About Jane Long

 

SO WHO WAS JANE LONG?

1798 – 1880

By now you’re probably wonder: So, who was Jane Long? Most Texans know her name well. She is, after all, our “Mother” But amazingly little is known about Jane Long, the Mother of Texas, other than the obligatory paragraph in almost every Texas history textbook

We know she was left all alone with her daughter and another very young girl on Bolivar Peninsula, just across the bay from Galveston Island, during one of the coldest winters on record to that date.

We know she was pregnant and that her husband, James Long, took off with most of his soldiers (the rest quickly deserted) to incite Texas settlers into declaring their freedom from Spain and establishing the Republic of Texas.

We know that she was so insanely in love with this man that she agreed to being abandoned on Bolivar Peninsula, she fought off the Karankawa Indians, and she refused to leave for two years (even bearing a baby with no other adult around during a horrendous winter) — all because she’d promised him she’d be there when he got back.

What most of us don’t know is that:

  • Jane was the one who dined (sans husband) with the pirate Jean Lafitte in an attempt entice him to finance James Long’s obsession.
  • Jane designed a flag featuring what she called “the lone star” for her husband’s troops to carry — perhaps the first “lone star” flag used in Texas.
  • To assist Stephen F. Austin, Jane entertained Mexican officials, representatives of Spain, at her Brazoria-area hotel.
  • Jane organized a ball at her hotel when Stephen F. Austin was freed from a Mexican prison. At this ball, Austin gave his first speech calling for Texas Independence from Mexico, setting off the Texas Revolution.
  • Jane was the one who saved the papers of Mirabeau B. Lamar (later the second President of the Republic of Texas) — including his original history of Texas.

She saved personal effects of other notable Texas fighters when she left Brazoria and fled back to Bolivar just ahead of the Mexican Army during the famous “Runaway Scape.”

Jane was said to have been courted by many of the revolutionaries, including Travis, Austin, Ben Milam, Sam Houston and, particularly, Mirabeau B Lamar. But she never remarried, perhaps because her love for James Long was so great.

Hopefully, the folks on Bolivar Peninsula are making Jane more of a household word.

Already, members of the Jane Long Society have had a picture of Jane Long hung at the State Capital in Austin, dedicated a memorial with three flags at the entrance of Fort Travis, and renamed Hwy 87 as Jane Long Memorial Highway.

(Fun note: Because Texas was an independent republic, the Texas Flag is the only state flag allowed to fly at the same height as the U.S. Flag— and then ONLY if it is the only state flag being flown alongside the U.S. Flag. At the Jane Long Pavilion, the red Jane Long Petticoat Flag flies with these two — all three at the same height, because the Jane Long Petticoat Flag is not a state flag!)

Margo Johnson and other Bolivar Jane Long supporters credit the late author A. Pat Daniels for helping to spark such active interest in this historic woman. The Doyle family is responsible for getting Highway 87 renamed. And the Doyle Foundation has donated generously to the Bolivar campaign organized by the Jane Long Society as have numerous other state departments and local organizations and individuals.

The Jane Long Memorial is very much a tribute to those who have worked so hard to rebuild Bolivar Peninsula after the devastation wrought by Hurricane Ike. Jane Long — all agree — was definitely an inspiration in this effort.

The Jane Long Society’s mission is to keep that spirit of survival alive and to also bring attention to Fort Travis which itself suffered severe damage to the historic bunkers and other fortifications during Hurricane Ike.

“Jane Long was a revolutionary, just like the famous male Texas heroes we learned about in school,” explains Helen Mooty, of the Galveston County Historical Commission.

“She was one of the most politically powerful women in Texas in the early 1800s, a time when women were supposed to give birth and do little else. That is the truly amazing thing about Jane Long.“

Jane, a former debutante from Mississippi, was only 18 when she arrived with her husband, General James Long, on Bolivar Peninsula. The first known actual fort on that site was an earthen levee constructed by the Spanish explorer Frances Xavier Mina in 1816, only a few years before General Long and Jane arrived in his quest to free Texas from Spanish rule.

Jane’s abandonment (as many today would see it) on Bolivar Peninsula was a experience almost impossible to imagine today.

The winter was said to have been so cold, the waters between Galveston and Bolivar froze over so solidly animals such as bears were able to walk across.

It wasn’t until Jane received reliable word that her husband had been killed in Mexico that Jane agreed to leave the peninsula.

After his death, she moved to Brazoria, Texas, where she organized meetings of the Texas revolutionaries Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston, Mirabeau Lamar, and others. Her boarding house was also used by Mexican troops, whom she wined and dined to gather enemy secrets.

After Texas became a Republic, Jane moved to Richmond, where she had a plantation and lived until 1880.

Much is made of the fact that Jane — alone with only the two young girls to help — gave birth during that incredible stay on Bolivar Peninsula, certainly an amazing feat.

But her strength and influence continued long afterwards, thrusting her into a noteworthy role — one not common to women of that day — in the whirlwind of forces that resulted in the birth of the “Lone Star State.”

She is, indeed, the “Mother of Texas.”

As part of its recovery from the devastation of Hurricane Ike, the Bolivar Peninsula has instituted an annual Jane Long Festival on the incredibly picturesque point of the peninsula — with sweeping views of the Gulf of Mexico, Galveston Bay, Galveston Island, and huge freighters heading to and from the Houston Ship Channel.

by Brenda Beust Smith