Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Memory

Thomas Jefferson Gazley should also be remembered as an active Mason, serving as Senior Warden of Holland Lodge No. 36, before it became No.1, and he was a Charter Member of the Grand Lodge of Texas when it was organized on December 20, 1837. During the opening meeting of the Grand Lodge on April 16, 1838, Gazley served as Grand Senior Warden pro tempore. During his later years, he maintained a membership with Bastrop Lodge No. 58.

Gazley was known by many of his associates as: a man of impeccable integrity; a man’s truest friend; a man of noble character; a man lofty in ideals; a true and loyal patriot; a man of culture and refinement; a thorough gentleman; a man of even temper; a good neighbor; and a confiding friend.

“I have come to know Thomas Jefferson Gazley as a True Texas Hero.”

Thank you, Dr. Gazley, for all that you have done for Smithville, Bastrop County, Texas, and Texans.”

The Expiration

His final contribution to history, the remote Gazley Cemetery, overlooks his creek and prairie, as one of the oldest cemeteries in Texas. Initially buried there following his death on October 31, 1853, Dr. Gazley’s remains rested peacefully until October 1936 when they were exhumed by the Texas Centennial Commission and honorably re-interred in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin during a formal 1937 ceremony. They rest there today on Republic Hill in Section C-1, Row T, Grave Number Four.

The Return

Following his governmental service, Dr. Gazley returned to his frontier home of Gazley Prairie to continue his existing business pursuits and to live out the remainder of his life. Going beyond his earlier ventures, Thomas Gazley saw his creek-prairie property become Dr. Gazley’s Landing, a stopover location for the riverboat Kate Ward and other shallow water craft as they plied the waters of the Colorado River between Matagorda and Austin carrying cotton and other commodities. Additionally, Gazley used his varied skills as a Surveyor to perform land grant locating services for new settlers.

The New Beginning

The Texas frontier was largely left in shambles by the struggles of the war for independence. San Felipe, Stephen F. Austin’s principal city, was burned by Sam Houston’s army during his regrouping retreat to San Jacinto. Houston wanted to keep it from falling into the hands of Santa Anna and his army who had looted and burned Harrisburg and many other small cities as they chased the remnants of the Texas Army eastward across the frontier.
Harrisburg was never rebuilt and San Felipe’s place in history had passed from relative importance. The new city of Houston was born as the center of government and the principal place for business and commerce. Accordingly, as the new government of the Republic of Texas developed, many of Austin’s stalwart types again came to the forefront as representatives of the people in Texas governmental activities. Concurrently, business and personal endeavors began to blossom as life in Texas achieved a new level of normalcy and stability.

Having been appointed to the Texas Naval Affairs Committee during the closing days of the war, Dr. Gazley soon retired from his military activities. He took up residency in Houston and entered the developing professional world as an Attorney in partnership with John Birdsall. On September 4, 1837, Gazley was elected to the House of the Second Congress of the Republic of Texas representing Harrisburg County.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Time For Independence

The frontier lifestyle, to which Dr. Gazley and his family and neighbors had become accustomed, changed drastically as the settlers began to transition themselves into citizen-soldiers and a fledgling military group. Essentially all able-bodied adult male settlers went to war to resist the approach of Santa Anna’s superior Mexican Army. Without proper equipment, supplies, or training, this was not an easy undertaking. As the men departed for military service, their wives and children were left behind to tend the livestock and maintain the homesteads as best they could. There was no question in the minds of all Texans, including the women and children, there were but two choices: flight back to the United States or fight to the death for independence from Mexico. Of the several battles in the War for Independence, Gazley’s involvement was limited to only three: Gonzales, Concepcion Mission, and San Jacinto.

At the Gonzales Battle, the opening skirmish of the war, a local group of eighteen Texans, armed mostly with their own hunting equipment and using the town’s single smooth barreled cannon, faced a force of approximately one hundred well-trained and fully equipped veteran Mexican soldiers, who had come to confiscate the cannon. An immediate plea for assistance brought Captain Michael R. Goheen’s Company “C”, with about a hundred similarly prepared Texas settlers, to assist in the defense of Gonzales and the retention of the city’s cannon. The resulting fight was brief, the Gonzales group prevailed and retained the cannon, and the Mexican Army departed for the moment. During this battle, Dr. Gazley, then properly known in Company “C” as Private Gazley, carried his medical bag in one hand and his rifle in the other. As a combatant, he fought along side the other settlers; and, as an Army Surgeon he also treated the battle wounded. Richard “Big Dick” Andrews, another neighbor of Gazley’s and his associate on the Committee for Vigilance, Safety, and Communication, made Texas history by being the first Texan to be wounded in the War for Independence.

At the Concepcion Mission Battle, the first major battle of the Siege of Bexar (San Antonio) where the resident Mexican forces were routed and removed, Dr. Gazley again served as a Private and an Army Surgeon in Captain Goheen’s Company. During this battle, Richard “Big Dick” Andrews again made Texas history by being the first Texan to be killed in the War for Independence.

At the San Jacinto Battle, Dr. Gazley and several other signers of the Declaration of Independence arrived just before the battle began, and he joined with Captain Jesse Billingsly’s Company “C” under Colonel Edward Burleson’s First Regiment Texas Volunteers to fight alongside Micah Andrews, brother to Richard, as well as Aaron Burleson and other volunteers from the Mina area. Gazley’s close neighbor John Socrates Darling, new immigrant Henry Mordorff, and other locals fought in the battle as well. This final bloody and deadly conflict ended the Texans’ struggle for freedom by soundly defeating the Mexican Army, capturing Santa Anna, and birthing the new and independent Republic of Texas.

It might seem to some observers that the battles fought during the Texas War for Independence were comprised of a limited number of combatants, somewhat minor in nature, rather short in duration, and small in number of casualties inflicted. It should be remembered, however, at the battles of Goliad and San Patricio, all of the Texans who surrendered and were thus defenseless, were taken out in small groups and systematically massacred and slaughtered by the revenge-seeking Mexican Army. At the battle of the Alamo, all Texans made a conscious decision to fight to the last man, which they did. It should also be remembered that this war was fought up close and personal, often eyeball to eyeball, occasionally utilizing hand-to-hand combat. Unfortunately, as with all wars, the war for Texas’ independence was not kind to either side.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Conventions of 1832 & 1833 and The Consultation

With the Ayuntamiento being the local official government, the Texas settlers found themselves to be relatively without effective representation to the ruling Mexican government in Mexico City. Accordingly, they chose to hold a large formal deliberate meeting of mandated delegates to address their particular issues of dissatisfaction and to develop a means of directly and personally communicating those needed reforms to the government in Mexico City.

Thomas Gazley’s highly respected reputation in his home area, his frequent travels to San Felipe, his part time residency at the seat of prevailing government, and his established political connections there, all made him an outstanding choice to be a peoples representative, or delegate, to this type of assembly.

Accordingly, he was chosen to be a Delegate from the District of Mina to the 1832 Convention in San Felipe. The Convention met in October for the purpose of drafting resolutions which would inform the Mexican government of the needs of the Texans, particularly regarding tariff relief, more liberal immigration laws, separation from the state of Coahuila, and statehood for Texas. Unfortunately, for mixed reasons, these resolutions were not formally presented to the Mexican government. However, one important outcome of the 1832 Convention was the creation of the Sub-Committee on Vigilance, Safety, and Communication which was composed of Dr. Gazley, a surveyor named Bartlett Sims, and an Indian fighter and frontiersman named Richard Andrews. Their assignment was to strive for safety through vigilance and to communicate needs to the Convention.

Following closely on the heels of the 1832 Convention, Thomas Gazley was called on to be a Bastrop Delegate to the Convention of 1833 in San Felipe, along with Edward Burleson and Bartlett Sims. During this important session, meeting on April first, they took up the same resolutions as before; and they went even further by framing the draft of a constitution for the proposed state of Texas.

In July of 1833, Stephen F. Austin took the resolutions of the convention to Mexico City and personally presented them to the ruling government. Soon thereafter, as he was in route through Saltillo on his way back to Texas, he was arrested without specific charges and detained in various Mexican prisons until December of 1834, at which time he was released on a bond which restricted his travels to within the Mexico Federal District. Then, under the General Amnesty Law of 1835 he was freed and allowed to return to Texas in August of that year.

This period of imprisonment contributed to worsening conditions for the Texas settlers, and their dissatisfaction and unrest led them to call for a Consultation on October15th. They actually met on November 1, 1835, in (West) Columbia. While meeting, they set forth the purpose of a War for Independence, laid out the power and structure of a new Provisional Government for Texas, planned for a Declaration of Independence, and established a Regular Texas Army.

Concurrently during this time period, the Mexican Army had further imposed Santa Anna’s dictatorial will of repression upon the settlers; and the settlers had been forced to take up arms to protect themselves from the overpowering Mexican Army. The Texas Revolution had begun, and the War for Texas Independence was about to begin.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The San Felipe Connection

San Felipe de Austin was founded near the Old San Antonio Road crossing on the west bank of the Brazos River in 1824. It was the postal, social, economic, and political center of the Austin colonies. In 1828 it boasted a population of 200 residents living in about fifty homes. It had three general stores, two taverns, one hotel, one blacksmith, and a ratio of ten men to every woman.

Dr. Gazley’s resupply trips to San Felipe began in1828 and continued for several years. During many of these trips, he was required to wait for the riverboats to arrive with the supplies they were bringing up the Brazos River from the coast. During these respites, he had occasion to obtain land and establish a part-time residence, secure a Mexican license to practice medicine (29April1829), socialize with the city’s business leaders, and ultimately to begin to interact with the prevailing Mexican government (Ayuntamiento) which was strategically based there to be near the center of Austin’s colonists. On April 29, 1829, he became the Secretary to the Town Council and on February 1, 1830, he became the Clerk of the Ayuntamiento. This body functioned much as a town council and was the principal governing body in small municipalities in Mexico; but, it was not a democratic form of government. By July of 1835, Dr. Gazley had been appointed Judge of the First Instance for the Jurisdiction of Mina.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Frontier Life

Everyday life was an ongoing challenge, yet every day was another opportunity for Austin’s stalwart settlers to exhibit their skills and talents while contributing to the general welfare of all. They routinely endured the many hazards of frontier life such as successfully extracting sustenance from their rustic land, collectively fighting off marauding hostile Indian raids, risking the lives of their wives to bear children in the wilderness, not to mention experiencing plagues which wiped out entire settlements, the ever present risk of accident or injury with resulting infection, and many other life threatening events. The frontier settler’s principal activity was that of survival, with little time for non-productive undertakings.

It was most fortuitous for this prairie’s settlers that Dr. Gazley was there to deliver the babies and tend their mothers, treat the sick and injured, set their broken bones, remove bullets and stitch up knife wounds, and later to fight for their safety and apply his other capabilities for their benefit in the quest for freedom and independence.

The First Store

With Gazley’s hamlet located so near the northwestern edge of the sparsely populated frontier, and with very limited resupply opportunities available, it seemed logical to him to make periodic resupply trips to San Felipe de Austin, the hub of the Austin colonies, in order to obtain the essential consumables, materials, and equipment his endeavors required. With the passage of time and the arrival of a few new neighbors, Thomas decided that he should increase the size of his resupply orders so that he might be able to make some of the essentials available to other settlers in his general area.

Reasonably soon, this simple beginning developed into the prairie’s first store. It was a little old elm log building, and the entire stock might easily have been carried on the back of a single pack animal. In addition to limited quantities of the bare essentials, the store’s inventory also included a few basic medical drugs and medicinal alcohol.

As Gazley bartered successfully with the local Indians and settlers, his tiny store evolved into a trading location which enjoyed a thriving business. He often took eggs, butter, and chickens in trade for his merchandise. In time, the store became the center for the village’s business life and it was also established as the precinct’s official polling place, known as Gazley Prairie. Later, A.C. Wilkes even taught school near the store. (A Gazley family owned store continued in the area for another two generations.)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The First House

Dr. Gazley’s approach to providing shelter for his family differed somewhat from that of many early settlers who simply threw up rustic sod roofed log huts. During his preparations for homesteading in the new frontier, he purchased a whipsaw which allowed him to fell trees from his property and fashion them into custom hewn plank lumber suited for specific purposes such as weatherboards and tapered roofing shingles.

His first home (coincidentally the first and only home in the new settlement he referred to as his hamlet) was a small one room affair. Rather than horizontal log cabin construction with notched joints at the corners, Gazley and Old Jack dug and drove cedar supporting posts vertically into the ground and then constructed a framework of sawn timbers which were then weatherproofed with custom clapboards and hand shaped shingles made for the purpose. He later enlarged the house to three rooms complete with glass panes. It was then described as a palatial frontier mansion. (Fortunately, it was not destroyed by the advancing Mexican Army during the Runaway Scrape episode of the Texas War of Independence.)

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Frontier Environment

The Gazley Headright Land Grant encompassed both sides of the confluence of a small spring fed creek (appropriately dubbed Spring Creek in the land survey notes) and the south west bank of the Colorado River about twelve miles southeast of the settlement of Mina (Bastrop). This location was reasonably near the northwestern fringe of Austin’s settlements and was inhabited by the Lipan and also the more friendly Tonkawa Indian tribes. Hostile marauding tribes of Indians occasionally plagued the area. The nearest neighbor was several miles away.

The Gazley land was divinely endowed with abundant fresh water; luxuriant grasses which provided adequate grazing; fish, water fowl, beaver, otter, buffalo, deer, and bear to provide game meat for sustenance as well as pelts for clothing, hats, and shoes. Initially, surviving mainly off of the land and its plentiful natural resources, the family hunted, fished, and foraged for native berries and nuts. Later, they raised corn and other crops, bred cattle and hogs, and raised chickens.

(This riverfront location would later become the site of Dr. Gazley’s Landing, a stopover location for the cotton and supply laden riverboat Kate Ward and others which plied the river’s water while in route to Austin from Matagorda during the late 1840’s. The western portion of today’s city of Smithville also rests within this tract of land. As a point of reference, Stephen F. Austin owned the adjacent tract of land to the west and numerous heroes of the Texas War of Independence also owned and lived on nearby tracts.)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Route To Texas

Following his marriage and medical school graduation, Dr. Gazley practiced medicine in the states of Ohio and Louisiana. There he gained considerable medical experience which would later become a valuable part of the stalwart foundation required for the development of the new frontier which lay ahead of him, and which would soon beckon to him.

While practicing medicine in Ohio during 1827, as he was approaching the end of his twenties, Dr. Gazley was happily married, quite successful in his profession, and he felt the time was right to move on to Texas to see what might develop there. He was familiar with Stephen F. Austin’s requirements for pioneering settlers: stalwart types, men of honesty and integrity; sound in mind, body, and moral fiber; capable, confident, and caring individuals; no laggards, dead-beats, cowards, crooks, or hangers-on.

Realizing the dangers and struggles which faced the new Texas settlers, and in the interests of safeguarding his wife and first son, Thomas Jr., Doctor Gazley chose to leave them behind with relatives while he made a preliminary trip to explore and make the necessary preparations for his family in the new frontier.

Gazley, one of the first few hundred white men, came to Texas in December of 1827, gazed over what he considered to be healthy and beautiful country, where buffalo herds forded the Colorado River near the mouth of a small creek, and he chose the high side of the river to be the site for his future frontier home. This available land parcel fulfilled his requirements and he met with and contracted through Stephen F. Austin to obtain his Mexican Headright Land Grant for League Number Eleven consisting of 4,428.4 acres of fertile river front land. With satisfactory land ownership and contractual requirements properly established, he returned to Ohio to retrieve his family and their frontier possessions.

On November 16, 1828, Dr. Thomas Jefferson Gazley, his wife Eliza, their first born son Thomas Junior, along with “Old” Jack Anderson, their respected and faithful slave, all arrived to begin their new life together at a place which would be Dr. Gazley’s Texas hamlet, later to be known as Gazley’s Prairie, Dr. Gazley’s Landing, and ultimately as Smithville, Bastrop County, Texas, U.S.A.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Marriage and Children

According to restored Hamilton County, Ohio, court house records, Thomas Jefferson Gazley married Elizabeth Boyce, of Delaware, on March 21, 1819.

Bastrop County, Texas, Probate records indicate this union yielded four sons:
The oldest: Thomas J. Gazley, Jr. (Farmer/Surveyor),
The second: William H. Gazley (Attorney At Law),
The third: Edwin T. Gazley (Physician), and
The youngest: Alfred Francis Gazley (Farmer/Conf.Soldier).

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Medical Education:

After completing his basic education in New York, Thomas Jefferson Gazley was privileged to obtain an advanced education in Baltimore, Maryland. There he received his degree and license to practice medicine as a Physician, Surgeon, and Accoucheur ( a specialist in obstetrics). These studies were most likely completed by the time he was about twenty-one years old. Historical records suggest that he probably obtained his medical education at the College of Medicine of Maryland (established 1807), which became the University of Maryland School of Medicine (established 1813). At that time, there were less than six medical schools in America. The first Maryland class consisted of only seven medical students.