By Gelene Simpson
Corsicana Daily Sun
It may be a little late to be sending a Valentine to the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, but surely it is never too late to do a little remembering of this historical organization. For over 100 years they were custodians of the Alamo. And they still honor this important Texas shrine with as much fervor as ever.
As a native Texan, I grew up with the image of the Alamo engraved on my brain and “Remember the Alamo!” next to the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. “Texas, Our Texas” has had to change its wording from “largest” to “boldest” during my lifetime, but my appreciation for the state hasn’t lessened. And my gratitude to the Daughters of the Republic of Texas has increased, the more I have learned about them over the years.
One of my most memorable visits to the Alamo took place on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2005 when the 100th Anniversary of DRT custodianship took place. At 1 p.m., a crowd gathered in front of the shrine as the bright sunshine illuminated the scene, and the San Antonio Pipes and Drums provided the inspiring music for the opening ceremony. Mary M. Walker, President General of DRT, welcomed the audience. The Alamo Rangers Color Guard gave the invocation. Then the Pledges of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States and the Texas Lone Star Flag were led by Nelma Wilkinson, Fifth Vice President General, DRT, and Louise Hall, Parliamentarian General, DRT, respectively. The National Anthem was led by Wendie Young of the Alamo staff, and “Texas Our Texas” was led by Mary Dowdy, Alamo Mission Chapter, DRT. Madge Roberts, Alamo Committee Chairman, introduced special guests, and Leonard Cloud, President General, Sons of the Republic of Texas, made congratulatory remarks to the Daughters.
The keynote speaker, the Honorable Roger Williams, Texas Secretary of State, was introduced and spoke of the fine record of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas in caring for the Alamo. Madge Roberts thanked the Secretary and gave more history of the improvements at the Alamo.
At that time there were 106 chapters of the DRT, founded in 1891, by a group of women interested in preserving historic sites and placing monuments throughout Texas. Remembered with special gratitude in the preservation of the Alamo are Adina De Zavala and Miss Clara Driscoll.
Miss De Zavala even lived from 1926 to 1932 at the famous Menger Hotel across the street from the Alamo in order to be close to the shrine. Her grandfather General Lorenzo De Zavala was the first Vice President of the Republic of Texas. She was born on his estate and grew up with the love of history, since the estate was near the San Jacinto Battlefield. When it seemed that the Alamo would be sold and the old chapel demolished, she closed herself off in the long barrack for three days and nights and refused food until the officials gave in to her demand to save the Alamo. She then took an option on the Alamo buildings and provided the wording for a bill which was passed by the Texas Legislature in 1906 and which provided for the $65,000 necessary to purchase and save the Alamo.
Miss Clara Driscoll also stepped in to help save the mission. She was a prominent socialite who offered some of her personal inheritance to preserve the shrine.
On Jan. 26, 1905, Governor S.W. T. Lanham signed S.H.B.I. The legislation delivered the Alamo to the “custody and care of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas to be maintained by them in good order and repair without charge to the state, as a sacred memorial to the heroes who immolated themselves upon that hallowed ground.”
There after DRT managed the property without charging admission and without any tax from any governing agency. All money, whether for preservation or maintenance of the shrine resulted from sales at the Alamo Gift Shop in the Museum, from donations, or grants.
The final presentation at the 100th Celebration was the unveiling of artwork for the Long Barrack Project and Alamo Hall. The artist George Nelson is well known. Jose Antonio Navarro Chapter, DRT, of Corsicana has contributed to this project.
(Facts about this history came from “The History and Mystery of the Menger Hotel” by D.S. Williams)
Gelene Simpson is a Daily Sun columnist. Her column appears on Tuesdays. Want to “Soundoff” on this column? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org