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Alexander Thomson Letter
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Alexander Thomson Letter

  • US TxAM-C 37
  • Collection
  • 1832-08-05

The Alexander Thomson letter is dated August 5, 1832, from Texas, Austin's Colony. Addressed to "Mr. Wm. D. Thomson, Giles County, Tennessee, Cornerville P.O.," with the salutation "My dear son," and signed "your Aff. Father, Alexs. Thomson."

The text of the letter recounts recent events in Austin's colony which, in retrospect, have a direct bearing on the brewing struggle for independence of the colony from Mexico. Most noteworthy is the account of the early revolt of Anglo-Texas colonists against the Mexican government's steady encroachment on the freedom of colonists to conduct free trade or encourage further immigration into Texas from the United States.

In the letter, Thomson details the build-up of hostilities between Colonel Juan Davis Bradburn, born in Virginia, but in service to Mexico, who was made commander of Fort Anahuac.

Noteworthy also in the letter are the expressions of loyalty and admiration shown toward General Antonio López de Santa Anna by the colonists, who saw him as championing their rights in the condemnation of Bradburn, who was known to be a supporter of the hated General Anastacio Bustamante. Bustamante, who had been the dictator of Mexico since January 1830, was now involved with Santa Anna and his allies in a fierce civil war. (see general note)

As the Thomson letter records vividly, the Texas colonists threw their support to Santa Anna, believing him to favor their freedom to enforce their own laws and maintain their own system of trade and civil courts. The letter records Stephen Austin's whole-hearted support of Santa Anna and Thomson's encomium on Santa Anna as "a true republican ... determined not to lay down his arms until republicanism prevails," rings ironically optimistic in the face of events only a few years later, culminating in the bitter defeat of the colonists by Santa Anna at the Alamo, and the equally bitter final defeat of Santa Anna at San Jacinto, assuring Texas's independence from Mexico.

Accompanying the letter are three other items.
A sepia-toned picture apparently reproduced from an oil painting. The picture is pasted inside a dark brown oval paper matting on a piece of cardboard measuring about 20 cm by 15 cm. The image measures about 13 cm by 7 cm. Though the original painting is as yet unidentified, "Alexander Thomson" is written on the back of the cardboard in pencil.

A sheet of letterhead stationery for the "St. Louis Southwestern Railway Lines, St. Louis 2, Mo.," with the logo for the "Cotton Belt Route," and below that "F. W. Green, President." On this much-folded piece of letterhead is an undated and unsigned biography of Alexander Thomson handwritten in pencil.

A photocopy (circa 1980) of a booklet originally prepared by Ralston P. Haun in Coleman, Tex. around 1936, which includes a transcription of the August 5, 1832 letter, as well as other family letters and papers. According to the copy of an explanatory note appended to the booklet, dated May 1, 1980, and signed Jim Glass of Houston, Tex., one of the three copies made by Haun was given to Ana Gardner Thomson and passed down to her granddaughter Ana Haun Frómen, thence apparently to Gardner Osborn. The booklet includes transcriptions of five other family letters and two memoirs. Though speculated upon in the Glass note, the current disposition of the other letters and papers is still unverified.

Thomson, Alexander, 1785-1863

Thomson Letter, Picture, Booklet, and Biographical Information

1/1: Letter, August 5, 1832

  • One handwritten letter in ink on both sides of a sheet of paper (measuring 31 cm by 37 cm).
  • Originally folded in half to form four pages, each measuring 31 cm by 18 and a half cm. When further folded the fourth page became the address area and is postage stamped in red: "Little Rock Arks, Sep 6." Traces of the red sealing wax remain on this page.
  • This is the only original letter referred to in the booklet of transcriptions [see Item 1/4.] for which the location was known by the family as of its donation to the repository in March 2002.

1/2: Photographic reproduction of an oil painting portrait of Alexander Thomson (probably in his old age). "Alexander Thomson" is written in pencil on the back of the cardboard on which the picture is pasted. Undated

1/3: Thomson Biographical Note, handwritten in pencil on a sheet of St. Louis Southwestern Railway Lines letterhead, undated and unsigned. circa 1940s-1950s

  • Discrepancies such as referring to Washington, TX as Old Washington, indicate the information must have been composed at least after the American Civil War, and at least as late as 1885 since Yellow Prairie was renamed Chriesman in that year.
  • Furthermore, if the present note was either composed or copied down contemporary with the stationary, then it may have been written sometime during the period 1947-1951, when F. W. Green served as President of the Cotton Belt Line of the St. Louis Southwestern Railway Lines, as indicated on the letterhead.

1/4: Photocopies of Booklet by Ralston P. Haun, circa 1980

  • The photocopies include the booklet cover featuring an image of the Alamo, a flyleaf printed with "Ana Gardner Thomson," the original owner of the booklet, the Contents page, pages 1-55 of text, transcriptions of five other letters and two memoirs, and a typed letter dated May 1, 1980 (signed Jim Glass, Houston, Tex.) which details the authorship and provenance of the original booklet, and as much as is known in the family about the subsequent disposition of the documents transcribed therein.
  • Glass states that only three copies of the booklet were produced around 1936. Of the transcribed letters, one is dated 1833, the rest in the 1840s to 1860s. The memoirs are by James Monroe Hill and Jane Hallowell Hill.