Reborn on the Bayou: Magna Carta and English Common Law Return to Texas

by David A. Furlow

Editor's Note: The original article contains citation footnotes. To view or download the original article, click here. If you have trouble accessing the file, you can request a copy from the author by email.

Just after sundown, Sam Houston, the first elected president of the Republic of Texas, strode up the stairs to attend a grand cotillion in Houston City, the Republic’s new capital. Six feet, six inches tall and forty-three years old, eagle-eyed and courtly-mannered, Sam wore a black velvet suit braided with gold, a scarlet cassimere waistcoat, and a ruffled shirt. Silver spurs jangled from the heels of the tightly-laced, red-topped boots he wore, in place of dancing slippers, to strengthen the ankle a Mexican musket ball shattered exactly one year before, a few minutes after 3:30 PM on April 21, 1837, at the Battle of San Jacinto.

“[W]e had a grand San Jacinto ball,” twenty-one year old Francis Lubbock, later a governor of Texas, wrote many years later. “[A]nd it would have reflected credit on any one of the large cities of the United States on account of the great number attending, drawn for miles from the settled portions of the State, the many beautiful women present with their fine costumes and the many elegant looking young men handsomely dressed.”

Another San Jacinto veteran, General Mosely Baker, set aside his political differences with President Houston to permit his wife, Mrs. Eliza Ward Pickett Baker, to escort Sam to the first San Jacinto Ball. Eliza’s beauty and the fine black lace overdress she wore over her white satin ball gown won the admiration of the men in their evening coats, white silk cravats, gold-braided officers’ uniforms, ruffled shirts, and evening coats – and the envy of the ladies arrayed in wide hoop skirts, velvet ball gowns, and New Orleans finery.

The musicians raised their violin, bass viol, and fife to play Hail to the Chief when they saw Sam arrive. “The dancers withdrew to each side of the hall,” Adele Looscan wrote in THE LADIES MESSENGER, “and the whole party, General Houston and Mrs. Baker leading, and maids bringing up the rear, marched to the upper end of the room…. Then were the solemn figures of the stately cotillion executed with care and precision, the grave balancing steps, the dos a dos, and others to test the nimbleness and grace of dancers.”

Those who accompanied President Houston that night included not only future governor Francis Lubbock and his wife Adele but also the lively Miss Mary Jane Harris, President Houston’s personal attorney John Birdsall, whom Sam would soon appoint as Texas Attorney General on August 15 of that year, and Britain’s consular officer at Tampico, Mexico, Joseph Tucker Crawford, who was also responsible for monitoring the Lone Star Republic. Dancing lasted until dawn, and President Houston remained sober.

A new capital in a new city: Houston. Neither a roof nor a ceiling graced the unfinished, two-story, twenty by fifty foot ballroom President Houston and Mrs. Baker danced across on April 21, 1837. Like everything else in Houston City, both ballroom and building were new. Less than six months before the ball, on November 30, 1836, the Republic’s First Congress had selected Houston City, named after the President, to serve as the Republic’s new capital. Construction of the capitol building began on April 1, three weeks before Houston began tightly lacing his boots so he could waltz despite the ankle injury still healing from the San Jacinto battle.


Photographs by David A. Furlow, 2013

As a result of the Texas Revolution and the unsettled state of the Republic, the capital, also the home of the Texas Supreme Court, moved frequently from 1836 to 1845:
  • first, at Washington-on-the-Brazos, then at Harrisburg, and then at Galveston, each of which served as a temporary capital during the Revolution, from the Declaration of Independence on March 2, 1836 through April 21, 1836;
  • second, at Velasco, in Brazoria County, from April through September of 1836, while the Republic’s leaders kept General Santa Ana there;
  • third, at West Columbia, in Brazoria County, from October through December 1836;
  • fourth, at Houston, from 1837 through 1839, at what is now known as the Post Rice Lofts, formerly the Rice Hotel, at 909 Texas Avenue in downtown Houston;
  • fifth, at Waterloo, later renamed Austin in honor of Stephen F. Austin, in Travis County, from 1839 through 1842;
  • sixth, at Washington-on-the-Brazos, in Austin County, from 1843 through 1844; then
  • seventh, at Austin, which served as the Republic’s last capital in 1844 and 1845.

Austin became the state capital in 1846 by legislative decree, and, in 1850, by a majority of the popular vote in 1850. Austin remained the capital under the United States of America and the Confederate States of America.

In the four months from January 1, 1837 until May 1, 1837, the settlement first known as Houston City, then simply as Houston, grew from twelve residents, a few tents, and a single log cabin to Augustus Chapman Allen, John Kirby Allen, and Charlotte Allen’s burgeoning town of one thousand, five hundred people, one hundred houses, and Thomas H. Borden’s gridiron plat of broad streets running perpendicular and parallel to Buffalo Bayou.

“[T]he courts of justice performed their duty sternly and with good results,” Francis Lubbock wrote, attributing the success of the courts to the character of Houston’s settlers:
[F]rom the very first settlement of Houston we had good people, intelligent men, and elegant women of good breeding and fine culture....We soon had a good legal bar, with proper courts, learned physicians, good preachers, and intelligent school teachers.
“As Houston continued to grow rapidly,” Lubbock wrote, “we became ambitious and wanted a city. So Congress incorporated Houston as a city early in June, 1837.”

On December 15, 1836, while still seated in Columbia, in Brazoria County, the First Congress of the Republic enacted its first judiciary statute. It set judicial salaries and scheduled the term of the Texas Supreme Court to begin on the first Monday in December. Later congresses postponed the date the supreme court’s term began as Texans became familiar with the delays, checks, and balances inherent in any judicial system.

The first chief justice of the Supreme Court of Texas: James Collinsworth. President Houston soon chose James Collinsworth, a native of Tennessee and a former U.S. District Attorney, to serve as the Texas Supreme Court’s first Chief Justice. After moving to Texas, Collinsworth won honor at the Battle of San Jacinto and fame as an exemplar of “chivalrous conduct” in a report written by Texas Secretary of War Thomas J. Rusk to then-President Burnet.

Chief Justice Collinsworth would have presided over the first session of the Republic’s supreme court, in December of 1837, but the absence of a quorum forced the session’s cancellation. On July 11, 1838, Chief Justice Collinsworth fell into a drunken stupor on board a steamboat crossing Galveston Bay, then fell, or was pushed, or jumped into the bay in a fit of depression, and there drowned.

The second chief justice of the Supreme Court of Texas: John Birdsall. President Houston appointed John Birdsall, his friend from the San Jacinto Ball and later the Republic’s Attorney General, to replace James Collinsworth as the high court’s next chief justice. A close ally responsible for securing Sam’s divorce from his estranged Tennessee wife, John Birdsall was born in 1802 in Greene, New York, studied law, earned an appointment as Circuit Judge of New York’s Eighth District in 1824, and arrived in Harrisburg, Texas in early 1837.

But the Supreme Court of Texas did not convene during Chief Justice Birdsall’s one-month term, and a Senate dominated by supporters of the second president, Mirabeau B. Lamar, refused to confirm Houston’s appointment of Birdsall. John Birdsall returned to private life, joined Sam Houston as a law partner in 1837, and died of yellow fever on July 22, 1839. He is buried in Glendale Cemetery, in Harrisburg.

The limited rule of English common law begins in Texas. Another man who accompanied President Houston to the first San Jacinto Ball, British consular officer Joseph Tucker Crawford, noted the new republic’s decision to govern itself under English common law. During the Convention that began on March 1, 1836, the new nation’s leaders made the common law of England the law of Texas in criminal matters under Article VI of the DECLARATION WITH PLAN AND POWERS OF THE PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT OF TEXAS.

Section 13 of Article IV of the 1836 CONSTITUTION OF THE REPUBLIC OF TEXAS, adopted on September 8, 1836, required that,
The Congress shall, as early as practicable, introduce, by statute, the common law of England, with such modifications as our circumstances, in their judgment, may require; and in all criminal cases the common law shall be the rule of decision. Over time, substantive English common law, as interpreted in Texas and other American courts, would come to govern commerce in Texas, while English common law procedures would largely remain in England and while important categories of Castilian substantive and procedural law would carry on in Texas.
On December 20, 1836, while still the capital in Columbia, Texas, President Houston carried out his constitutional duties by signing an act adopting the common law of England, “as now practiced and understood ... in its application to juries and to evidence.

Nevertheless, Congress dragged its collective, spur-shod heels and did not adopt the common law of England into Texas civil law until January 20, 1840. That statute stated:
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the Republic of Texas, in Congress assembled,

That the Common Law of England, so far as it is not inconsistent with the Constitution or acts of Congress now in force, shall, together with such acts, be the rule of decision in this Republic, and shall continue in full force until altered or repealed by the Congress.
On February 5, 1840, Congress enacted another statute declaring that, “the adoption of the common law shall not be construed to adopt the common law system of pleading, but the proceedings in all civil suits shall, as heretofore, be conducted by petition and answer...”

Virgin soil, or a phoenix reborn? So Houston began, “planted on virgin soil – a town where none had ever been before, in a republic still in the process of taking shape,” as historian Marguerite Johnston observed in HOUSTON: THE UNKNOWN CITY, 1836-1946.

Except for two things. Largely unknown but for a small group of Houston archaeologists, historians, and preservationists, English common law did not wait until 1836 to come to the Bayou City and the Allen Brothers and President Sam Houston did not plant the Republic’s new capital on virgin soil.

In 1986, Dr. Kenneth L. Brown, Ph.D., Chairman of the University of Houston’s Anthropology Department, responded to Houston Fire Department inquiries about a construction worker’s discovery of graves during the expansion of HFD’s Logistical Center and Maintenance Depot at 1305 Dart Street. The graves did not come as a surprise. City leaders named Jeff Davis Hospital after the President of the Confederacy because building crews discovered, in 1924, that their construction activities were wrecking a cemetery for Confederate soldiers buried in the City’s Old 1840 Cemetery. The 1840 cemetery originally contained four separate sections: one for wealthy whites, another for African-Americans, a third for paupers, and a fourth for suicides and duelists. The City later made sections available for burial of many hundreds of Yellow Fever victims, Freemasons, and Confederate veterans.

Photographs of the site of the former English colony beneath the site of the Old 1840 City Cemetery, the first Jeff Davis Hospital, and a Houston Fire Department maintenance station, taken by David Furlow in December 2013.

The really interesting thing was not the Confederate graves but what lay deep beneath them. Dr. Brown excavated some forty “black earth” graves of plague victims buried deep beneath the expected Confederate graves in four parallel rows, uniformly spaced and laid out on a Christian east-west axis, with the corpse looking east toward Jerusalem. A deep black layer of organic material – leaves and earth – covered the badly decomposed bones of what appeared to be plague victims.

Louis F. Aulbach and Linda C. Gorski, the author of BUFFALO BAYOU: AN ECHO OF HOUSTON'S WILDERNESS BEGINNINGS and the President of the Houston Archaeological Society, respectively, noted that,
Ceramic pieces found in the black earth graves date from the 1600’s and are a type of ceramics used by English colonists of that period. The black earth graves were mandated by a law of the City of London in 1563 (rescinded in 1685) for persons who died of disease. The nature of the burial [without a coffin] was designed to accelerate decomposition and retard spread of disease.

Further excavations found that the graves were aligned within an area bound by a moat ten feet wide and ten feet deep that is similar to a colonial pattern found in Charleston, South Carolina and dating to the same period of English colonization.
In short, these graves, darker in color and different in texture from the Confederate burials, belonged neither to Indians nor Spaniards nor Frenchmen nor later Yellow Fever victims did not belong to Indians. And one dark earth grave contained several fragments of Rhenish storeware, ceramics exported by Germans to the Dutch who resold it to English settlers throughout seventeenth century America. The black earth graves most likely belonged to people who came from seventeenth century England.

Examination of topographical reports revealed that the site occupied the highest ground in the area bounded by the confluence of White Oak and Buffalo Bayous. A week ago I confirmed that even today, the site of the old Jeff Davis Hospital slopes steeply down toward the bayou. The unknown leaders who buried their comrades chose a hill site unlikely to flood and then fortified it with a deep with trench and two triangular bastions of the kind used at Jamestown, St. Mary’s City, Maryland and the Printzhof, the capital of the New Sweden colony, to deter or defeat a European enemy’s anticipated attack.

Dr. Brown, the Principal Investigator of Harris County’s Old Cemetery Project from 1986 to 1992, used a backhoe excavate a trench ten feet wide trench to determine what lay beneath the 1840 Old Cemetery. He employed core drillings to explore the surrounding area. Further digging revealed a ten foot wide by ten foot deep moat, the remains of a gun-platform palisade (a seventeenth century defensive fence made of palings, i.e., sharpened stockade poles), and mid seventeenth century pottery.

Additional research revealed that archaeologists from Texas A&M University had discovered the remains of a skinned, but not consumed buffalo carbon-dated to 1645 on nearby White Oak Bayou. Texas’ Indians consumed or otherwise used every part of a buffalo. But Europeans were principally interested in taking their fur.

The archaeology convinced Dr. Brown and his colleagues that English settlers came to Houston, bringing the common law to Texas with them long before the French and Spanish settled in the area. Marc Schneider published a map of the settlement in the Houston Chronicle showing it overlapping the Old Jeff Davis Hospital and the HFD maintenance depot at 1305 Dart Street. “As far as I’m concerned,” Dr. Brown told archaeologists in 1986, “we have a 17th-century English colony under a portion of downtown Houston.”

In short, some two centuries before Thomas Borden imposed a gridiron plat on the swampy lands lying along both sides of Buffalo Bayou, another group of English settlers came to build a settlement on the high ground later occupied by the City of Houston’s 1840 Cemetery and the old Jeff Davis Hospital at 1010 Girard and Elder Street, a site occupied by the Elder Street Artists Lofts, a renovated version of the old Jeff Davis Hospital.

It appears that seventeenth century Englishmen settled secretly along Buffalo Bayou, then known to Spanish authorities in Madrid and Mexico City as the Rio de Spirito Santo, to lay claim by possession to the Carolana Colony and to create a privateering base from which they could attack Spanish shipping in the Golpe de Mexico (Gulf of Mexico).

But who were these English settlers who came to Buffalo Bayou? They were colonists of a vast swath of land known as the Carolana colony (Carolana, “belonging to Charles” in Latin, not Carolina with an i) that King Charles I of England conveyed to his Attorney General, Sir Robert Heath, on October 30, 1629.

King Charles recognized Attorney General Heath’s patent as an exclusive right to possess all lands from the Atlantic coast of what is now North and South Carolina to the “South Seas,” i.e., the Pacific, a continent-girdling colony from America’s Atlantic coast to the Pacific coast south of 36 degrees and north of 31 degrees longitude. The Carolana patent was the largest single land grant to one man in American history. An eighteenth century map of the Carolana colony, showing it extending all the way to Buffalo Bayou, appears below.

A MAP OF CAROLANA AND OF THE RIVER MESCHACEBE [MISSISSIPPI],
a 1722 map found at the state North Carolina maps web-page,

Why build a settlement so far inland? To protect themselves against the Spanish, who claimed exclusive right to possession of the coasts abutting their colony of New Mexico. In 1565, King Phillip II dispatched a Spanish admiral and conquistador, Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles, to end the privateering threat a French colony near present-day Jacksonville, Florida posed to the Spanish treasure fleets passing along Florida’s eastern coast before sailing across the Atlantic to Seville. Aviles annihilated the French, executing nearly four hundred prisoners after raping French Huguenot women and murdering their children.

And in 1641, Spanish General Francisco Diaz Pimienta, acting on orders given by Spain’s King Philip IV, assembled an invasion fleet of seven large ships, four pinnaces, fourteen hundred soldiers and six hundred seamen to invade and destroy a Puritan English privateering colony at Providence Island, a settlement one hundred and twenty miles off the coast of Nicaragua.

If Englishmen settled along Buffalo Bayou to prey upon shipping in the Gulf, they needed a well-hidden, well-fortified inlet that might easily evade Spanish eyes. The confluence of White Oak and Buffalo Bayous offered just such a place of refuge. Contemporaneous Spanish records reflect that their Saint Augustine, Florida garrison failed to receive their situado, or resupply, intact for ten years in a row in the middle years of the seventeenth century, in part because of English and French piracy in the Gulf of Mexico.

It is during this time that the maps and sea charts of master Dutch cartographers depict Galveston Bay with stunning accuracy, along with a little river running northward from it named Rio de Santa Spirito. Jan Jansson’s INSULAE AMERICANAE IN OCEANO SEPTENTRIONALI CUM TERRIS ADJACENTIBUS (“Islands of America in the Ocean with Adjacent Lands), a chart compiled in 1636, shows the breadth and shape of Galveston Bay with the Rio de Santa Spirito running northwest from it.

Another seveneenth century Dutch chart, Pieter Goos’s PASCAERTE VAN WESTINDIEN DE VASTE KUSTEN EN DE EYLANDEN (“Chart of the West Indies and the Vast Coasts along the Islands”) updates master cartographer Hessel Gerritsz’s 1631 chart of the Gulf of Mexico to reveal finely-detailed coastal features, including the Rio de Santa Spirito name for Buffalo Bayou and a star of navigational rhumb lines (a path derived from a sea-captain’s well-defined initial bearing), all clustering on the coast west in the area of what is now Brazoria County. At some point between 1630 and 1650, the Dutch became intimately familiar with the area around Galveston Bay, either because they were sailing there or because they were trading and sailing with Englishmen settling there.

During his research, Dr. Brown found a contemporary Spanish record from a gold merchant in New Mexico to a Spanish trade merchant complaining that gold was repeatedly being “stolen at the Rio de Santa Spirito by the English.” It appears that English privateers were operating out of Buffalo Bayou.

So what does a seventeenth century English settlement signify for the history of law in Houston? It suggests that English common law and the Magna Carta came to Texas two centuries before Anglo-American settlers and English sailors brought them to Spanish Tejas and Mexican Texas in the early nineteenth century.

Attorney General Robert Heath, the proprietary patentee of the Carolana colony after 1629, embodied the heritage of English law. He graduated from St. John’s College, Cambridge University, at the age of fourteen and Clifford’s Inn at the age of seventeen. He then began his work as a London barrister at the Inner Temple in 1603. In 1621, Englishmen elected him to Parliament. Appointed Solicitor General of England in 1621, he received a knighthood, won appointment as Attorney General in 1625, and was serving as the Chief Justice of England’s Court of Common Pleas by 1631. He presided over Star Chamber cases but aroused King Charles’ suspicions by showing clemency to accused Puritans.

The 1629 Charter of the Carolana Colony survives. Although Carolana was a proprietary colony similar to a privately held company, the Charter contained a Bishop of Durham Clause that authorized a measure of self-government for those who lived within its bounds, including the right to make law for the new land as he, his officers, and his free-holder settlers deemed appropriate:
Charles by the grace of God of England Scotland France & Ireland King Defender of the faith &c: To all to whom these present lres shall come, greeting...

We have seen the inrolement of certaine of our lres patents under our great scale of England made to Sr Robert Heath Knight our Atturney Generall, bearing date at Westminster the 30. day of October in the 5 yeare of our reigne & inrolled in our Court of Chancery, & remaining upon Record among the Roles of the Said Court in these words: The king to all to whom these present &c: greeting. Whereas our beloved and faithful subject and servant Sr Robert Heath Knight our Atturney Generall, kindled with a certain laudable and pious desire as well of enlarging the Christian religion as our Empoire & encreasing the Trade & Commerce of this our kingdom: A certaine Region or Territory to bee hereafter described, in our lands in the parts of America betwixt one & thirety & 36 degrees of northerne latitude inclusively placed (yet hitherto untild, neither inhabited by ours or the subjects of any other Christian king, Prince or state...

Know therefore that wee prosecuting with our Royall favor the pious & laudable purpose & desire of our aforesaid Atturney of our especiall grace certaine knowledge & meere motion, have given, granted & confirmed & by this our present charter to the said Sr Robert Heath Knight his heirs & assignee for ever, doe give, grant & confirme all that River or Rivelett of St Matthew on the South side & all that River or Rivelett of the great passe on the North side, & all the lands Tenements & Hereditaments lying, beeing & extending within or between the sayd Rivers by that draught or Tract to the Ocean upon the east side & soe to the west & soe fare as the Continent extends itselfe with all & every their appurtenances & alsoe all those our Islands of beayus Bahama & all other Isles & Islands lying southerly there or neare upon the foresayd continent ail which lye inclusively within the degrees of 31 & 36 of Northerne latitude….And furthermore the patronages and advowsons of all churches which shall happen to be built hereafter in the said Region Territory & Isles and limitts by the increase of the religion & worship of Christ Together with all & singular these & these soe amply, Rights Jurisdictions, priviledges prerogatives Rovaltyes libertyes immunityes with Royall rights & franchises whatsoever as well by sea as by land, within that Region Territory Isles & limitts aforesaid To have exercise use & enjoy in like manner as any Bishop of Durham within the Bpricke or County palatine of Durham in our kingdome of England ever heretofore had held used or enjoyed or of right ought or could have hold use or enjoy.

And because in the Government of see great a Province sudden chances many times happen to which it will be necessary to apply a remedy before that the Freeholders of the sayd province can be called together to make lawes, neither will it be convenient, upon a continued title in an emergent occasion to gather together soe great a people therefore for the better Government of the sayd Province, we will & ordaine & by these presents for Us our Heires & Successors; doe grant unto the said Sr Robert Heath his Heires & Assignes by himself or by magistrates & officers duly constituted for that purpose (as before is sayd) shall & may have power from time to time to make & constitute wholesome & convenient Ordinances within the Province aforesaid & be kept & observed as well for the preserving the peace as for the better Government of the people there liveing; & to give publicke notice of them to all whom it doth or may concerne: which Ordinances we will that they be inviolably observed within the sayd Province under the paines expressed in them soe as the sayd Ordinances be consonant to Reason & not repugnant nor contrary, but (as conveniently as may be done) consonant to the laws, statutes & rights of our Realme of England as is aforesaid soe alsoe that the same Ordinances extend not themselves against the right or interest of any person or persons or to distrayne bind or burden in or upon his freehold goods or chattels: or to be received any where there in the same Province or the Isles aforesayd.
Magna Carta, the Charter of Carolana, and English common law governed all English subjects who came to English Texas in the seventeenth century. Sir Robert Heath’s CHARTER OF CAROLANA became the basis for John Locke’s 1669 FUNDAMENTAL CONSTITUTIONS OF CAROLINA that granted English settlers of North and South Carolina that measure of freedom that eventually evolved into the Tar Heel State and the Palmetto State.

At some point in the seventeenth century, Sir Robert Heath’s adventure in Texas ended in failure and abandonment. The long, parallel lines of black earth graves suggest that plague, smallpox, or the Yellow Fever that laid low so many Houstonians in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries likely brought the colony to an end.

In Joseph Conrad’s HEART OF DARKNESS, the character Marlow imagines what it must have been like to be a Roman soldier posted to Britain when it was still a colony, a colony like the one that rose up along the banks of Buffalo Bayou during the seventeenth century:
I was thinking of very old times, when the Romans first came here, nineteen hundred years ago, the other day…Imagine the feelings of a commander of a fine – what d’ye call them? – trireme in the Mediterranean, ordered suddenly to the north; run overland across the Gauls in a hurry….Imagine him here, the very end of the world, the sea the color of lead, a sky the color of smoke, a kind of ship about as rigid as a concertina – and going up this river with stores, or orders, or what you like. Sandbanks, marshes, forests, savages, – precious little to eat for a civilized man, nothing but Thames water to drink. No Falernian wine here, no going ashore. Here and there a military camp lost in a wilderness, like a needle in a bundle of hay – cold, fog, tempests, disease, exile, and death, – death skulking in the air, in the water, in the bush. They must have been dying like flies here.
So it may have seen to the soldiers and settlers who sailed and lived along Buffalo and White Oak Bayous in the middle of the seventeenth century.

Perhaps the English suffered too many deaths and too much disease. Dr. Brown’s research revealed Spanish records of four English ships carrying families and animals west past their colony of Florida in 1664. Was that when the Carolana colonists gave up on their western adventure? Or did the colony collapse because Sir Robert lost King Charles’ favor in 1634 because of his clashes with Archbishop William Laud, the harrower of the Puritans? Or did the colony collapse when Parliament impeached Sir Robert in 1644 for high treason because of his ties to Charles I?

However it came about, it appears that English settlers, and English law, came to Houston in the seventeenth century, and quietly left again, leaving no memory behind, nothing but a settlement beneath the soil. Other English settlements collapsed during the seventeenth century, too. The 1607 colony at Pop ham, Maine and the Wessagussett colony north of Plymouth are two examples, while the Jamestown colonists abandoned Jamestown and boarded ships to sail back to England, only to be returned to their posts by Lord De La Warre and his resupply vessels.

We may never know the real story of what happened to the settlement near the confluence of White Oak and Buffalo Bayous. We shall not know until the City of Houston grants archaeologists permission to excavate the soil beneath the Houston Fire Department’s Logistical Center and Maintenance Depot at 1205 Dart, around the corner from the Elder Street Lofts and the site of the old Jeff Davis Hospital. Then, perhaps, we will know more about what happened here, in our home town, and listen to tales written in bone, stone, tears, and rust, stories that now remain shrouded and silent.

Houston is not a city built on virgin soil. It lived and it died once before. And in 1836, under the guidance of President Sam Houston, the Allen Brothers, and Charlotte Allen, Houston rose like a phoenix above the black earth graves along Buffalo Bayou.

Author’s note: If you have any useful information you’d like to share about the lost colony buried beside Houston’s Buffalo and White Oak Bayous, please feel free to e-mail me at dafurlow@gmail.com. And if you’re interested in learning more about the common law and Magna Carta, you can see an original copy of England’s charter of freedom at the Houston Museum of Natural Science from February 14 through August 17, 2013. See http://www.hmns.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=652&Itemid=684 (accessed Dec. 10, 2013). David A. Furlow