Jane Long: The Mother of Texas

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History is full to the brim with strong courageous women who helped settle this country and none is more colorful or more endearing than Jane Long.

 

Jane Herbert Wilkinson Long was born in July 1798 in Maryland. She was the tenth child of Capt. William and Anne Wilkinson. Her father died the following year and her mother thirteen years later, leaving Jane an orphan at 14. An older sister who lived near Natchez, Mississippi took her in.

 

jane-long-2It was in Natchez that Jane met the love of her life, Dr. James Long. He was a physician who had served as a surgeon under Gen. Andrew Jackson in the Battle of New Orleans. After a whirlwind courtship, they married. Jane was a mere 16 years old. A year later they welcomed a daughter.

 

James Long purchased a plantation near Vicksburg but he became restless. Talk swirled that Texas was eager to declare its independence from Spain. James was chosen to lead an expedition to Nacogdoches, Texas. Jane was expecting another child so was left behind. Twelve days after giving birth, she set out to join her husband with her two daughters and a young black maid.

 

Jane was the first of many white women to brave the Texas frontier. But two months after arriving in Nacogdoches, she was forced to flee when Spanish troops from San Antonio marched for the frontier outpost. She, her children and her maid returned to Natchez until it was safe again to rejoin her husband. While there, her baby daughter died and was buried in Mississippi.

 

When she again returned to Texas, it was to Fort Las Casas on Bolivar Point, a peninsula opposite Galveston Island. It’s said she and James dined with the pirate, Jean Laffite. In later years she talked much about it.

 

jane-longJames Long left on an excursion that was to have only taken a month. Pregnant again, Jane stubbornly waited for her husband even when all the other people in the fort left. She resisted all pleas for her to leave with the last of the fort’s occupants saying that her husband left her there and there she’d stay until he returned. She had no way of knowing that the Spanish had captured James and taken him to Mexico where he was killed.

 

So all alone in an ice-covered tent with only her five year old daughter and young maid, Jane gave birth to her third daughter. This child was the first Anglo-American known to have been born on Texas soil. Folks from all over the country referred to Jane as the Mother of Texas and the title stuck.

 

That winter was extremely bitter. The food supply dwindled. Jane and her small band survived by chopping fish and ducks out of Galveston Bay. To keep away the cannibalistic Karankawa Indian’s in the area, she fired an old cannon daily and flew her red petticoat on the flagpole to make it appear that troops still occupied the fort. The ruse worked, for they left her alone.

 

It was mid-summer before Jane learned of her husband’s fate. The long wait was over. Jane was a widow at 24 years old. She finally abandoned the fort when a friend of James’s came to deliver the news. Desperate for more information and seek justice for his death, she rode a horse alone to San Antonio to speak with Governor Jose Felix Trespalacios. But after ten months with no satisfaction, she gave up the quest. Eight months later, the baby who had earned Jane the title of Mother of Texas died.

cotton-field

 

 

Jane received a league and a labor of land as one of Stephen F. Austin’s colonists and settled down to farming. Finding it difficult to make a living on the farm, she opened up a boarding house near the town of Brazoria in 1832 and ran it for several years.

 

In 1837 the widow who was 39 years old secured a tract of land two miles from Richmond, Texas. With one black man to work the farm until it began to pay, she operated a hotel in town. Jane bought and sold land, raised cattle, and grew tobacco and cotton. Before the outbreak of the Civil War, Jane had one of the most valuable plantations in Texas. She was intensely loyal to the Southern cause and refused to wear any clothing not made in the South. Her own dresses were made of cotton that had been grown, spun, woven, and dyed on her own plantation. And in her spare time, she made garments for the Confederate soldiers.

 

Somewhere along the line, she developed a fondness for smoking, filling a pipe with home-grown tobacco. In later years, she enjoyed rocking in her favorite chair, puffing on that pipe, and reflecting on her past with friends and family.

 

Jane Long was fiercely independent. Throughout her long and active life, she was courted by some of Texas’ leading men such as Ben Milam, William Travis, Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston, and Mirabeau Lamar. She turned them all down. She’d had but one love in her life and everyone else paled in comparison.

 

On December 30, 1880, Jane passed away at the age of 82 at her plantation. She lies buried in a little cemetery in Richmond, Texas. On her tombstone is the inscription “Mrs. Jane H. Long, The Mother of Texas.”

 

Doesn’t Jane sound like a heroine in one of today’s romance novels? She’s certainly an embodiment of the frontier spirit.

 

I’m giving away a copy of The Cowboy Who Came Calling to one commenter.

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Here in the Texas Panhandle, we do love our cowboys. There's just something about a man in a Stetson and jeans that makes my heart beat faster. I'm not much of a cook but I love to do genealogy and I'm a bit of a rock hound. I'm also a NY Times & USA Today bestselling author of historical western romance. You can contact me through my website and I'd love to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more. HAPPY READING!
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63 thoughts on “Jane Long: The Mother of Texas”

  1. Linda,what a interesting story,sounds like she had a hard life,I love stories like this,I do believe there are still women like that alive today.

  2. Good morning Linda!

    Another very interesting blog today! I dont think any women from today’s time has that much fortitude and determination! There may be some, but not many! I dont think I could make it under such horrible circumstances! It is amazing to hear these types of stories-a true inspiration!

  3. Hello Linda,

    Thank you giving us a look at one amazing woman. I really enjoyed it. Have a great day.

  4. Linda what a great example of women who helped make the west what it is today. I love to write heroines who are strong and braved the many roadblocks they were faced with in order to protect their family. Love this story. Just two summers ago I spent time in the beautiful, historical town of Nacogdoches, Louisiana, and then a week in a summer house on Bolivar Point, Texas … I sure wish I’d know this story then. Thanks for sharing, friend. Hugs, P

  5. Hi Linda. Jane sounds like an incredible, inspiring woman. To have half of her courage and spunk would be amazing.

  6. Hi Laurie, I’m with you. I don’t know how a woman so young could reach into her reserves to find the strength it took to survive. I believe she loved her husband with all her heart and soul and letting him down wasn’t an option. Thanks for your comment.

  7. Hi Vickie, glad you enjoyed reading about Jane Long. I don’t know how she did either. But I firmly believe there are women today who have that kind of strength. We all have more strength than we think when we’re thrown into such a desperate situation.

  8. Hi Melissa, great to see you this morning. Hope things are going well. I’m sure you’re in a hectic mode trying to get the kids ready for school.

    I’m glad you found some inspiration in Jane Long’s story. What a lady! You know, tears came in my eyes when I was writing this blog. She touched me very deeply. And she’s given me the springboard to write my heroines in the same vein. I’d heard the story for years but it didn’t register for some reason. Guess I never had all the facts until now.

    Hope you have a great day!

  9. Good morning, Phyliss!

    I’m overjoyed that you found a free moment to stop by and leave a comment. I know you’re up to eyes in alligators. That’s a true friend for you!

    It would’ve been so neat for you to have known about Jane Long’s story when you spent some time on Bolivar Point. I think just walking the ground where her greatest struggle took place would be awesome. I hope I get down there some day. This woman has really inspired and touched me deeply. I had no choice but to blog about her.

    Good luck with your wip!

  10. Hi Crystal, I’m glad I was able to bring Jane’s story to you today. I can’t think of anyone else who has endeared themselves in my heart liek this woman. She’s someone I won’t easily forget.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  11. Hi Linda,

    What an interesting post. This just shows the how interesting the life in those days were. It makes me think how difficult it must have been. This has touched my heart to no end. Life should be easier this day and time but all times of life has its problems and ups and downs.

    Thanks Linda for showing us the life in the past

    Melinda

  12. Wow! What an incredible lady! I wonder what happened to her oldest daughter? Did she survive too? Did she grow up to roll her eyes in embarrassment while her stubborn Ma sat on the front porch smoking a pipe? =)

    One of the things that always stick out to me is how incredibly strong these women are, not just in weathering the land and times, but in the fact that the majority of women lost several babies. Could you imagine? It is always just a line or two in history, “and it was here her infant died…” etc. I cannot imagine how women in history endured the loss of so many children. THAT alone demonstrates that she was strong beyond reason. Whew.

    Thanks for the interesting post!

    Stephanie

  13. Very interesting blog, Linda. Thanks. The red petticoat up the flagpole still has me smiling – that she had a red petticoat and that she thought to send it up the pole.

  14. I love this story, Linda. What an inspiring story — firing the cannon and flying her red petticoat — I didn’t even know they wore red petticoats — and all the courters she had. Really an inspiring story.

  15. Hi Linda,
    I’m amazed at much this woman had to endure during her life and she still forged ahead and made a life for herself.
    Being called the Mother Of Texas was surely an honor she deserved!

  16. Hi Melinda, I’m so glad you enjoyed reading about Jane Long. She was an exceptional woman who had a lot of heartache and yet she never gave up. I for one can learn from her.

    Hope you have a wonderful day.

  17. Hi Stephanie, glad you found Jane’s life interesting. To answer your question…yes the oldest daughter did grow up to marry and have children of her own. However, her first husband died early in her marriage. She was a survivor though like her mother. She married again and lived to a ripe old age. Yes, I too can picture her rolling her eyes at her mother when she smoked her pipe. LOL

  18. Oh wow what a great post. It does sound like its right out of a romance novel. This women was a very tough women. I am not sure I could hold up to what she went through.

  19. Hi Tracy, glad you found the red petticoat humorous. I did too. Jane was certainly resourceful. I guess not wanting to get eaten would make you do anything. This woman was just so amazing on a lot of different levels. The earlier picture of her showed her to be very beautiful too. She had brains and beauty.

  20. Hi Kay, the red petticoat got me too. I’m wondering if she didn’t dye a white one. She knew how to do that. And also how to weave fibers into cloth. I found that part of her story interesting as well. She put me in mind of a woman whose loyalties and resourcefulness ran very deep. She wouldn’t be deterred by anything.

    I’m glad you enjoyed my post.

  21. Hi Charlene, I wish I had some of Jane’s spirit. She was a fighter. I think if I’d lost two babies I’d have been beaten down. Not Jane though. She right on going. I sure wish I could’ve known her. And you’re right. She certainly deserves the title of Mother of Texas.

  22. Hi Quilt Lady, I’m so glad you enjoyed my post. This blog was one of the most interesting I’ve written. It almost seems made up. But history is full of women who faced overwhelming odds and not only survived, but flourished.

    Have a great day!

  23. Hi Linda, what a wonderful post about a wonderful, strong woman. Give me a woman of the West over some pampered Regency girl any time LOL. Seriously, her life sure has the elements of a great novel. Wow. Again, I am a big baby. How did these women do it?

    oxoxox

  24. What a fascinating article! Jane Long was an unbelievably smart, strong, and courageous woman. It’s a shame that she never found love again. If she were the heroine in a romance novel, she would have!

  25. Hi Tanya, glad you liked my post. We could all learn a thing or two from Jane Long. And yes, I too think women of the West were hardier than any other period of history. They’re certainly my heroes.

  26. Hi Minna, I’m so glad you stopped by and left a comment. I’ve missed you. Hope things are going well and that you’re enjoying summer. I’m sure it’s about to turn cooler in the part of the world where you live.

  27. Hi Cheryl C, I’m glad you enjoyed reading about Jane Long. It is kinda sad that she never married again. She’d have made some man a wonderful wife. I was astounded by the number of famous Texan’s that came courting her. And it’s kinda strange that Stephen F. Austin remained a bachelor all his life. I wonder if he was so enamored of Jane that no other woman would do. Certainly something to ponder. I can imagine her entertaining her gentlemen callers and serving them coffee and dessert. Or maybe she invited them to occasional meals. The romance writer in me wants more!!

  28. Linda,

    I forgot about to say something: the red petticoat reminded me of when I was a child and the first time I saw one I was amazed to watch women wearing one

    Melinda

  29. I enjoyed her story. Maybe she was ahead of her time. She was very selfsufficient. The saddest part is about the babies. Although tragic, I guess it was not uncommon. Thanks for the story,

  30. Wow what a fascinating story. Thank you for sharing this piece of history with us…. What a strong woman she was…

  31. Oh my goodness. Life was so hard. I can’t imagine having children’s deaths be so commonplace. What those poor women lived through.

    I’d have been the big chicken, staying back in the city near the doctor and the mercantile!

  32. What a great frontier heroine! I loved this story. I live in Abilene, Texas and we have an elementary school named Jane Long Elementary. Until now, I never knew the story behind the name. Thanks for sharing.

  33. Melinda, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a red petticoat, not even a slip. That must’ve been fascinating.

    Hi Jeanne! I’m glad you enjoyed Jane Long’s story. Even though women had to be tougher back then, I’m sure she was very unusual for her day and time. I’d hate to think what it was like for her at her young age to lose two babies. My research didn’t list the cause of death for either of them. They might not’ve known back then. But, infant mortalitiy was awfully high. Yes, that was very sad.

    Hi Colleen, glad you found the blog interesting. Thanks for dropping by to comment. Hope you have a wonderful day!

  34. Hi Cheryl S.!

    I’d be with you in the big city close to all the modern conveniences. No wandering all over creation and being a hero. I’d have been the one waving goodbye to those adventure-seekers. Can you imagine giving birth in an ice-covered tent at 23 years old? And her maid was just a teenager. I can’t imagine she’d know too much about birthing a baby. Jane probably had to do it alone. I shudder to think what it was like.

  35. Hi Karen,

    Wow, I didn’t know Abilene had a school named after Jane Long! They couldn’t have picked a better woman to honor in my opinion. Isn’t it cool to learn the story behind a famous woman? Makes you appreciate the school more I’m sure. Glad my subject struck your fancy today.

  36. Linda. . . Absolutely loved the blog. Nothing appeals to me as much as tales of the women who made the west. Their determination and strength makes their counterparts — the men — look wimpy.
    I’d read about Jane Long before, but I loved the added details.

  37. she is a true heroine in her own right. I would never have believe that woman would have so much impact in the creation of the USA (I’m Canadian) I do know that woman must have had an influence in it, we do have Laura Secord (It’s also a candy company.) who help Canada being what it is now. But I do enjoy ready news about all women who help make the country as it is now.

  38. Linda, I have been thinking some more about Jane Long today. The women during that time had to be so strong and resilient, and I admire them tremendously. I guess that is one reason why I enjoy reading historical westerns so much. I like the heroines to be strong enough to stand on their own if they have to. Me? I wouldn’t have lasted a week! 😉

  39. Hi Pat P.,

    Like you, I’d heard of Jane Long before but only vaguely. Learning the details of her life really brought home what a strong woman she was. Yes, you’re right. Men look downright wimpy compared to some of these frontier women! Women are truly the unsung heroes of the West. Glad you enjoyed my blog.

  40. Hi Alexandra,

    Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment. How neat that you live in Canada! I’m sure you have lots of neat history up there. I’ve always wanted to visit. Bet it’s gorgeous. I’ve never heard of Laura Secord but she sounds interesting. There are lots of women heroes in history. I love it when they come alive for me. Glad you enjoyed my blog and come back again.

  41. Cheryl C,

    Yes, Jane Long’s story really lingers in your mind. She’s had that effect on me. To me there’s nothing more fascinating or entertaining than western romance novels. From the very first, western romance was what I wanted to write. Somehow I knew I’d found my niche. They are truly unique. I’m glad we can give some of these true historical heroes a voice.

  42. I loved this story and would love to win the book A Cowboy Who Came Calling so I could review it.
    All us Jane’s are stubborn and independent and know how to survive. I truly believe that. I am 59 and this Jane looks so much like me it is unreal.
    I am named after my Grandma Jane.
    So please enter me.

  43. Thank you Linda for sharing this story with us. It makes me realize what an easy life I have lived and makes me ashamed to say that I have even complained about this life. Jane reminds me of my grandmother her help my sheriff grandfather through prohibition and before housing female criminals in her own home because the small town didn’t have enough cells for them. She even armed herself and help make the arrests when neccessary. she was a spry old lady and told wonderful stories.

  44. Wow! That was an incredible story. I was born in Texas, but moved with my family when I was 7. I never knew about this story, but for some reason, it makes me feel so connected.

    Don’t know if it’s too late to enter the contest, but had stopped here after seeing this website mentioned in the August 2009 RWA issue article, “United We Blog.”

    Julie

  45. I havent’ even finished it yet, Linda. I will. But TWELVE DAYS AFTER GIVING BIRTH SHE SET OUT WITH HER TWO CHILDREN TO TEXAS????????

    I AM IN LOVE WITH THIS WOMAN.

  46. What a woman!!!!!!

    I wish I could be that strong if life demanded it of me. (I hope it never does) but I wonder if I’m made of the right stuff.

    I suspect not. 🙂

  47. What an interesting story. The number of tough, capable, independent women who populated the West had to be great. They often had no choice but to deal with things and not wait for a husband , brother or father to handle it for them.
    Mrs. Long was something else. I can’t imagine hitting the road as she did just 12 days after having a baby. She was one tough cookie and lived her life on her own terms. She was smart enough to realize that you don’t need a man to be successful and what better place to prove it than on the frontier. It was the one place where your capabilities were what mattered, not your sex or social position.

  48. Wow. An Amazing woman. I love hearing about women who paved the way for the rest of us.

    Thanks for such a fascinating blog, Linda, and for bringing Jane Long to our attention.

  49. What caught my attention in your story was that Jane died at 82 years of age in 1880. Wow. That was probably the equivalent of 106 by today’s standards! Incredible.
    Thanks for the history lesson!

  50. When I moved to Texas in 1967, I attended Jane Long Elementary in Abilene, Texas. There is where I first learned the story of Jane Long, the mother of Texas. From that history, and 3 Texas History courses over the year, I also obtained a pretty good picture of that cold winter at Bolivar.
    But your story cause me to ask the question, why have they not done a movie on this brave Southern woman? Thanks for the story. Jane Long remains my favorite Texas hero.

  51. I loved this story and I am just wanting to ask a short question.What type of clothing did she wear? Please reply if you know the answer!Anyway you don`t know me so don`t get confused.-

    Rosie

  52. Just a note to let you know we are Having a Jane Long Festival on the Bolivar Peninsula Oct
    9th-This festival will be held at Fort Travis
    where Jane Long Stayed

  53. I enjoyed what you wrote about Jane Long, but there is so much more to her story. She had what you called a hotel, but in those days it was called a tavern. It would have been the only place to get a meal or buy a drink and it had a second floor where everyone slept. The ladies were allowed to go up to prepare for bed a period of time before she allowed the gents to go up. The ladies slept on pallots on the floor on one side of the room and the men on pallots on the floor on the other side of the room. Such was the way in most early hotels.
    She and Kia, her servant girl, ran a successful business. In that dining room was planned a very large part of the revolution. After the battle of Velasco which was way before the first battles of the war, General Santa Anna sent Col. Mexia and 500 soldiers to find out what was going on with the Texicans. Stephen F Austin didn’t want war with Mexico so They held a ball in Mexia’s honor and wined and dined the soldiers for days at Jane Long’s tavern with the Oyster Creek girls brought in to dance with them. Tables were set up under the oak trees out front and they partied on. The towns people provided food and dishes and flat ware and the local men like Sam Houston, William Wharton,and Ben Milam, and many early Texas heros came,for the festivities, however none of the local ladies could come since they were Ladies. While the Texicans were smuzing the Mexican army, the local militia were removing the munitions from the out buildings behind Jane Long’s tavern. History is so much FUN!

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