Save Texas History
Published in

Save Texas History

Elizabeth Crockett’s grave in the Acton Cemetery, now the Acton State Historic Site. Image courtesy Texas Historical Commission.

Honoring a Widow of the Alamo — Elizabeth Crockett’s Land Legacy

In the nineteenth century, the government of Texas utilized its abundant land resources in numerous ways as forms of payment, reward, and acknowledgment. Elizabeth Crockett, the widow of the legendary Alamo defender David Crockett, was recognized by the Texas Legislature after her arrival in Texas along with her son, Robert P. Crockett. On February 2, 1856, the Legislature honored the sacrifice of her late husband and authorized “An Act donating to Mrs. Elizabeth Crockett one League of Land.”[1]

Certificate #4/15 to Elizabeth Crockett for one league of land, 4 February 1856, Fannin 1–001121, Texas Land Grant Records, Archives and Records Program, Texas General Land Office, Austin, TX.

Born Elizabeth Patton in Swannanoa, NC on May 22, 1788, the future Mrs. Crockett was one of eight children. Her parents were considered well-off due to owning thousands of acres of farmland. She was described as “large, sensible, and practical” with a “good business mind and…regular habits.”[2] Elizabeth’s first marriage was to her cousin, James Patton. His death during the first year of the Creek War (1813–1814) left Elizabeth widowed with two children, living in rural Tennessee. Unfortunately for Elizabeth, she would lose another husband in battle several years later.

Elizabeth soon caught the eye of David Crockett, himself recently a widower with three children of his own. They quickly pursued a marriage agreement. Crockett reasoned that as he and Elizabeth “were in the same situation, it might be that we could do something for each other.”[3] He also reasoned that she was a “good industrious woman,” and her “snug little farm,” which Elizabeth herself owned, as well as her rumored personal savings of $800 would “better not only his present condition but also…bode well for his future prospects and those of his children.”[4] The two were married in the summer of 1815.

David and Elizabeth Crockett had three children together: Robert, Rebecca, and Matilda. Their marriage was strained, however. Hunting, exploring, and politics kept David away from home for long periods at a time, leaving Elizabeth to manage the combined eight children, the household, and the family’s business, which included a mill and distillery. Elizabeth’s strength and intelligence were known, and “she knew more about the operation of the mill and the family finances than [David],” and “always was grinding or lugging sacks of grain with ease” until the mill was destroyed by a flood in 1821.[5]

Close-up of Elizabeth Crockett’s statue at the Acton Cemetery, which depicts her gazing toward the horizon as if waiting for her husband to return. Image courtesy Texas State Historical Commission.

Over time, this had a damaging effect on the couple’s relationship. A religious woman, Elizabeth also disapproved of some of David’s habits and wanted him to be more involved in the church.[6] By 1832, Elizabeth had “endured enough of Crockett” and moved her family to live with her Patton relatives, leaving their relations “amicable but distant.”[7] Upon his arrival in Texas, Crockett was said to have remarked of Elizabeth and his children, “I have set them free — set them free. They must shift for themselves.”[8] Only a few months later, he was killed at the Alamo.

David’s son, Robert, quickly followed in his father’s footsteps to Texas with revenge on his mind.[9] He served for a year in the army of the Republic of Texas and claimed his father’s bounty certificate in April 1838 before returning to Tennessee, where Elizabeth still remained. The two returned to Texas in 1854 to settle permanently.[10]

Field notes for a 320-acre survey for Elizabeth Crockett in Hood County, 27 August 1857, Robertson 1–000879, Texas Land Grant Records, Archives and Records Program, Texas General Land Office, Austin, TX.

It was upon this return that the Legislature honored Elizabeth with a donation of one league (4,428.4 acres) of land, waived her patenting fees, and allowed a special exception for Elizabeth to locate 320 acres of her land within the Pacific Railroad reserve, in which she was already living. She located the 320 acres in Hood County near present-day Granbury,[11] adjacent to David Crockett’s land that came from his military service bounty for having been “discharged from the Army by death,” at the Alamo. She sold the remaining acreage for $1,000.[12]

[detail] Elizabeth Crockett’s grant, adjacent to David Crockett’s grant, near Granbury in Hood County. Hood Co., Austin: Texas General Land Office, 1894, Map #66868, Map Collection, Archives and Records Program, Texas General Land Office, Austin, TX.

Elizabeth remained in Hood County until her death in 1860. It was reported that as a sign of mourning, she wore black every day from David Crockett’s death until her own, after which she was buried in the Acton Cemetery, still wearing her black dress, [13] approximately six miles from the land that was granted to her by Special Act of the Texas Legislature. In 1911, the Texas Legislature approved the creation of a monument to mark the gravesite. A 28-foot tall monument with a statue of Elizabeth Crockett on top, her hand shielding her eyes looking to the west awaiting her husband’s return, was installed in 1913. Now known as the Acton State Historic Site, Elizabeth’s grave was once the smallest state park in Texas (0.006 acres) before stewardship of the site was passed from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to the Texas Historical Commission.[14]

Reporting on her death, the Dallas Herald provided a fitting summary:

“It is a matter of just pride to every citizen of Texas that the widow of Davy Crockett found a home in her old age, and after her three score years and ten were fulfilled, a grave on the soil consecrated by his blood — the gift of the country of his adoption. The grave of his widow and the home of his children will make Johnson [now Hood] County a place of pilgrimage to many.”[15]

[left] Charles R. Pryor, Dallas Herald (Dallas, TX), Vol. 8, №35, Ed. 1, Wednesday, February 29, 1860, (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth294113/m1/2/ accessed March 6, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu. [right] Elizabeth Crockett’s headstone at the Acton State Historic Site. Image courtesy Texas Historical Commission.Elizabeth Crockett’s headstone at the Acton State Historic Site. Image courtesy Texas Historical Commission.
Click here to sign up for weekly Texas History e-mails.

[1] Hans Peter Mareus Neilsen Gammel, The Laws of Texas 1822–1897 (Austin: The Gammel Book Company, 1898) Vol. 4, pp. 357–358, (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth6730/m1/361/: accessed March 6, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu.

[2] Michael Wallis, David Crockett: The Lion of the West (New York City: W.W. Norton and Company Ltd., 2011), pp. 134–135.

[3] David Crockett, James A. Shackford, and Stanley J. Folmsbee, A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett of the State of Tennessee (Knoxville: University of Tennesee Press, 1987), pp. 126–127.

[4] Ibid.; William C. Davis, Three Roads to the Alamo (New York City: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 1998), pp. 64–65.

[5] Wallis, David Crockett, p. 166.

[6] Davis, Three Roads to the Alamo, p. 134.

[7] Ibid., p. 310.

[8] Ibid. p. 412. Davis notes, however, that the quote may have been exaggerated or made up, as it appeared in the Arkansas Gazette, a “Jacksonian newspaper.”

[9] Ibid., p. 572.

[10] Clerk Return for David Crockett, Bexar County Clerk Return — 000003, Texas Land Grant Records, Archives and Records Program, Texas General Land Office, Austin, TX.

[11] Elizabeth Crockett, Robertson 1–000879, Texas Land Grant Records, Archives and Records Program, Texas General Land Office, Austin, TX.

[12] David Crockett, Fannin 1–001121, Texas Land Grant Records, Archives and Records Program, Texas General Land Office, Austin, TX.

[13] Wallis, David Crockett, p. 300.

[14] Texas Historical Commission, “Acton State Historic Site” (http://www.thc.texas.gov/historic-sites/acton-state-historic-site, accessed March 6, 2019)

[15] Charles R. Pryor, Dallas Herald (Dallas, TX), Vol. 8, №35, Ed. 1, Wednesday, February 29, 1860, (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth294113/m1/2/?q=elizabeth%20crockett: accessed March 6, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu.

--

--

--

Articles from the Texas General Land Office Save Texas History Program

Recommended from Medium

The Biggest Family Feud in History

Romanian folk costume from Transylvania

The First Peace Treaty

The Redemptive Soul Of America Strikes Again

Bell-Bottom Days

The Odyessy #3

The Deadly History of the Victorian Green Dye

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Texas General Land Office

Texas General Land Office

Official Account for the Texas General Land Office | Follow Commissioner George P. Bush on Twitter at @georgepbush. www.txglo.org

More from Medium

Partisans and Collaborators

Stalinism: A Soviet Mexicanism

O West, where have you gone?

The Forgotten Protest