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.