within a few months, probably around the middle of November 1835, David Lawhon was in Texas. At Nacogdoches he joined the army which was being formed to defend Texas against invasion by a punitive expedition from Mexico determined to subdue the colony to the will of the new dictator, Santa Anna.
The recruiting sergeant must have beamed when this young Tennessean stepped up to sign the roster. Lawhon was a huge man, well over six feet tall and heavily built. This barrel-chested 24-year-old, with his big hands and feet, was well suited to soldiering. However, when they learned more about him, the leaders of Nacogdoches knew they needed his services more desperately elsewhere than on the battlefield.
Printers were much scarcer in early Texas than fighters. At the time there was only one newspaper in operation in the province. That was, the Telegraph and Texas Register, published at Austin's capital of San Felipe, on the Brazos, by a New York born blacksmith's son, Gail Borden. In an area where distances were great, settlements few and transportation slow and uncertain, a newspaper could do much to bind the colonists together. It could publish the news of developments in the fast-brewing trouble with Mexico. It could carry the announcements of leaders of the colony on plans for meeting the threat of invasion. It could inform them on the laws and regulations under which they must live.
There was an old press in a merchant's barn at Nacogdoches, stored there, along with type and other equipment, since the hectic days of Long's ill-fated revolution. They dug it out, cleaned it up and turned it over to Dave Lawhon, urging him to start a newspaper. His first issue appeared on Saturday, November 28, 1835.
The TEXEAN AND EMIGRANT'S GUIDE, as Dave Lawhon named his newspaper, was a weekly, issued every Saturday, from that day until the end of the Revolution. As one of the two newspapers published in Texas -- the only one east of the Brazos — throughout this hectic period, it played a most important role in holding Texas together and achieving its final independence.
Only four issues of this remarkable newspaper have been located so far, but they give us some very clear glimpses into what life in East Texas was like in early 1835-36. If, over the years we can locate other copies and piece together a complete file, we will get a new and enlightening picture of one of the most important periods in our history.
The TEXEAN AND EMIGRANT'S GUIDE was an unusually large newspaper for its time in Texas, being the full size of a modern newspaper, running four to eight pages an issue. The only other Texas paper of that period was less than a fourth this page size and usually confined itself to four pages. The subscription rate, announced on the front page, was $5 a year, if paid in advance, $6 if not paid until expiration of 6 months. The penalties our utilities and a few other concerns charge for not getting your check in on time are not a modern invention.
One of the principal functions of a newspaper of that period is evident from scanning the few issues of Lawhon's paper we have. The front page of his first issue was devoted entirely to publication of "The Constitution of the Mexican United States." This seems strange front page news to the modern reader, but in the light of the times it was priceless. Texas in 1835 was in revolt, not against Mexico, but against the dictator, Santa Anna, who had taken over the country and destroyed the federal constitution. Texeans considered themselves loyal Mexicans, but they were also freemen, and would not submit willingly to oppression. Their fight was that of a sovereign State of the Mexican federation, defending the federal constitution. They expected other Mexican states to join them in fighting off the new dictator.
But, the Texeans of Nacogdoches and of Austin's colony were mostly Anglo-Americans from the United States of the North. Only a few of them were sufficiently fluent in Spanish to read and understand the constitution they were defending and under which they lived. The publica¬tion of a translation of this basic document, in English, was a great contribution to the public welfare.
On the inside pages of his paper, Lawhon carried dispatches from the newspapers of the United States of the North, particularly including accounts of public meetings which were being held in places like Macon, Georgia; Cincinnati, New Orleans, and New York to rally public support, raise money and troops to aid the beleaguered Texeans. There was also an unusual amount of Texas news for a newspaper of that period.
On December 28, Lawhon reported: "It is said the Texeans beseiging San Antonio delight in being shot at, the balls of the enemy serve them in turn. All anxiously watch the flash of a Mexican cannon, and throw themselves flat on the ground, and in an instant rise and give chase to the ball bounding over the field, hallooing "stop that ball!" and, when unable to overtake it, "lost ball, Captain!"
What better insight could you get into the half-humorous daring with which Jim Bowie, Ben Milam, Frank Johnson and the rest of the Texas volunteers attacked the fortified city of San Antonio to drive out Santa Anna's brother-in-law, General Cos? Desperately short on ammunition as well as men, they waited to be shot at, then chased down the enemy's cannon balls to fire them back. It was a dangerous game, but it was a game they won. The Seige of San Antonio, opening the Texas Revolution, ended with the Texeans in control and the first Mexican invaders driven back across the Rio Grande.
A few weeks later Lawhon told how the news of the victory at Bexar reached Nacogdoches: "On receiving the glorious intelligence of the surrender of San Antonio," he wrote, "'the citizens with one accord assembled and proceeded to erect the standard of "Liberty and Independence" on the public square. During the scene a most solemn devotion to this emblem of national honor was observed in the countenance of everyone. Col. Thos. J. Rusk delivered an eloquent and appropriate address. Three cheers were then given for the success of our country." Here, in the closing days of 1835, we find Texans raising the "flag of Liberty and Independence" - more than two months before the formal declaration of that independence at Washington on the Brazos.
The few copies of Dave Lawhon's paper which have come to light are a gold mine of detailed historical information. When others are found the sources of Texas history will be greatly enhanced.
You can also pick up a few hints from the paper of the troubles of the young publisher. In his first issue he carried an advertisement:
- "WANTED -- a boy fifteen or sixteen years old as an
- apprentice to the printing business; one who can read and
- write tolerably well. Apply at this office."
A month later he had still not found a printer's devil and the same advertisement was still running. But a lack of help at the printshop was not his most aggravating problem. Dave Lawhon was a big young man, a bachelor who was working hard, and probably not fond of his own cooking. In late December he ran another ad: "COOK WANTED -- a good cook is wanted immediately, to whom liberal wages will be given.
There was evidently no response. The next week his advertisement was more emphatic and inclusive:
- WANTED, IMMEDIATELY -- A good cook, washer and
- ironer, to whom liberal wages will be given."
We don't know how long it took for him to find a housekeeper. The ad was still running in January, the last issue of his paper we can find.
There were other problems, too. Subscribers in those days were about as slow to come in with the cold hard cash as they are still. There was a rather plaintive note in the leading article in Lawhon's editorial column in early January: "It is with the greatest deference we again solicit our friends and patrons to do us the favor of sending in our subscription lists and the names of as many subscribers as they can get, so that we may be able to go on with our undertaking."
There must have been some response. He did go on. In addition to setting up his paper by hand, after he had gathered and written the news, running it off on his ancient press, one side of the sheet at a time, from hand-inked forms, gathering and folding the paper and probably delivering the copies to Nacogdoches subscribers by hand, Lawhon found time to do other printing. One of the choice examples which has come down to us is a handbill published late in 1835, "By order of the Chairman of the Committee of Vigilantes and Safety of this place (Nacogdoches, Texas), G. A. Nixon." It carried the words of a marching song for the Texas troops.
Every war must have its marching songs, and the volunteers streaming into Texas from the United States of the North were strangers in a strange land to fight in a war they had only heard about second-hand. It is interesting that one of the songs Lawhon printed and distributed to the volunteers was "The New Yankee Doodle."
These volunteers to Texas were, after all, sons and grandsons of the men who fought under Washington in 1776. What more apt battle-song could they have than a parody on the one which had become so popular in the American Revolution? The new words, however, were strictly topical and Texan.
- "Santa Anna did a notion take, that he must rule the land, sir;
- The church and he forthwith agree to publish the command, sir;
- In Mexico none shall be free -
- The people are too blind to see;
- They cannot share the liberty
- Of Yankee Doodle Dandy."
And on it went for seven more stanzas, none of which is exactly suited for signing at a meeting of the Good Neighbor Commission today.
When the war had ended with the spectacular and surprising victory at San Jacinto, David Lawhon laid down his type stick and stored his press. In a short time he was on the Indian frontier around the present site of Waco, leading a ranging company. There, one night, he was mistaken for an Indian by one of his own sentries and severely wounded. After recuperating, he moved, in 1839, to Jefferson County near the Gulf Coast, where his brother, John C. Lawhon, had been living since before the Revolution.
There the ex-publisher and Ranger took up land and became a cattleman. The next year he met and married Nancy Carr, the daughter of an old settler who had come as one of Austin's "Old 300." Evidently David Lawhon made a place for himself in the area. During Sam Houston's second term as President of the Republic, David Lawhon was elected Chief Justice (the equivalent of County Judge) of Jefferson County.
Still too much of a pioneer to stay long in one place, Lawhon moved with his family to the frontier of Bastrop County sometime around 1860, and some years later purchased lands in Williamson County in the area known as Post Oak Island. We are on that land today.
David Ervin Lawhon died on February 14, 1884, a widely known and respected patriarch of a large family. In his 73 years he had played his part in, not only the winning, but the development and civilization of a great new land. He unquestionably earned his place in our history. It is our pleasure and honor here today to establish on a part of the land he won, a permanent monument to a great Texan. By this act we preserve for those who come after us an interesting and significant bit of our heritage, which has until now been too long forgotten.