By Lori Moffatt
Fact-checking and editing a story like the March issue’s Nacogdoches piece can be tricky business. For one thing, we realize we cannot include every noteworthy site or attraction in a destination with such rich a history as Nacogdoches, so our goal is to present the author’s take on the subject and trust that it will inspire readers to embark on their own explorations. And since history is always complex (and sometimes even subjective!), we try to find expert readers to help us weed out the half-truths, misinterpretations, and downright errors. In the case of the Nacogdoches story, we asked Jere Jackson, Regents Professor of History at Stephen F. Austin State University, to review the story for inaccuracies. In the process, Jackson provided many other interesting kernels we couldn’t incorporate due to space constraints.
About the Hotel Fredonia, the restored 1950s downtown hotel that offers luxury accommodations, a saltwater swimming pool, and an upscale restaurant, Jackson noted that it partially sits on Washington Square, “land given by Charles S. Taylor, a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence … for the purpose of creating Nacogdoches University in 1845.” Jackson continued to suggest that “The Old University Building, a block from the hotel, should play a part in your tour of Nacogdoches. The building is one of the finest Greek Revival buildings in the state. When Stephen F. Austin State Teacher’s College opened in 1923, they first used the Old University Building.”
“I would like to call your attention to a recent Texas Historical Marker, approved by the Texas Historical Commission, entitled ‘Sam Houston’s First Home in Texas,’” wrote Jackson. “This is relevant to your discussions of the downtown of Nacogdoches, Sterne, and Rusk. Most people do not know this, and it fits into your theme of things unknown about Texas,” he continued. Jackson attached a draft of the marker’s text, which follows:
“Sam Houston made his first home in Texas in the historic town of Nacogdoches. Former Tennessee Governor and U.S. Congressman, Houston left Washington, D.C. for Texas in December of 1832. The presence of Tennesseans and fellow Masons Adolphus Sterne and Henry Raguet made Nacogdoches an agreeable place to settle.
“Houston boarded with the Sternes and soon set up a law practice. The Sternes sponsored his baptism into the Catholic Church, enabling him to own property under Mexican law. Houston’s arrival in Nacogdoches came very soon after settlers of Anahuac, Velasco, and Nacogdoches had driven out their Mexican garrisons in the first actions of the Texas Revolution, and he represented Nacogdoches as a delegate in San Felipe at the Convention of 1933 and the Consultation of 1835.
“Although frequently away from Nacogdoches during the Texas Revolution and early Republic, Houston maintained close ties with the town. His friendship with Thomas J. Rusk, forged while they were both new citizens of Nacogdoches, lasted through wars, independence, and statehood; the men served together as Texas’ first U.S. Senators.”
Thank you, Professor Jackson!
From the June 2012 issue.