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Robertsons, the Sutherlands, and the Making of Texas

By Anne H. Sutherland

Publication Year: 2006

All Texans, or their ancestors, started as something else. The families that came here molded the state and were molded by it. Anne H. Sutherland explores just how the experiences of two of the early Anglo land-grant families—the Robertsons and the Sutherlands—shaped Texas events and how they handed down those experiences from one generation to another, transforming two Scots-Irish families into what in hindsight we have branded Anglo-Texans. The story of these two pioneering families, told through their letters, poems, diaries, and oral histories, embodies western expansion and political upheaval. Settling in central and southeast Texas, these families struggled to build a new Texas and make a life for their children. The Texas revolution and the Civil War acted as catalysts for the emergence of their Texan identity. A unique blend of family and Texas history, Sutherland’s Made in Texas: A Family Tale positions personal stories as windows of insight onto Texan identity. She peels back the layers of family tradition and textbook history to show how her forebears experienced the transforming events of the settlement of Texas and its war for independence. As new generations emerged, each contributed its own anecdotes and historical context from the time period. By placing the families within Texas history, Sutherland effectively and innovatively traces identity from the early nineteenth century to today. As settlers in the western wilderness, the Robertsons, the Sutherlands, and others like them actively shaped Texas, even as they were changed themselves.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Front Matter

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pp. ix-x

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Preface: A Family Tale

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pp. xi-xiv

This book is at once a particular ethnographic history of Texas, a family memoir, and an essay on how identity and culture are made and remade over many generations. I have written it to answer these questions: Why do Texans have such a strong sense of themselves? Why are they so cussedly proud of being Texans? How did that ...

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pp. xv-xvi

My thanks to Mary Lenn Dixon of Texas A&M University Press for her support, knowledge, editing skills, and belief in the book project and to Carol Hoke, copyeditor, for her excellent work on the manuscript. My gratitude to Laura Ann Gibson for generously sharing her research ...

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Chapter 1. Discovering My Texas Identity

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pp. 3-9

I was a young girl when Edna Ferber came to Texas to do research for her book on Texas, which was later made into the movie Giant.1 In Texas it was a big event, at least for those of us who were preteens, when Giant hit the silver screen. Ferber was eager to describe the relations between the Mexican Texans and ...

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Chapter 2. Writing as a Tradition

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pp. 10-16

In 1936 Texas celebrated its centenary anniversary. As part of the commemoration, the state decided to rebury its early heroes in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. The bodies of Judge William Menefee and his wife, Agnes Sutherland Menefee, were laid to rest there,1 and empresario Sterling Clack Robertson was transported from his lonely grave

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Chapter 3. The Robertson Papers

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pp. 17-55

Many stories of my family history concern the life of Sterling Clack Robertson, the empresario who came to Texas in 1830. Sterling Robertson was born into a privileged family. His mother was a wealthy woman in her own right, and his father was the brother of Gen. James Robertson, known as the “father of Tennessee” ...

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Chapter 4. Learning Texas History

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pp. 21-36

Texas history has gone through many permutations—the ironic and biased Texas History Movies that was used in all Texas schools during the 1940s and 1950s,1 the early nineteenth-century written accounts that created the heroic myths about Texas, the early twentieth-century documents that note many people and deeds in the history...

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Chapter 5. Sterling Clack Robertson, Empresario

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pp. 37-55

Texas history may not be accurately portrayed either in the cartoon book Texas History Movies, in early county histories, or in movies like Giant, but all of these venues were powerful producers of a Texas identity. For me and many other Texans with ancestors on Texas soil, our Texas identity was acquired through family stories. Sometimes ...

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Chapter 6. The Alabama Settlement

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pp. 56-66

The preceding chapter outlines the battle of the empresarios as they scrambled for land and power. Nevertheless, that story gives us pitifully little to go on if we want to understand how Texas culture was cut from the bedrock of people’s daily lives. We still want to know about the settlers who scratched a living from the Texas soil, enduring ...

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Chapter 7. The Prayer on the Sabine

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pp. 67-72

Before they came to Texas, the men and women of the Alabama Settlement were swept up in a Methodist revival movement known as “the Methodist Excitement” or “the Second Great Awakening,” which arrived in Tennessee at the beginning of the 1800s. The Methodist Excitement was inspired by Bishop Francis Asbury, who was ...

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Chapter 8. Making a Living

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pp. 73-81

The first years in Texas were bound to be difficult for the Alabama Settlement, consumed as they were with the basic necessities—building houses and planting their first crops. The summer before the settlers arrived, the prairie between the Navidad and Karankawa rivers had burned, driving thousands of animals to relocate in the ...

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Chapter 9. The Comanche, Karankawa, Lipan Apache, and Tonkawa

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pp. 82-87

In the mid-nineteenth century, the world and its people were conceptually divided into the civilized and the uncivilized. Texans, starting with Austin, wanted to create a civilization out of a wilderness by replacing Indians and Mexicans with “civilized” people: Americans. This was how they viewed the world. They saw what they did as progress, as ...

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Chapter 10. Political Rumblings in the Alabama Settlement

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pp. 88-93

The Alabama Settlement arrived in Austin’s colony just when the Mexican law of 1830 forbade further emigration except in that outpost. This law, however, was no more enforceable than the Mexican law forbidding slavery, which the settlers circumvented by registering their slaves as “indentured servants.” The political structure of ...

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Chapter 11. The Alabama Settlement at War

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pp. 94-104

In 1836, war with Mexico began. Lying directly in the path of the advancing Mexican army, the Alabama Settlement began to organize the defense of its families and homes. Having heard how brutally Santa Anna dealt with the uprisings in Yucat

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Chapter 12. The Texas Revolution as Myth and Identity Ritual

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pp. 105-110

The Texas Revolution was clearly a life-changing experience for those who lived through it. George Sutherland, John Sutherland Menefee, Francis White, Thomas Shelton Sutherland, and Frances Menefee Sutherland never forgot their ordeals and losses. In their stories of the rebellion, a strong sense of Texas as a place and a strong ...

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Chapter 13. Aftermath of the War: Tragedy and Humor

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pp. 111-115

Peace in Texas after the battle of San Jacinto was not a certainty. As the huge Mexican army retreated during the hot summer under orders from the captured Santa Anna, Gen. Thomas Jefferson Rusk, who later became secretary of war for the republic, followed the troops to Victoria. There was concern that they might decide to ignore ...

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Chapter 14. Getting Rid of Wildness

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pp. 116-121

The years of the Texas Republic (1836–1845) were the years that transformed people into Texans. They wrote their origin myths, established their government, schools, and religion, and increased their families. But before they could establish “civilization” in Texas, there was another battle they had to fight. It was not enough to create ...

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Chapter 15. The Wild Woman of the Navidad

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pp. 122-126

In the settlers’ rush to stamp out wildness, another group of stories about sightings of mysterious, naked wild people burst into the imaginations of the colonists living in the Lavaca-Navidad area. Sightings of the wild man or woman of the Navidad captured the fantasies not just of Texans in the republic. Newspapers all over the United States picked ...

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Chapter 16. The Civilizing Elites: Elijah Sterling Clack Robertson

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pp. 127-139

In the fifteen years after Texas gave up its independence and joined the United States—but before seceding from the Union— people were still constructing Texas in their imaginations. The Alabama Settlement’s imagined community—a hard-working, agricultural Methodist congregation with large, tight-knit, intermarried families, loyal to each ...

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Chapter 17. The End of Slavery

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pp. 140-147

At the same time that Robertson was managing his plantation and establishing the town of Salado and Salado College, state’s rights and slavery were the burning political issues of the day. In Belton, Gen. Sam Houston delivered a speech in 1857, when he was a candidate for governor of Texas. Houston was opposed to secession from the ...

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Chapter 18. Remember Who You Are

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pp. 148-154

Elijah Sterling Robertson’s son, my great-grandfather Maclin Robertson, grew up in the Reconstruction period after the Civil War. As I myself was growing up, somehow I came to know, through the hushed tones of the adults around me, that Maclin had killed a number of men. This was not surprising since Maclin was a Texas Ranger. ...

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Chapter 19. The Macaroni Road Comes to Edna

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pp. 155-160

Leaving Houston with my sister Gayle and my daughter, Frankie, we hit Highway 59 going south to Jackson County. Along the highway we see Mexicans driving huge hauls of garage-sale items toward Mexico, where they make a good profit reselling the cast-offs of Houston’s wealthy. Ninety miles southwest of Houston we turn south ...

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Chapter 20. The Migration to Uvalde

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pp. 161-171

The migration of the large extended groups—grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, children, grandchildren, and cousins—of the Sutherland, Rogers, White, Heard, and Menefee families from northern Alabama to what is now Jackson County, Texas, was a well-organized move, undertaken in successive waves that brought them all ...

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Chapter 21. Getting an Education

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pp. 172-183

The ranch families in Uvalde were meat eaters. Putting food on the table meant raising and butchering animals and curing the meat. Tommie and Lizzie raised cattle and goats for sale, horses for working the ranch, and hogs for food. The hogs ran loose on the range until fall, when the barrows were penned and fed corn in preparation ...

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Chapter 22. Family Reunions

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pp. 184-190

The three Sutherland-Rogers families and the Rogers-Witt family began having reunions so that the thirty-two double first cousins could get together. Their grandparents, Thomas Shelton Sutherland and Samuel Rogers, each had twelve children, but only sixteen of these twenty-four firstborn Texans lived to adulthood. The first gathering, ...


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pp. 191-202


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pp. 203-210


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pp. 211-222

E-ISBN-13: 9781603445412
E-ISBN-10: 1603445412
Print-ISBN-13: 9781585445202
Print-ISBN-10: 1585445207

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 1 b&w photo. 2 maps. Table. 11 cartoons. Chart
Publication Year: 2006

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Subject Headings

  • Texas -- History.
  • Texas -- Biography.
  • Sutherland, Anne -- Family.
  • Robertson family.
  • Sutherland family.
  • Scots-Irish -- Texas -- History.
  • Scots-Irish -- Texas -- Biography.
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