IssuesMargaret Lea Houston, the First Lady of the Republic of Texas

This Mother's Day — read the story of Margaret Lea Houston, mother of eight and the first First Lady of the Republic of Texas.
May 10, 2020
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In celebration of Mother’s Day, loving, supportive, and selfless women are being honored around the country this weekend. Margaret Lea Houston, the beloved wife of Sam Houston and mother of eight children, didn’t seek a reputation for herself but endeavored to create a haven at home for her family. 

Not long before taking the oath to serve his second term as the president of the Republic of Texas, Sam Houston met a beautiful young woman at a party put on by her sister in Mobile in 1839.  Despite their twenty-six year age difference, they married 180 years ago on May 9, 1840, when Margaret was 21.

The young, educated woman loved drawing, sketching, and writing poetry, even having some published in journals and newspapers. The Houstons moved to Texas where Margaret began raising a family that would eventually grow to include eight children, most of whom she educated at home during their early years and later attended preparatory schools associated with Baylor University.

Margaret’s health often prevented her from traveling with her husband, especially while Sam was serving in the United States Senate. But husband and wife wrote fond letters to one another in which Margaret’s love of domestic life surrounded by her children was evident.  

Her eight children were no doubt impacted by their mother’s loving care and teaching, much of which was grounded in her deep religious faith.

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In 1843, the Houstons welcomed their first child, Sam Jr. He went on to serve in the Texas Infantry during the Civil War. Afterward, he became a doctor and even wrote a volume of adventure stories, despite his father’s disapproval of such light reading.

Nancy Elizabeth, or Nannie, was born in September of 1846 and Margaret wrote these poetic words about her, “Our eldest is an Autumn Bloom, just as the summer rose grew pale, She smiled upon our Woodland home, The brightest flower in the Vale.” 

Second daughter Margaret Lea was named for her mother and was said to resemble her looks, but was strong-willed like her father. During her time at Baylor Academy, her writing ability grew strong, and she soon became her father’s secretary.

Antoinette, or Nettie, was named after Margaret’s sister, at whose party Sam and Margaret had met. She enjoyed penning poetry as her mother had. In a poem she wrote about her parents’ love story, Nettie closed with these words: 

“Then my mother’s sweet face kindled proudly, 

And she said, in a low earnest voice,

‘When I married your father, my daughter,

Of the whole world, I wedded my choice.’”

Nettie was married to Dr. William Lorraine Bringhurst, who was the first doctor of philosophy on the campus of the Texas Agriculture and Mechanical College, now Texas A&M University.

The Houstons were eager to name a child after Sam’s friend and mentor, President Andrew Jackson. Andrew Jackson Houston made a mark of his own, serving for twenty years as superintendent of the San Jacinto Battlefield, where his father had led the Texian Army to defeat General Santa Anna and the Mexican troops in the final battle for Texas’ independence.

Andrew Jackson Houston was also appointed at age 87 by the Texas governor to fulfill an unexpired term in the United States Senate. He was the oldest man to sit in the Senate.  

The Houstons’ last two sons, William Rogers and Temple Lea, were both young when their mother died in 1867 of yellow fever. They went to live with their older sister Nancy.

Temple Lea Houston, the first child born in the Texas governor’s mansion, was said to be flamboyant and brilliant. He made his name on the west Texas frontier as a lawyer for cowboys, gunfighters, and cattle thieves. He also went on to serve in the Texas legislature.

Margaret Houston’s legacy influenced Texas in her day and even generations later through her grandchildren and even her great, great-granddaughter Jean Houston Baldwin Daniel, who also served as the first lady of Texas when her husband Price Daniel was governor.

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Kim Roberts

Kim Roberts

Kim Roberts is a reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.