On March 15, two fourth grade students from Blanco Elementary School were honored during the monthly meeting of the Blanco County Pioneers Chapter of Daughters of the Republic of Texas (DRT). The students had responded to the invitation extended to all fourth and seventh grade students in Blanco County to write an essay about William Berrett Travis or about his letter sent from the Alamo entitled “Victory or Death”. The essay contest was coordinated by June Hensley.
The winning essay was submitted by Jack Ryan Johnson. His parents, Terrell and Keitha Johnson and his sister Sidney, were present while Jack received a certificate and a $50 prize for his efforts.
The second place entry was submitted by fourth grader Avery Marie Nance, daughter of Tim and Lisa Nance. Avery was born October 20, 2003. Due to Spring Break, Avery was not able to be in attendance at the meeting but received her certificate and a $25 prize at her school on Monday, March 17. Avery lives on a ranch that has been in her family for 150 years. She enjoys her dog Minnie, her five cats and two horses. She plays softball, loves the piano and enjoys art. She wrote the essay in commemoration of the Travis “Victory or Death” letter. What survives of her prize money after a visit to Toys R Us will go into her college savings fund. Avery’s teacher is Mrs. Linda Miller and her writing teacher is Susan Villareal.
Jack was born March 29, 2004. He and his sister have a dog and a cat and he enjoys playing soccer. He expressed gratitude for his classroom teacher, Mrs. Laura Johnson, and his writing teacher, Ms. Susan Villareal. Jack was invited to read his essay to the assembled members of the DRT and their guests. In a strong and confident voice he read the following:
“His full name was William Barrett Travis. He was born on April 1, 1809. He was raised in South Carolina and moved to Alabama when he was nine. When he was twenty he moved to Texas and became a lawyer. William Travis joined the Texas Army in 1836. His wife got tired of waiting on him to come home then it happened. In 1836 he got divorced. He was now a part of the fight for Texas independence from Mexico. He signed his letters with ‘Victory or Death William Barrett Travis’, and signed another one with ‘God and Texas, William Barrett Travis’.
“He took pride in his appearance; he had his uniforms specially made. He was the elder of ten children. He opened a law office in Anahuac. He and his law partner were arrested for a prank. 160 men marched on the fort to free the men. People think this was the beginning of the Texas Revolution. This would make William B. Travis an important part of the beginning of the Texas Revolution.
“Alamo means cottonwood in Spanish. Jim Bowie and William Barrett Travis did not like each other. Each thought they should be the commander. They agreed to share the command and be joint leaders. After Bowie died, William B. Travis took over command of the Alamo. Santa Anna had many soldiers. Travis had 182 and was a goner. But Travis would not surrender. Travis wrote his famous letters for help. Travis said, ‘I shall never surrender or retreat. I am determined to . . . die like a soldier who never forgets his country.’
“Travis called all his men together and drew a line in the dirt and said, ‘You men are free to go but if you cross the line you will stay with me to the end.’ All but one crossed the line. On March 6th early in the morning Santa Anna attacked the Alamo. Travis’s men fought bravely but they were outnumbered. All the men in the Alamo were killed including William Travis, James Bowie, and Davey Crockett. William Barrett Travis had made his way into Texas history by his famous letters and his leadership at the Alamo. “Remember the Alamo!’” The audience erupted into applause.
When asked why he wrote the above essay, Jack responded without hesitation, “Because I love Texas!” He said that his fifty dollar prize was going into his savings account which was started for him when he was only three years old so that he will be ready for college when the time comes.
Any woman who can trace her heritage back to the Republic of Texas is eligible for membership in the DRT. Those who cannot meet that criterion but, like Jack, love Texas, may join as associate members by contacting Sherry Jenkins, DRT Pioneers Chapter President, at 830-868-2683.