• First in a Series

The months of March and April of 1836 are rich in Texas history. To be able to declare your independence and secure it in 51 days you would believe there must be a well thought out plan and a strong military force, but nothing could be further from the truth.

On March 1, 1836, 17 Mexican settlements met at Washington (now known as Washington-on- the-Brazos) to talk about independence from Mexico. (Washington is located between the cities of Brenham and Navasota today).

Richard Ellis, for whom this county is named for was the President of the Convention. There are no records showing that Mr. Ellis ever came through this part of Texas, but the state of Texas wanted to honor his name when our county was formed in 1850.

President Ellis appointed a five-member committee to draft a declaration of independence. They were George Childress, James Gaines, Edward Convad, Collin McKinney and Bailey Hardeman.

It is believed that Committee Chairman Childress had already worked on a declaration modeled after the U.S. Declaration of Independence before arriving. This is why it took only one day to put it together.

The declaration was passed and signed by 59 delegates on March 2, 1836; however only two were true native Texans, Jose Francisco Ruiz and Jose Antonio Navarro, for which Navarro County is named.

Many of the delegates were in violation of the Mexican immigration laws. Fifteen had only been here since 1835, and 10 had been here six years.

Delegate Samuel Carson had only been in Texas eight days. Three of the delegates would leave Texas shortly after signing the declaration.

The reason for the convention had started back in 1835 when self-appointed dictator President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna changed from a restricted federalist republic to a military centralism government. There was also concerns about freedom of religion because settlers were required to convert to Catholicism. New customs duties also had caused a revolt.

In October of 1835, Santa Anna had ordered 100 soldiers to Gonzales to remove a cannon which had been donated to the citizens for protection from Indians. Eighteen men from Gonzales with rifles and the cannon stopped the Mexican troops from crossing a stream and they became known as the “old eighteen.”

However, by night fall more than 140 men had come to their aid. This is also where the flag with a cannon on it and the words “Come and take it” comes from.

The Mexican soldiers returned to Presidea LaBahia garrison near Goliad. The other major garrison was San Antonio de Bexar.

As Mexican soldiers started leaving the garrison near Goliad the Texans decided to take the fort and supplies. The Texans waited until 11 p.m. to start the attack. A Mexican guard noticed what was happening and fired the first shot, hitting a Texan in the shoulder.

The first man to shed blood for the Texas revolt was Samuel McCulloch, a free black man. The Mexicans surrendered the garrison with one killed and three wounded, McCulloch was the only Texan injured.

In December 1835, Stephen F. Austin led a band of Texans to take the garrison at San Antonio de Bexar. James Bowie, James Fannin, Juan Sequin and Edward Burleson would also arrive with troops.

Austin was replaced by Edward Burleson as the commander and sent to the United States as a diplomat. The Mexican troops had fortified the town and the old Alamo Mission.

After house-to-house fighting had forced the Mexican army back into the Alamo, they surrendered and were paroled to go back to Mexico.

Most Texans went home thinking the fighting was over and that Mexico would listen to their needs.

Unknown to the Texans is that President Santa Anna had an army of near 2,000 soldiers marching to Texas.

Waxahachie resident David Hudgins is a member of the Ellis County Museum Board of Directors and co-founder of the Ellis County Veterans Appreciation Committee. He also serves as Chaplin of the O. M. Roberts Camp #178, Sons of Confederate Veterans.