The Alamo is known world-wide, and certainly the most visited historical site in Texas is the shrine itself. But it might come as a surprise to some as who the caretaker might be.
If you guessed a lawyer from Liberty, Texas, you would be right. Of course, that was in March 1836 and his name was William B. Travis. While in Liberty, Colonel Travis was the proverbial thorn in the side of the Mexican commander of Fort Anahuac, Juan Bradburn.
Because of Travis’ activity there, Bradburn had him and his law partner, Patrick Jack, jailed in Fort Anahuac for an incident regarding their representation of run-away slave owners from Louisiana. This and other factors were part of the prelude to the War of Texas Independence. In fact, it brought on the Battle of Velasco in 1832 on the mouth of the Brazos River (now known as Surfside or greater Freeport, Texas).
Later, after a serious conflict with Mexico in the Battle of Gonzales, General Sam Houston realized General Santa Anna’s overwhelming odds against Travis and his too few men in the Alamo. He ordered Travis to destroy the mission and retreat. Instead, Travis drew a line in the sand and stated he would defy Houston’s orders and stay to fight for the honor of Texas. A common grave is nearby for his charrred remains and those heroes who stayed with him. The same fate was with Fannin and his troops at Goliad.
The Alamo property in subsequent years was reduced to the mission chapel and the remainder of the barracks. From this wretched and crumbling historical artifact would rise a humbling example of the pride of Texas. Today, you might see lines of school kids and visitors from all over the world listening to walking lectures in five different languages, including Vietnamese.
If you guessed that the State of Texas is in charge of the Alamo, you might be further surprised that you would be wrong. Texas does own the property and the structure of the Alamo in San Antonio, but if it were not for a certain group of ladies in Texas, there is serious doubt that this magnificent icon would exist today.
A group of ladies now known as the Daughters of the Republic of Texas (DRT) were instrumental in handing over the property through a sale with a covenant that the DRT would remain in custody of the Alamo and would operate the Alamo research facility, library, and gift shop without interference, in so many words. They also have their own police force numbering over twenty officers that are in charge of security 24/7. So, don’t think of messing with the DRT or the Alamo.
This is how it happened: Around 1892, Adina Zavalo, a citizen of San Antonio and a great patriot of Texas, convinced Clara Discoll (of Driscoll Hotel fame) to enter into an agreement to buy the Alamo property with her own money from the owners, a grocery company. She did so and immediately agreed to sell the property to the State of Texas. Texas also acquired some of the title from the Roman Catholic Diocese. In 1905, the entire Alamo property was given over to the safekeeping of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. Thus, with the covenant of operational responsibilities in the lap of hundreds of DRT volunteers and Alamo personnel in their employ, it remains so today. The Alamo of Texas in San Antonio has sprung into a modern day miracle of efficiency and a symbol of honor.
Further reflection of the sincerity of these great ladies is the sign they placed over the entrance door of the mission and the Shrine of Texas which reads: “Gentlemen, please remove your hats.”
-Bob Jamison is a columnist, book author, and has been known to tell a story or two. firstname.lastname@example.org