I remember learning about Sam Houston in school. President of Texas, instrumental in securing Texas independence through his defeat of Mexican leader Santa Anna in the Battle of San Jacinto; namesake of the fourth largest city in America. But all that might never have occurred… due to a failed marriage which involved my 3rd great grand-aunt.
In 1829, Houston was the 36 year old governor of Tennessee. He decided to court 19 year old Eliza Allen (my ancestor). Her family, aristocratic as they were, believed Houston would make a great catch for the young girl so they encouraged the union. The resulting marriage lasted only eleven weeks. Neither Eliza nor Sam ever publicly talked about the reason for the separation although rumors ran rampant because Houston did not just leave the marriage…he resigned his office of governor and went into seclusion, living among the Cherokees for three years. He even took a Cherokee woman as wife, despite not having received a divorce from Eliza.
As for her, she returned to her family. Besides never talking about her failed marriage, she instructed that upon her death, all letters and images of her should be burned in an attempt to keep the past hidden from public view.
However, the family stories still exist. One in particular tells a tale that, had it played out differently, might have had a devastating effect on the future of our nation.
When Houston fled the marriage and Tennessee, Eliza’s brother and another family member reportedly went after him to defend her honor by killing him if need be. Supposedly, they caught up to him in Clarksville but when they confronted him, he gave such an impassioned plea that he did no ill to Eliza nor did she to him, they decided to let him continue his way into Indian territory.
Whatever Houston said was enough to spare a life that would go onto to help galvanize a nation. Houston eventually decided to leave the Cherokee (and his Indian wife) to resume public life in Texas. A divorce between Sam Houston and Eliza Allen was finally arranged in 1840 and both parties were able to legally marry others and have children. But the details of their eleven week marriage and why it failed remains buried with them.
Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotape, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. for more information call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.