The Archers & The Alamo

Today, I thought I’d have a little fun and introduce you to the Archer clan–the men who reside at the heart of my story in Short-Straw Bride.

Now the first thing you need to know is that their mother, Susanna, was a fierce Texas patriot. She took great pride in her Texas heritage. Born the year the Alamo fell, she was named in honor of Susanna Dickinson, one of only two survivors of that bloody siege.ย The original Susanna’sย husband, Captain Almaron Dickinson died in battle along with 182 other Texian soldiers.

Taking to heart the charge, Remember the Alamo, Susanna named each of her four sons for heroic men associated with fort.


Her oldest son, Travis, was named for Lieutenant Colonel William Barrett Travis, the highest ranking officer, and therefore, commander at the Alamo when Santa Anna and the Mexican army attacked. In his famous letter, he begs for reinforcements, but stoutly proclaims that he will never surrender or retreat, and ends with the foreshadowing words, “Victory or Death.”


Next came Crockett, named (of course) for the famous frontiersman, David “Davy” Crockett.ย ย Crockett left his home and political career in Tennessee in order to fight with the volunteers in the Texas Revolution. He arrived at the Alamo two weeks before Santa Anna initiated his siege. A former American slave who worked as cook for one of Santa Anna’s officers later claimed that Crockett’s body was found in the barracks surrounded by no less than 16 Mexican corpses with his knife buried in one of the fallen soldiers.


Susanna’s third son was given the name Bowie (pronounced Boo-ee). However, the poor boy refused to answer to anything but Jim. His namesake, James Bowie served as the commander of the volunteers at the Alamo while Travis commanded the regular troops. He is well known for the large knife he carried, and Jim Archer got his start in carpentry by whittling a replica of this long-bladed weapon. Having grown up in Spanish Louisiana, Bowie was fluent in both written and spoken Spanish which allowed him to gather key information during the Texas Revolution. Unfortunately, Bowie has been ill and confined to bed during the time of the Alamo attack. Crockett attested, however, that every day at noon during the siege, Bowie would crawl from his bed in order to address and encourage his volunteers.


The youngest of the Archer brothers was Neill. Lieutenant Colonel James C. Neill had been stationed at the Alamo Mission from December 21, 1835. On February 11, 1836, Neill transitioned leadership of the garrison over to William Travis in order that he might tend his family who had been overcome with a grave illness. He was heading back to the Alamo with medical supplies on the day the fort fell. His family’s sickness saved his life. Perhaps that is why Susanna chose that name for her last son, wanting to instill life and hope into her boys when she, herself was dying as a complication of childbirth.


Once the Archer boys were grown, Travis continued his mother’s tradition, at least as far as naming his horse. His chestnut gelding, Bexar, was named after San Antonio de Bexar, the name of the settlement that was home to the Alamo at the time of the revolution. Today we know it better as San Antonio, but the county it resides in is still known as Bexar.


So do you have any interesting names in your family tree?

My maiden name is Gaskin, and growing up I always thought it was cool to be named after part of a horse. (Rear leg, between the stifle and the hock according to the dictionary.) Of course, being called “Gas Can” wasn’t nearly as fun.

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For those who love to smile as they read, bestselling author Karen Witemeyer offers warmhearted historical romance with a flair for humor, feisty heroines, and swoon-worthy Texas heroes. Karen is a firm believer in the power of happy endings. . . and ice cream. She is an avid cross-stitcher, and makes her home in Abilene, TX with her husband and three children. Learn more about Karen and her books at:

25 thoughts on “The Archers & The Alamo”

  1. Have SHORT-STRAW BRIDE on my TBR pile. As soon as I’m done with the library books that are due soon, it’s next!

    My father-in-law’s middle name is Seward (a family name). Since his sisters (he has 5!) called him “Sewer” his whole life, the family name ended with him! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Hi Karen,

    I love how you (or I should say Susanna) named the Archer brother’s. How fun!

    I can’t think of any interesting family names. I’ve always liked my dad’s name, Ransom, although he absolutely hates it. But I always thought it was a good western name, and used it for a secondary cowboy in one of my stories. :o)


  3. Thanks, Kirsten. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I LOVE Ransom. That’s a cool, tough-guy, rugged kind of name. Of course that guy probably got tough because he was teased unmercilessly as a kid. So glad you used it in a book. Maybe that helped ease the stigma for him. Ha! Some names are just better being pinned on full grown fictional men than little boys who have to grow up in real life.

  4. Carolyn – What a great compliment. Thank you! I couldn’t quite leave the Archer men alone, so Crockett’s story will be coming next. Look for Stealing the Preacher in June 2013!

  5. Reading SSB right now. Very much enjoying the story. I had wondered where “Bexar” came from.

    There are several strange names in my family tree, but my favorite is my great, great grandmother Mary (Babe) Altamara Coleman Cockerell.

    Love your books, Karen. Hope to read many many more from you!

  6. Hi, Natalie. So glad you’re enjoying Travis and Meredith’s story!

    How ’bout that great-great-grandmother? What a mouthful of a name. Makes me think of Spanish royalty with the way it rolls of the tongue. I might have to say it a few times just for fun. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. My grandmother’s name was Golsie which is very unusual. She never liked it
    Your book sounds really interesting and I like the way they got their names.

  8. I always liked my Great Grandmother’s name: Georgianna Charlotta Hipsley. Not only was that a splendid name, but she was close to 6 ft. tall with red haair! Later on, Ihave pictures of her in 1910 with that style of dress. Very elegant. In the very best of Baltimore style. I also have her wedding and engagement rings from her 1872 wedding.

  9. I’m so jealous, Mary! How awesome to have those gorgeous pictures and rings. And you are right about that name. Splendid, indeed. It just shouts sophistication, doesn’t it? Fabulous!

  10. My grandmother’s name was Bernice.
    We always pronounced it like it rhymed with furnace.
    Only late in life, after Grandma had long passed away, did I heard people say the name with the emphasis on the second syllable.
    I know now that is the regular way to pronounce it but I suppose her mother either read the name and liked it or had heard it pronounced like furnace….Grandma was BER-nis all her life.

  11. Haven’t read Short Straw Bride is on my list can’t wait to read it. Not that many interesting names in my family tree though they had a habit of naming the males in my family after former presidents. Those prior to the 1930’s. My great grandmother’s name was Vera, and her mother’s was named Lennie.

  12. I bet BERnice was warm-hearted. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Fun story, Mary! And thanks for your kind words about Short-Straw. I think you’re right about all those Archer men needing to find love. I’ll have to see what I can do about that. ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Hi, Carissa. Names for presidents sounds pretty cool. My Grandma’s name is Vera. She’ll turn 96 this fall and is still going strong. Hope you get a chance to meet the Archers soon!

  14. Love your website and pictures of all the gals who are WANTED! ๐Ÿ™‚ What a change from Western years. Your book looks great Karen, I’m eager to read it.
    Blessings, Diane

  15. June 2013–it’s going on my list of books to buy. Seriously, I keep a Word document on my computer of when books I am looking forward to come out. I’m such a nerd!! LOL

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