Sam Houston


Sam Houston was born in Virginia but moved with his family to Tennessee shortly after his father’s death, in part to avoid increasing debts left over from the elder Houston’s military service. Two years later, Sam ran away from home, and he lived for a few years with a Cherokee tribe on Hiwassee Island. He returned to Tennessee in 1812, and within the year he had founded the new state’s first schoolhouse. He enlisted in the army and served during the War of 1812, where he rose to the rank of third lieutenant but was injured twice. During his service, Houston grew close to Andrew Jackson, but while assisting in the later president’s plans for removal of the Cherokees, he was suspected of administrating too many supplies for the natives, and, offended, he resigned.

In 1822, Houston was elected to the House of Representatives for Tennessee, and in 1827 he ran for, and won, the office of governor of Tennessee. He debated running again but decided against it after the very public termination of his first marriage, and he instead left to live among the Cherokee once more. In 1829, he was adopted as a citizen of their nation, and in the years that followed he traveled twice to Washington, D.C. to expose the injustices committed against the Native Americans by the government. While on his second journey, he engaged in a violent confrontation with Congressman William Stanbery—one that ended with Houston’s arrest. Houston was fined $500 for an assault on Stanberry, but he left for Mexico without paying the fine. In 1833, he attended a convention of Mexican-Americans to determine whether to declare independence for the region of Texas. Three years later, sovereignty was declared, and Houston was made president of the area. He soon retreated under the opposing Mexican forces, however, and many Texans were lost before Houston’s surprising and decisive victory at the Battle of San Jacinto.

Houston was again elected president of the Republic of Texas in 1841, and during his second term he strove to make peace with the Native Americans and avoid war with Mexico. The city of Houston was founded in 1836 and served as the capital of Texas until 1839. In 1845, following the annexation of Texas by the United States, Houston was elected to the Senate. While in office, he opposed the growing sectionalism between the northern and southern states and supported the Compromise of 1850. Houston ran twice for governor of Texas, winning the position in 1859. Upon his election, he became the only person in U.S. history to serve as governor of two states. Although himself a slave owner, he opposed the secession of Texas from the Union. Nevertheless, in February 1861, Texas joined the Confederate States of America, and Houston was evicted for refusing to take an oath of loyalty to the Confederacy.

In 1854, Houston was baptized into the Christian faith, and in 1862, he returned to Huntsville, Texas. He passed away only a year later, his third wife, Margaret, at his side.

Key events during the life of Sam Houston:

Death of his father.
Ran away from home and lived with a Cherokee tribe.
Returned home and built Tennessee’s first schoolhouse.
  Served in the War of 1812.
Appointed sub-agent during Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Plan.
Served as eighth governor of Tennessee.
Married Eliza Allen, who left him shortly thereafter.
  Adopted into the Cherokee Nation.
Signed the Texas Declaration of Independence.
  Elected first president of the Republic of Texas.
Married Margaret Moffette Lea.
Elected third president of the Republic of Texas.
Elected to the U.S. Senate.
Baptized into the Christian faith.
Served as seventh governor of Texas.
Texas joined the Confederate States of America.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Freedom for Texas  in  America First—100 Stories from Our History  by  Lawton B. Evans
How Houston Won Freedom for Texas  in  Historical Tales: American II  by  Charles Morris
Republic and Revolt of Texas  in  A Short History of Mexico  by  Arthur Howard Noll
Victory at San Jacinto  in  Boys' Book of Border Battles  by  Edwin L. Sabin

Image Links

Samuel Houston
 in Indian History for Young Folks
Sam Houston
Sam Houston
 in Back Matter

Short Biography
Andrew Jackson Hero of the Battle of New Orleans, President of U.S., and founder of Democratic Party.
Stephen F. Austin Helped found the state of Texas by leading 300 families to settle in the region.
Davy Crockett Tennessee Frontiersman and congressman. Involved with Texas independence. Died at the Alamo.