Palmer/Parmer Family Reunion

Martin Parmer at Washington-on-the-Brazos
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This Page Contains Information about Martin Parmer's Important Role at Washington-on-the-Brazos during the Texas Revolution.  To Print This Page Set Your Printer Properties to "Landscape" instead of "Portrait" in Order  To Copy the Full Text.

Texas Declaration of Independence
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Displayed Publicly in 2001 at the Old Texas Land Office. Click Picture for Parmer's Signature.

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MARTIN PARMER

A TEXAS HERO

AS REPORTED IN THE JOURNALS OF THE

CONVENTION AT WASHINGTON IN MARCH 1836

Presented to the 2001 Palmer/Parmer Family Reunion

Katy & E. Don Walker, Sr. Education Center

Huntsville, Texas

March 31, 2001

by Kameron K. Searle

 

PREFACE

 

I have researched the life of Martin Parmer extensively over the past few years and I have read many stories, articles and books about him. With the exception of H. Taylor Pendley's, 500 Years of Palmer Families from England to Texas; Joe E. and Carolyn R. Ericson's, Martin Parmer-The Man and the Legend, Ericson Books, 1999; Greg Cantrell's, Stephen F. Austin, Epresario of Texas, Yale University Press, 1999, and Joe E. Ericson's article on Martin Parmer in the Handbook of Texas, most have been poor attempts to report the life of one of Texas greatest sons. Many of the other "biographies" would tend to suggest that time and a lack of existing records would make it difficult to reconstruct an accurate picture of Martin Parmer's public life. I heartily disagree with that premise. Many of these writers, though good intentioned, have chosen to waste much of what they have written on the romantic life Parmer led on the frontier rather than looking for any substantial record of his service to and impact on the Republic of Texas.

When reading most of what has been written, one usually reads more about the Indian fights in Missouri than what Martin Parmer did for Texas. Usually, there is but a short paragraph that basically says, "Oh and by the way Martin Parmer signed the Texas Declaration of Independence at Washington-on-the-Brazos". The frontier stories of Indian fights and the hard life in Tennessee and Missouri are important and are indeed a great part of who Martin Parmer, the "Ring Tailed Panther," was. But this part of his life in my opinion has been overly reported and his public life which was so important to the history of Texas has been all but ignored.

This paper is offered for the purpose increasing an awareness of Martin Parmer's significant role in and contributions to the creation of the Republic of Texas. To begin with, it is important to note that there is a substantial written record of Martin Parmer's public life. Martin Parmer arrived in Texas in 1825 and died in 1850. In that period in Texas history, most Texans made no more written mark in the history of Texas than a name on a land deed or maybe an appearance on a tax role or in a rare census. By comparison, Martin Parmer was written about in numerous sources in great detail during this same period. As examples, numerous Mexican government records, the correspondence of Stephen F. Austin and documents of the short lived Fredonian Republic give us an in-depth picture of Martin Parmer's activities and leadership during the Fredonian Rebellion from 1826 to 1827. Because most historians do not research the actual primary documents when researching Texas history, Martin Parmer's substantial role in the Fredonian Rebellion has all but gone untold appearing as no more than a footnote if at all.

This paper is a first attempt on my part to begin to encourage others to improve on much of the sloppy historical work that has been done in the past with regard to the life and contributions of Martin Parmer. This document will focus its attention on Martin Parmer's activities at the Convention at Washington. With the exception of editorial notes and quotes from other cited sources, the entirety of the paper comes from the actual minutes of the [Journals of the Convention of 1836] The General Convention at Washington, March 1-17, 1836, from Gammel, Laws of Texas, Vol. I, Houston, Texas, 1838, Austin, Texas, 1898. The Journals of the Convention at Washington in 1836 can also be found in The Papers of the Texas Revolution, 1835-1836, Vol. 9, Presidial Press, Austin, Texas 1973. All other sources quoted in editorial notes will be provided. This paper is without a doubt an abridgement of the Journals of the Convention at Washington focusing almost entirely on Martin Parmer's role with only a few exceptions. I would encourage everyone to read the complete Journal once to appreciate all the history reflected in its pages. Some references to Martin Parmer were omitted such as motions to adjourn, motions to recognize late arriving delegates or motions to make minor changes in the wording of documents.

With the exception of titles and where noted, all bolded type in the body of this paper indicate quotes from the Journals of the Convention at Washington itself. For clarity, no other documents quoted in the paper are bolded unless explained.

Since this year's Reunion is being held in such close proximity to Washington-on-the-Brazos, this seemed like as good of a place as any to start improving on Martin Parmer's historical public record. If time permits, I would like to encourage each of you to drive over to Washington-on-the-Brazos. Go into Independence Hall and listen to what these words from the Journals of the Convention have to tell you about Martin Parmer and what he did for Texas. Things you never read or knew before.

Kameron K. Searle

Great-great-great grandson

21410 Park York

Katy, Texas 77450

281-398-8871

ksearle1@pdq.net

 

Martin Parmer

and

Journals of the Convention at Washington*

March 1-17, 1836

Abridged

* Ed. Note: The original name of the town in 1836 at the time of the Convention was Washington. According to the New Handbook of Texas Online, at http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online, Washington was called Washington-on-the-Brazos or Old Washington only after the Civil War. From page 121 of the Diary of William Fairfax Gray, the following entry was made for March 1, 1836, "[i]n the night the wind sprung up from the north and blew a gale, accompanied by lightning, thunder, rain and hail, and it became very cold. In the morning the thermometer was down to 33 degrees, and everyone was shivering and exclaiming against the cold. Notwithstanding the cold, the members of the Convention...met to-day in an unfinished house, without doors or windows. In lieu of glass, cotton cloth was stretched across the windows, which partially excluded the cold wind."

Tuesday, March 1, 1836

On motion of Mr. Parmer,

Mr. Willis A. Faris was appointed Secretary pro tem.

Ed. Note: This was the first day of the Convention. This motion was the second motion made at the convention.

On motion of Mr. Parmer,

Resolved, That a committee of three be appointed to examine and report upon the credentials of the delegates elect.

The question being taken thereon, it was decided in the affirmative. Whereupon the Chair appointed Messrs. Parmer, Everett and Childress, and

On motion of Mr. Houston,

Mr. Zavala was added to said committee.

Ed. Note: The committee appointed to examine and report upon credentials of delegates elect was the first committee appointed by the Convention and Martin Parmer was chairman of it. The Mr. Houston who moved to add Mr. Zavala (Lorenzo de Zavala) to the committee was Sam Houston. Mr. Childress was George C. Childress. George C. Childress is credited with having written the draft of the Texas Declaration of Independence which would be adopted the next day on March 2, 1836.

The committee appointed to examine and report upon the credentials of the delegates elect, through their chairman, Martin Parmer made the following Report, to wit:

(Credentials report then followed)

On motion of Mr. Parmer,

The report was received and agreed to.

Ed. Notes: Martin Parmer, S.W. Blount, and E.O. Legrand were the three delegates elected to represent the municipality of San Augustine at the Convention at Washington.

The Convention proceeded to the election of a Sergeant-at-Arms.

Mr. Potter nominated Mr. Isham Parmer, and there being no opposition, the President declared Mr. Parmer duly elected Sergeant-at Arms of the Convention.

Ed. Note: Isham Parmer was one of Martin Parmer and Sarah Hardwick Parmers sons. Isom Palmer, as he typically spelled his name in later years, had just returned from military duty in San Antonio where he had fought against the Mexicans at the Siege of Bexar. Note that there were two Palmer/Parmer relatives at Washington-on-the-Brazos. Isham Parmer, a bachelor at the time, was still residing with his father at this time. I am unaware of any other family being represented at the convention by two members of the same household.

It is interesting at this point in the war for Texas Independence to note that 23 year old year old Isom Palmer had fought in more battles for Texas Independence than Sam Houston had. The book, Republic of Texas Pension Application Abstracts, Austin Genealogical Society, Morgan Printing & Publishing, Inc., Austin , Texas, 1987, provides the following information regarding Isom Palmers military service:

"Isom Palmer, Madison Co. 30 Dec 1870, approved. Age 57. In Dec 1835 he served in Capt. John M. Bradley's company of Gen. Burleson's command at the siege of Bexar. He received a donation certificate of 640 acres.

Richard Williams, Montgomery Co., served with the applicant under Bradley and they were in the grass fight and siege together. Robert O. Lusk, Leon Co., affirmed service."

In 1902, William Physick Zuber wrote a letter to A.W. Morris, one of Martin Parmer's grandsons, outlining what information he knew regarding Martin Parmer and his family. Zuber, an amateur historian, outlined numerous incidents in the life of Martin Parmer which he had become aware of including Parmer's service as a delegate to the Convention at Washington in 1836. As an aside, he included the following information about Martin Parmer's son, Isom:

 

SKETCH OF ISOM PARMER

"Isom Parmer was the only one of the Martin Parmer's sons that served in the Texas army. In 1826 and 1827 he served under his father in the Fredonian army. In 1835 he served in the siege of Bexar in Capt. John M. Bradley's company and participated in the grass fight. This was his last military service. In February, 1836, he accompanied his father to Washington, and on March 1st was elected doorkeeper to the Convention. Before leaving home for Washington he purchased a very large, fine-looking horse, for which he paid four hundred Mexican silver dollars, and rode him to Washington. Later, I often saw that horse. He was a large, handsome animal, but I think not very nimble. General Houston having been re-elected commander-in-chief of the army, left Washington for Gonzales on the 6th of March, but he was sorrily mounted and wanted a better horse, and proposed to purchase Isom Parmer's fine gray, offering to pay to him the price that he had paid for the horse--four hundred Mexican silver dollars. Parmer prided very much in that horse and wished to keep him, to accommodate General Houston though, he accepted the offer, and his memory of this favor to Houston was always a pleasure to him. This was the horse that was killed under General Houston in the battle of San Jacinto. A few days later Judge Richard Ellis, president of the Convention, wished to send a dispatch by a safe messenger to San Augustine, and requested Isom Parmer to bear it. He promised to do so if he could purchase a suitable horse. He soon found one for which he paid the identical Mexican four hundred dollars which he had received from General Houston. Then he resigned his position as doorkeeper and bore the dispatch, and he always remembered this service also with pleasure.

I learned these facts from Isom Parmer himself."

Ed. Note: Underline added by Ed. to aid in locating sentence in paragraph. The above quote from W.P. Zuber's letter was taken from the Robert Bruce Blake Research Collection, Compiled in the Eugene C. Barker Texas History Center Archives Collection, 1958-1959, Volume LX, pages 58-57; located at the Clayton Library in Houston, Texas. The East Texas Research Center located at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, has the document Blake copied in its collection, "William Physick Zuber. Martin Parmer (Palmer) Manuscript," 1Vol. (A-103). For more information, see at http://libweb.sfasu.edu/etrc/COLLECT/manscrpt/Parmain.htm on the Internet.

William Physick Zuber is best known for his article on the escape of Moses Rose from the Alamo, published in the 1873 Texas Almanac. The original report of Travis line in the sand at the Alamo came from this 1873 article. Zuber was also the last surviving veteran of the army of San Jacinto.

On motion of Mr. Parmer,

Resolved, That the President appoint a committee of three to wait upon Governor Henry Smith, Lieutenant Governor Robinson, and Council, and notify them of the formation of the Convention.

And the question being taken thereon, it was decided in the affirmative: whereupon the President appointed Messr. Parmer, Houston, and Coleman, said committee.

Ed. Note: The Mr. Houston on the above referenced committee is Sam Houston. Martin Parmer and Sam Houston were interesting choices for this committee. According to the minutes of the convention the committee was supposed to notify the remnants of the Provisional Government of Texas that the Convention had begun. The Provisional Government was the first Texas government and was formed at San Felipe de Austin in November1835 at the Consultation. Martin Parmer had been a delegate to the Consultation of 1835 and had in fact nominated Henry Smith as the first American born Governor of Texas. Parmer had been elected to the General Council of the Provisional Government, a position he resigned from on December 3, 1835.

The Provisional Government had been a colossal failure. A gigantic rift had developed between Governor Henry Smith and the General Council. Lt. Governor James Robinson attempted to rest power from Smith as chief executive at the head of the ever shrinking General Council. Both Smith and Robinson claimed to be in charge of the Provisional Government at the same time issuing uncoordinated, conflicting and often countermanding orders to the military and others. General Sam Houston had had many problems dealing with the Provisional Government for this reason.

Politically what was happening was that the Governor Henry Smith, Lt. Governor James Robinson and the General Council were all being fired. Even though the Provisional Government was in shambles it did not go without some resistence. As we shall see below.

______________________________________________________________________________

Wednesday, March 2, 1836

On motion of Mr. Potter,

Resolved, That a committee be appointed consisting of one member from each municipality represented in the Convention, for the purpose of drafting a Constitution for Texas, and that the same be reported as soon as practical to this Convention.

And the question being taken thereon, it was decided in the affirmative; whereupon the President appointed Messrs. Parmer, Potter, Stewart, Waller, Grimes, Coleman, Fisher, Bunton, Gaines, Zavala, Everrett, Hardeman, Stepp, Crawford, West, Powers, Navarro, Mc Kinney, Menifee, Mottley, and Menard, said committee.

Ed. Notes: Martin Parmer was the Chairman of the committee to draft the Constitution of the Republic of Texas. Though repeatedly overlooked in history books for over 165 years, this fact appears repeatedly in the Journals of the Convention as we shall see below.

The significance of a written Constitution for a democratically elected representative republic to exist cannot be over emphasized. It is the very framework supporting an effective government. As an example, the Provisional Government of Texas had no real Constitution and had all but disintegrated due to a lack of understanding and guidance as to what the powers of each officer and official in the Provisional Government were to be. The importance of a Constitution was clearly recognized by the Convention. The constitutional committee was selected on March 2, 1836 even before the Texas Declaration of Independence from Mexico was read or adopted.

 

On Motion of Mr. Collinsworth,

The Convention resolved itself into a committee of the whole upon the report of the committee on the Declaration of Independence, Mr. Collinsworth in the chair.

And after some time spent therein, on the motion of Mr. Houston,

The committee rose, and Mr. Collinsworth reported that the committee of the whole had had under consideration the report of the committee on the Declaration of Independence, and had instructed him to report the same with the following caption:

"The unanimous Declaration of Independence made by the Delegates of the People of Texas, in General Convention at the town of Washington, on the 2nd day of March, 1836."

On motion of Mr. Houston,

Resolved, That the Declaration of Independence, reported by the committee of the whole house, be engrossed and signed by the Delegates of the Convention.

And the question being taken thereon, it was unanimously adopted.

On motion of Mr. Goodrich,

Resolved, That five copies of the Declaration of Independence be prepared, and one sent forthwith to Bexar, one to Goliad, one to Nacogdoches, one to Brazoria and one to San Felipe, and that the printer at San Felipe be requested to print, in handbill form, for distribution, one thousand copies, and that a committee of three be appointed to carry the above resolution into effect.

And the question being decided in the affirmative; whereupon the President appointed Messrs. Goodrich, Parmer and Byrom said committee

Ed. Note: The Texas Declaration of Independence was not signed on March 2, 1836 as most would believe. It was adopted on that date and we have celebrated Texas Independence Day on March 2 ever since.

In an effort to insure its survival, five original copies were to be prepared. The five original copies of the Declaration of Independence were not signed until the next day, March 3, 1836, due to B. B. Goodrich's motion for the preparation of the five original copies. It was probably a very good idea in the end that the committee of B. B. Goodrich, Martin Parmer and John S. D. Byrom spent the afternoon and evening of March 2, 1836 preparing the copies, as only one copy has survived.

What became of the other four copies is unknown. According to the Handbook of Texas Online, the one surviving copy "was deposited with the United States Department of State in Washington, D.C., and was not returned to Texas until some time after June 1896. In 1929 the original document was transferred from the office of the secretary of state to the Board of Control to be displayed in a niche at the Capitol, where it was unveiled on March 2, 1930."

The copy of the Declaration of Independence on display in the State Capital is a color photocopy of the original which is kept in a dark climate controlled room in the State Library and Archives in Austin to prevent its further fading. The "original " Declaration of Independence was on display in the Texas Treasures Room of the Capitol Visitors Center located at 112 E. 11th Street (southeast corner of the Capitol grounds) in the restored 1856-57 General Land Office Building for a short time this year. Arguably the most significant document in Texas history, the Texas Declaration of Independence had not been publicly displayed since the sesquicentennial in 1986.

Martin Parmer signed the Texas Declaration of Independence from Mexico. His signature is found as the third signature below that of Sam Houstons.

It is important note, this was the second time Martin Parmer had declared the region known as Tejas or Texas independent from Mexico. The first time was in Nacogdoches in1826 during the short lived Fredonian Rebellion as President of the Fredonian Republic. The second time was the charm. Though the Fredonian Republic had been short lived, the new Republic of Texas and its successor, the State of Texas, would last as we have seen into the next millennium.

Another important note is that of the confusion in the spelling of Martin Parmers name in various history books. Some books refer to him as Martin Parmer and some books refer to him as Martin Palmer. Is it Palmer or Parmer?

Martin Parmer was born Martin Palmer in 1778 in Virginia. As an adult, he changed the spelling to Parmer for as yet unknown reasons. I have discovered one document in Texas where his name is spelled Palmer in the document and he signed the document with his Parmer signature. In Martin Parmer's 1835 Mexican land grant, his name is given as Martin Palmer and the signature is signed Martin Parmer. This Martin Parmer signature on the Mexican land grant is the same signature Martin Parmer uses in signing the Texas Declaration of Independence in March of 1836. Martin Parmer or Parma (sometimes Pama), as Mexican documents phonetically spelled his name, was a wanted man from the beginning of the Fredonian Rebellion in 1826 on. Some have speculated that he was eventually pardoned, but I have never seen such a pardon.

Martin Parmer, a wanted man in Mexico, manages to obtain a Mexican land grant from the Mexican Government for an entire league of land from Mexican land empresario, Lorenzo de Zavalas Grant, on February 28,1835. This is the same Lorenzo de Zavala who was also a delegate to the Texas independence convention at Washington with Parmer just one a year later. I speculate that to get his land grant, Martin Parmer, had switched the spelling of his last name back to Palmer perhaps to fool the Mexican officials. It is interesting to see both Palmer and Parmer names on a single document.

You can obtain a full color photocopy of Mexican land grants from the Texas General Land Office which are almost identical to the original on file for a very reasonable copy fee. Martin Parmer's Mexican land grant is found in the "Archives and Records Division, Spanish Collection: Box 54 Folder 47" of the Texas General Land Office, David Dewhurst Commissioner, Stephen F. Austin Building, 1700 North Congress Avenue, Austin Texas, 78701-1495.

Most of Martin Parmer's children used the Palmer spelling as adults instead of the Parmer spelling as can be seen from numerous land deeds and other county and military records.

______________________________________________________________________________

THURSDAY, March 3rd, 1836

On motion of Mr. Everitt,

Resolved, That a committee of three be appointed by the president of the House, to call upon the late Governor Smith, the late Lieutenant Governor Robinson, and the late acting council, that they be requested to deliver up to them all documents or papers in anywise connected with the late provisional Government, and inform them that their functions as provisional officers ceased on the first day of March.

Ed Note: At this point, Parmer, Houston and Coleman had not yet met with the Provisional Government. The committee of Parmer, Houston and Coleman would not meet with the Provisional Government until March 4,1836, three days after their original appointment. These men had been very busy since their appointment on March 1, 1836 as we have seen above and this probably explains the delay.

The Convention was making their position very clear at this point with this resolution. The committee was now to advise the members of the provisional government of three important facts, (1) the Convention had been assembled and convened, (2) the papers and documents of the Provisional Government were to be turned over to the Convention and (3) the Provisional Government ceased to exist on the first day of March, 1836 when the Convention began. It appears that Martin Parmer may have been chairman of the committee as he was its spokesman and he delivered the committees report to the Convention later on March 4, 1836.

Messrs. Houston, Collinsworth and Thomas were added to the committee appointed to draft a constitution.

Ed. Note: As noted before, Martin Parmer was the Chairman of this committee.

On his committee was Sam Houston. His time on the committee would be short. Houston would be appointed Commander in Chief of the "Texian" Army the next day on March 4, 1836 and he would leave Washington on March 6,1836. Later, he would be President of the Republic of Texas two times, a United States Senator from Texas and Governor of Texas.

Lorenzo de Zavala, who would go on to become be the first Vice President of the Provisional Government of Republic of Texas was also a member of the committee.

Another member of the committee, Charles B. Stewart, had already been the first Secretary of State of Texas under the Provisional Government and he is later credited by some historians with designing the "Lone Star" flag of Texas in 1839 which flew over the Republic of Texas and flies over the State of Texas to this day.

It was C. B. Stewart to whom was attributed the following quote regarding Martin Parmer on page 149 of Sam Houston Dixons book, The Men Who Made Texas Free, "Mr. Parmer," said Mr. Stewart, "gave an interesting account to his friends at Old Washington in 1836 of his escape from San Antonio. He was a wonderfully fascinating talker and his recital of this even greatly amused those who heard him. He was a man absolutely without fear and held Mexicans in contempt."

James Gaines was on the committee as well. Now on the same side as Martin Parmer in rebelling against Mexico, he had sided with Mexico in 1826-1827 during the Fredonian Rebellion. Martin Parmer had issued a bounty for the capture of James Gaines in 1826, "dead or alive."

______________________________________________________________________________

 

 

Council Hall, Washington,

March 4th, 1836

Nine oclock, A.M.

The Council met pursuant to adjournment.

A committee from the Convention (in session at this place) consisting of Messrs. Parmer, Houston and Coleman, came in and through Mr. Parmer verbally informed the Council that the convention had assembled and were organized.

To which the president replied verbally, "that the members of the council were ready to deliver their archives to any government that might be established by the convention, or to any person authorized by that body to receive them, and begged the committee to return thanks to the Convention for their attention, &c.

 

Ed. Note: The minutes bolded above are from the Journal of the Proceedings of the General Council, from Gammel, Laws of Texas, Vol. I, Houston, Texas, 1839; Austin, 1898.

The Provisional Government as can be seen from the above Journal entry was not going to go without some resistence. We see the General Council acknowledge in the Journal of the Proceedings of the General Council facts number (1) and (2) were conveyed by Parmer. The minutes would have us believe that Martin Parmer in the presence of Sam Houston and R. M. Coleman on the day after they had received specific instructions from the Convention with regard to the message to be communicated, forgot or omitted to mention the single most important point, that the Provisional Government had ceased to exist on March 1, 1836. This is to unlikely to be true.

From the Journals of the Convention we have the following minutes,

FRIDAY, March 4, 1836

Mr. Parmer, from the committee to whom was assigned the duty to inform the Governor Henry Smith, and the Lt. Govr. Robinson and Council, and notify them of the formation of the Convention beg leave that the committee have performed the duties assigned to them: and

On motion of Mr. Parmer,

The Report was received and agreed to.

Ed. Note: Parmer, Houston and Coleman must have been made to believe that the Provisional Government had understood all of their messages for here we have Martin Parmer reporting back to the Convention the same day with no problems of any kind being mentioned. As we saw above the March 4, 1836 entry in the Journal of the Proceedings of the General Council intentionally omitted the single most important piece of information provided to them - that the Provisional Government had ceased to exist on March 1, 1836. As we shall see below, the General Council would not begin to acknowledge this point until March 8, 1836.

The Convention would proceed as though the Provisional Government of Texas no longer existed.

Immediately after this report was made by Martin Parmer, Sam Houston was appointed:

"Commander in Chief of all land forces of the Texian Army...that he forthwith proceed to take command, establish head quarters and organize the army accordingly."

Following Houstons appointment as Commander in Chief,

Mr. Parmer moved that they adjourn until nine oclock on Monday next, and urged the propriety of the time mentioned, as there were two very important committees, composed of a majority of the house, and to give them time to make their report: he hoped the house would adjourn until that time.

And the question being taken, it was agreed to, and so the house adjourned unto Monday, nine oclock.

Ed. Note: However the working weekend was interrupted by the desperate dispatch from Col. Travis at the Alamo.

SUNDAY, March 6, 1836.

The President called the Convention together, and informed them that he had received by express letter from Colonel W. Barrett Travis, Commandant of the Alamo, at Bejar de San Antonio, which required the immediate action of the Convention. The letter being read by the secretary, was as follows, to wit:

Commandancy of the Alamo,

Bejar, March 3rd, 1836

Sir: In the present confusion of political authorities of the country, and in the absence of the commander-in-chief, I beg leave to communicate to you the situation of this garrison. You have doubtless already seen my official report of the action of the twenty-fifth ult., made on that day to Gen. Sam. Houston, together with the various communications heretofore sent by express, I shall therefore confine myself to what has transpired since that date.

From the twenty-fifth to the present date, the enemy have kept up a bombardment from two howitzers, (one a five and a half inch and the other an eight inch,) and a heavy cannonade from two long nine pounders, mounted on a battery on the opposite side of the river, at distance of four hundred yards from our walls. During this period the enemy have been busily employed in encircling us with entrenched encampments on all sides at the following distance, to wit: In Bejar, four hundred yards west; in lavillita, three hundred yards south; at the powder house, one thousand yards east by south; on the ditch, eight hundred yards north east, at the old mill, eight hundred yards north. Notwithstandig all this, a company of thirty-two men from Gonzales, made their way into us on the morning of the first inst. At three oclock, and Colonel J. B. Bonham (a courier from Gonzales) got in this morning at eleven oclock, without molestation. I have fortified this place, so that the walls are generally proof against cannon balls; and I still continue to entrench on the inside, and strengthen the walls by throwing up dirt. At least two hundred shells have fallen inside our works without having injured a single man; indeed we have been so fortunate as not to loose a man from any cause, and we have killed many of the enemy. The spirits of our men are still high, although they have had much to depress them. We have contended for ten days against an enemy whose numbers are variously estimated from fifteen hundred to six thousand men, with General Ramier Siesma and Colonel Batris, the aid de camp of Santa Anna, at their head. A report was circulated that Santa Anna himself was with the enemy, but I think it was false. A reinforcement of about one thousand men is now entering Bejar, from the west, and I think it more than probable that Santa Anna is now in the town, from the rejoicing we hear.

Col. Fannin is said to be on the march to this place with reinforcements, but I fear it is not true, as I have repeatedly sent to him for aid without receiving any. Col. Bonham, my special messenger, arrived at La Bahia fourteen days ago, with a request for aid; and on the arrival of the enemy in Bejar, ten days ago, I sent an express to Colonel F., which arrived at Goliad on the next day, urging him to send us reinforcements; none have yet arrived. I look to the colonies alone for aid; unless it arrives soon, I shall have to fight the enemy on his own terms. I will however do the best I can under the circumstances; and I feel confident that the determined valor and desperate courage, heretofore exhibited by my men, will not fail them in the last struggle; and although they may be sacrificed to the vengeance of a Gothic enemy, the victory will cost the enemy so dear, that it will be worse for him than a defeat. I hope your honorable body will hasten on reinforcements, ammunition, and provisions to our aid as soon as possible. We have provisions for twenty days for the men we have. Our supply of ammunition is limited. At least five hundred pounds of cannon powder, and two hundred rounds of six, nine, twelve and eighteen pound balls, ten kegs of rifle powder and a supply of lead, should be sent to the place without delay, under sufficient guard.

If these things are promptly sent, and large reinforcements are hastened to this frontier,

this neighborhood will be the great and decisive ground. The power of Santa Anna is to be met here, or in the colonies; we had better meet them here than suffer a war of devastation to rage in our settlements. A blood red banner waves from the church of Bejar, and in the camp above us, in token that the war is one of vengeance against rebels; they have declared us as such; demanded that we should surrender at discretion, or that the garrison should be put to the sword. Their threats have had no influence on me or my men, but to make all fight with desperation, and that high souled courage which characterises the patriot, who is willing to die in the defence of his countrys liberty and his honor.

The citizens of this municipality are all our enemies, except those who have joined us heretofore. We have but three Mexicans now in the fort; those who have not joined us, in this extrimity, should be declared public enemies, and their property should aid in paying the expenses of the war.

The bearer of this will give your honorable body a statement more in detail, should he escape through the enemys lines.

God and Texas - Liberty or Death.

Your obedient servant,

W. BARRET TRAVIS, Lieut. Col. Comm.

P.S. The enemys troops are still arriving, and reinforcements will probably amount to two or three thousand. T.

 

Ed. Note: By the time this letter was read to the Convention on March 6, 1836, the Alamo had fallen and all of its defenders were dead including Colonel Travis. The final battle of the Alamo began at 5:00 A.M. on March 6, 1836, and lasted 90 minutes. No one at the Convention was aware of the fall of the Alamo. In fact, Houston would leave the Convention on March 6, 1836, shortly after the letter was read to go to Travis's aid. Upon his arrival in Gonzales, he would find out that the Alamo had fallen and begin his retreat. The Convention would not know that the Alamo had fallen until nine days later on March 15,1836 when a letter was received from General Sam Houston.

It is important to note Traviss very first line which reads, "In the present confusion of political authorities of the country,..." We can see the immediate importance of "firing" the Provisional Government and moving along with some more organized and functional form of government at this time of crises. When Travis died at the Alamo, he had no idea who was in charge of the government of Texas.

On motion of Mr. Parmer,

Resolved, That one thousand copies of Colonel W. Barrett Traviss letter be printed in hand bill form by the editors, Messrs. Baker and Bordens, of San Felipe.

And the question being taken thereon, it was decided in the affirmative.

On March 6, 1836, Martin Parmer penned the following letter to his wife:

From the New Orleans "True American"

Natchitoches, 15th March, 1836

Editor of the True American.

Sir: I send the copy of a letter received this morning by express from Texas. In haste, &c.

Committee room, Washington, Texas, March 6th, 1836.

Dear wife: I am well and we are getting along very well. We have three or four committees who are preparing a constitution, and we will soon have it ready. I shall be at home in ten or fifteen days, we have alarming news continually from the west; Frank Johnsons division is all killed but five, it is supposed. We saw two shot begging for quarters. Dr. Grant with a company of men is supposed to be all slain.

Travis last express states San Antonio was strongly besieged; it is much feared that Travis and company are all massacred, as despatches have been due from that place three days and none have arrived yet. The frontiers are breaking up, Gonzales must be sacked, and its inhabitants murdered and defiled unless they get immediate aid. The last accounts, the Mexicans were to a considerable number between Gonzales and San Antonio. Fanning is at La Badia with about 500 hundred men, and is in daily expectation of a visit from Santa Anna. Texas has been declared free and independent, but unless we have a general turn out and every man lay his helping hand too, we are lost. Santa Anna and his vassals are now in our borders, and the declaration of our freedom, unless it is sealed with blood, is of no force. I say again that nothing will save Texas but a general turn out. You all know my views with regard to our condition; I have given you the facts, judge for yourselves. I wish a copy of this letter sent immediately to capt. Bailey Anderson and col. S.A. Lublett, and publicly read in San Augustine. Travis closes his last express with these words - Help! O my country.

MARTIN PALMER

To the committee of vigilance and safety, San Augustine, Texas.

This letter was taken from the Niles Weekly Register, Baltimore, April 9, 1836, p.99. Parmer must have written this letter before the last express from Travis was received as he specifically states "despatches have been due from that place three days and none have arrived here yet." Therefore, Parmer must have been referring to the February 24, 1836 express (the "Victory or Death" letter) from Travis when he refers to "Travis last express." Further, he writes, "Travis last express states San Antonio was strongly besieged." The February 24, 1836 express from Travis begins, "[i] am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna." Parmer is clearly not referring to the March 3, 1836 letter.

Note: The misspellings in the March 6, 1836 Parmer letter are as they appeared in the April 9, 1836 edition of the Niles Weekly Register. The line "[w]e saw two shot begging for quarters" should probably read "[h]e saw two shot begging for quarters" given the context. "Fanning" should be "Fannin" and "La Badia" should be "La Bahia." "S.A. Lublett" should be "S.A. Sublett."

______________________________________________________________________________

Tuesday, March 8, 1836

The President laid before the Convention a communication from the late Lieut. Govr. Robinson, which being read by the Secretary, was as follows:

Executive Department of Texas,

Washington, March 4, 1836

To the Honl. the President,

and Members of the Convention:

Gentlemen,-- Having been called upon by the constituted authorities of the country, to exercise the power, and discharge the duties of Governor, according to the second article of the organic law, which I have complied with much against my own inclination, but in obedience to what I conceived to be my paramount duty as Lieutenant Governor, the governor being suspended by the competent authority. The right and authority under which I exercised this power, and performed these duties, having been called in question, and made the foundation of, and the excuse for disobedience of orders in some instances, and doubt and indecision in many, very many, highly respectable citizens, to the manifest injury of our beloved country; and not wishing to claim powers not clearly delegated, and unquestionably given by the laws of the land, and sustained by the people of free and independent Texas, I have presented the subject before you. For your consideration and decision, and will bow with pleasure to whatever conclusion you may arrive. I know the tenacity with which the human heart usually clings to power, and the exercise of a little brief authority; but for myself I do unhesitatingly say that it was with great reluctance that I entered upon the discharge of the gubernatorial duties, and I assure you that I will retire from this situation to the tented field, where I hope to render some service, however humble as a private soldier, and I trust I will meet every freeman who will be spared from other public service. In this her hour of peril and danger, Texas will not find me wanting in devotion to her interest and honor, and this pledge I am now ready to redeem with my life.

Although I entertain no doubt of my right and duty to act as the Executive of the Country and, in the words of a distinguished statesman of the Land of Washington, "I challenge the test of talents and of time" in regard to the purity of my intentions in the administration of the government. The course I have pursued is marked, clear and onward. In the last Convention to the best of my abilities, independence, and nothing but independence had my unqualified support; and every days experience since that time satisfies me that a declaration of that kind ought to have made, and any other declaration now, would utterly blast and destroy with a fated mildew, the hopes of the friends of the country, here and elsewhere. Yet for Texas I am, and ever have been, ready to make any sacrifice in my power to offer, but that of honor and my oath of office.

Permit me therefore to request your honorable body, so to organise, constitute and remodel the Provisional Government, as to restore harmony, promote union, provide for the common defence and general welfare; and that the public interest may not be prejudiced or injured by the present unhappy state of dissention and disunion.

Allow me to urge upon you the necessity of doing so with as little delay as your imperative and urgent duties will permit, and I would respectfully say, that I hold my official papers at the disposition of the Convention.

We are now invaded by a ruthless enemy, who gives no quarters, and conscious that a moment ought not be lost in meeting and repelling him. I will not attempt an argument of the question of the propriety of such an organization; it must be too plain a proposition to need it; and there is neither the time nor place for cold debate; but the times call for prompt and energetic action.

The kindness of friends, the confidence reposed, and the duty I owe my country will not permit me to say less, and the urgent and imploring call of our invaded homes will not allow me longer to tresspass upon your valuable time, that can otherwise be profitably appropriated.

That Harmony may prevail in your councils, throughout all your arduous labors, as it has in making an unqualified declaration of Independence, and the formation of a Constitution thereon for our Government may be the happy result, is the sincere hope of your

Fellow citizen,

JAMES W. ROBINSON.

Ed. Note: It would appear from its date of March 4, 1836, that James W. Robinson either spent four days writing this lengthy carefully worded letter or at the very least, spent four days delivering it to the Convention. The letter indicates that Robinson was in fact in the tiny town of Washington. Why then the delay? Immediately thereafter, we find this correspondence from the General Council of the Provisional Government to the Convention.

The President laid before the Convention a communication from John McMullen, the late President pro-tem of the late General Council, Alexander Thompson and G.A. Patillo, which being read by the Secretary was as follows.

Council Room

Washington, March 8, 1836

To the Honl. the President and members of the Convention:

The undersigned members of the General Council, have understood, from some source, that the verbal notice given us a few days since by a committee of your honorable body, that "the Convention were organized," was deemed a sufficient announcement that the powers of the provisional Govt. had ceased. This, from our understanding of the organic Law, we did not think to be the case, nor that we could be relieved without some declaration on the part of the Convention; accordingly, we replied verbally to your Committee, that we were ready to deliver the archives of the General Council into the hands of the Convention, or any authority acting as a Government, provisional or otherwise.

The unfortunate difficulties that arose between the different branches of the provisional government, of which it is unnecessary to speak of at this time, in some measure crippled its operations and prevented it from acting with that energy so necessary in a crisis like the present. This state of things, we expect, would induce the convention to organize immediately, some temporary authority to meet the present exigencies of the country.

We would not suppose that the convention superseded the provisional government, without some declarations on their part of such fact; if it is so deemed by your honorable body, or any authority is designated to receive the archives, we are ready to deliver them, and with pleasure return to our homes and the field.

John McMullen,

Prest. Pro tem of the Gen. Council.

Alex. Thompson,

G. A. Patillo.

On Motion of Mr. Parmer,

The communications were referred to the committee on public documents.

Ed. Note: With regard to the Provisional Governments slow response to the Convention, the following events had transpired prior to these March 8, 1836 communications:

(1) a Constitution was being drafted by a committee of the Convention since March 2, 1836,

(2) the Republic of Texas had declared independence from Mexico on March 2, 1836,

(3) a member of the committee, Sam Houston, which informed them the Provisional Government was "fired" had been made Commander in Chief of the army of the Republic of Texas on March 4, 1836,

(4) Travis last letter from the Alamo had been received on March 6, 1836 advising of Santa Anas presence in Texas and the Alamos imminent fall; and

(5) General Houston has gone to Traviss aid on March 6, 1836

The penny finally drops and we finally find the two letters above from the Provisional Government being received by the Convention in the Journals of the Convention.

The Lt. Governor and the General Council originally resisted by claiming that they had understood that they had merely been informed of the formation of the Convention and claimed to have failed to understand that the Convention was taking over the reigns of Government. It finally got too embarrassing for them to resist the Convention anymore. Robinsons own words explain their resistance best, "I know the tenacity with which the human heart clings to power, and the exercise of a little brief authority:..." In a rather petty display, for all their promises very few archives of the Provisional Government were tendered. What records that were tendered were tendered very slowly and/or grudgingly.

 

______________________________________________________________________________

WEDNESDAY, March 9, 1836

Mr. Parmer, chairman of the committee appointed to draft a constitution, made the following report:

(Martin Parmer then presented the draft of the Constitution of the Republic of Texas)

On motion of Mr. Parmer, the report was received.

Ed. Note: The report is over thirteen pages long as reported in Gammels Laws of Texas and is by far the longest single report made by anyone during the entire the Convention.

______________________________________________________________________________

SUNDAY, (March 12, 1836)

Mr. Parmer chairman of the Com. on the constitution asked and obtained leave to make a further report on the Constitution: the same on motion was received.

Mr. Parmer, chairman of the Constitutional Com. asked that the Com. be discharged: which was granted

 

Ed Notes: Yet again we find Martin Parmer specifically identified as chairman of the Constitutional committee. If you have ever seen it in print outside of H. Taylor Pendly's book on Martin Parmer, I would love to see it.

The Journals of the Convention as printed by Gammel omit the date which from the chronology and day of the week would have to have been March 12, 1836. Therefore, I did not bold the date.

According to the Hand book of Texas Online, the Constitution of the Republic of Texas was ratified by a vote of the people of the Republic on the first Monday in September of 1836.

______________________________________________________________________________

 

TUESDAY, March 15,1836

On motion of Mr. Powers Resolved that a select committee of two be appointed to superintend expresses: - The President appointed Messrs. Parmer and Waller said Committee.

A letter from Genl. Sam Houston, announcing the fall of the Alamo, was read by the President.

______________________________________________________________________________

 

March 16, 1836

Wednesday Morning, 9 oclock

Mr. Parmer asked and obtained leave to be discharged from further attendance as a delegate of this Convention.

Ed. Note: Though Martin Parmer received permission to leave the Convention, his service to the Republic of Texas was by no means finished as we shall see shortly.

Mr. Isham Parmer Sergeant at Arms asked and obtained leave to be discharged, which was granted.

Ed. Note: According to William Zuber's letter to A. W. Morris it appears that Isom Parmer was sent by Richard Ellis, the President of the Convention, to deliver an important dispatch to San Augustine.

Mr. Rusk introduced the following resolution. - Resolved: That Col. Martin Parmer be, and he is hereby authorized to demand, receive, and dispose of as the exigencies of circumstances may require any and all public property, whether money, provisions, horses, waggons, and teams, arms and other munitions of war to be found within the Municipalities of Nacogdoches, or of San Augustine, giving the corresponding receipts, and that he be also: fully authorized within said municipalities to make requisitions for, horses waggons and teams, arms and other munitions of war not the property of the public, as may be needful for the efficient equipment and sustenance of the army, or any portion thereof, rendering the proper vouchers to individuals and being accountable to the Government for what he may do in pursuance of this Constitution. - Which was adopted.

Ed. Notes: As Dr. H. Taylor Pendley has been fond of saying in jest, Martin Parmer was "the only duly appointed horse thief in Texas." The Army of the Republic of Texas needed provisions and supplies of every kind and the only man the Convention put its faith in to supply them was Martin Parmer.

From his March 17, 1836 entry pages 134 -135 of the Diary of Col. Wm. Fairfax Gray we have the following report of Martin Parmer having actually confiscated a horse from its owner.

"The houses and grounds around were fully occupied by a number of families, moving from the other side of the Brazos, who had encamped here, or rather bivouaced here. Among them was the wife of the late Lieutenant Governor. Robinson, who made loud complaints against Col. Parmer, who had pressed into public service her horse, which her husband, who was gone to the army had left for her to retreat upon. She was now afoot, and in her indignation she said she would be durned if she did not take the first horse she could find."

Ed. Note: Over all, this had been a bad couple of weeks for the Robinson family with regard to their dealings with Martin Parmer as a representative of the new Texas government. On March 4, 1836, Parmer and the committee he chaired had fired Lt. Governor Robinson and the rest of the Provisional government and now Martin Parmer had confiscated his wifes horse for the use of the Texas army. To say the least, I dont think I am going too far out on a limb here to predict that no record of Martin Parmer being invited to the James W. Robinson family home as a guest will ever be found.

______________________________________________________________________________

March 17, 1836

According to the date on the printed version of the Constitution of the Republic of Texas found in Gammels Laws of Texas, the Constitution was adopted and signed on March 17, 1836. When the Constitution was adopted does not actually appear in the Journals of the Convention. One thing is sure. Some of the people credited with signing the Constitution were clearly no longer present at Washington on March 17, 1836. Most notable and obvious examples would have to be Martin Parmer and Sam Houston. Houston had left the Convention on March 6,1836 in an effort to get to Travis's aid in San Antonio and Parmer had left the Convention on March 16, 1836. I have been unable to find the handwritten signed original to confirm. I have only seen "official" printed copies which bear the March 17, 1836 date and Parmer's typeset signature.

 

Ed. Note: The Constitution of the Republic of Texas approved by the Convention at Washington on March 17, 1836 was ratified by a vote of the people of the republic on the first Monday in September 1836 and served the people of the Republic of Texas until Statehood in 1846. Martin Parmer was chairman of the committee, of this there can be no doubt from the minutes of the Journals of the Convention. Martin Parmer was chairman of the committee that drafted the Constitution of a country, a republic, which was free and independent for almost ten years.

The Convention at Washington ended on March 17, 1836.

Ed. Note: A reading of the Journals of the Convention at Washington reveals numerous other motions were made by Col. Parmer during the Convention. Most of these motions were not deemed significant enough to mention in the short length of this paper. Most of the other motions took the form of motions to adjourn or recognize late arriving members of the convention as delegates, etc.

Final Observation

And finally we have this quote from page 154 of Sam Houston Dixons book, The Men Who Made Texas Free. "In discussing the general characteristics of the delegates to the Convention at Old Washington, Col. Stephen W. Blount said:

"Martin Parmer was of a nervous temperament. He had a stubborn and determined will and showed impatience of delays. Many interesting stories were told of his prowess among the Indians. He was an interesting talker and was frequently seen in the midst of an admiring group, relating incidents of his adventures. He was a unique character but with all he was a man with the best of impulses - honest, brave and heroic.""

So in the end Martin Parmer may have even preferred his Indian stories when time allowed even during those very chaotic days in March of 1836. When he found the time to tell them, I will never be able to conceive. Most of the Indian stories are now long forgotten or have become greatly fictionalized in their retelling and reprinting. I will always prefer the Washington-on-the-Brazos stories recorded in the Journals of the Convention preserved in writing as they happened and how Martin Parmer's political activities during those seventeen days in March of 1836 actually changed the history of Texas forever.

Synopsis of Martin Parmer's Activities

at Washington on the Brazos

Chairman of the Committee that approved the credentials of the delegates to the Convention at Washington.

Chairman of the Committee assigned the task of "firing" the Governor, Lt. Governor and General Council of the Provisional Government of Texas.

Son, Isom Palmer, was elected the Sergeant-at-Arms of the convention and sold Sam Houston the horse which was killed under Houston at the Battle of San Jacinto.

Signed the Texas Declaration of Independence from Mexico.

Member of the committee which prepared the final five original copies of the Texas Declaration of Independence, only one of which is known to have survived.

Chairman of the Committee which prepared the draft of the Constitution of the Republic of Texas.

Present when the last dispatch received from Travis at the Alamo was read to the Convention the day the Alamo fell.

Authorized by the Convention to press into service any property both public and private for the use of the military. Martin Parmer was the only citizen of the Republic given this extraordinary power by the Convention.

**************

Martin Parmer, "The Ring Tailed Panther," was 58 years old at the time of the Convention. He was one of the oldest delegates to the Convention. After the war, Martin Parmer would return home to manage his land holdings. Already the father of 11, he would father 5 more children after the Convention and serve as Chief Justice of Jasper County during the Republic of Texas. Martin Parmer died at the age of 72 on Texas Independence Day, March 2, 1850. His youngest child at the time was 2.

Martin Parmer Family Tree - Descendants, Ancestors and Collateral Lines

Martin Parmer in Primary and Secondary Sources

Texas History Page Blog

Texas History Page

Fredonian Declaration of Independence

http://houstontexastrafficticket.com/