Printed October 8, 2019

Jane Long, Austin affair clue may lie in pecan pie recipe

By Janice Edwards/ The Bulletin

Almost hidden on an inconspicuous street in Brazoria, is a state historical marker that reads, “Site of Jane Long’s Tavern.” This is the same Jane Long known as “The Mother of Texas,” who came to Brazoria as a young widow as one of Stephen F. Austin’s “Old Three Hundred.”

So, just how well did Long and Austin, known as “The Father of Texas,” know each other?

What twist of fate brought together a young widow sought after by suitors and described by an early colony visitor, James Clopper, as “a woman with an appealing figure, a pleasant smile, and masculine vigor,” with a man generally considered by his contemporaries as “less than handsome?” Was their connection romantic or platonic? A cursory investigation of their histories leads down an entrancing path.

After Stephen F. Austin’s successful negotiations with provisional Mexican Government (August, 1821) to preserve the colonization enterprise under his father’s grant, he selected a site between the San Antonio and Brazos Rivers. He then returned to New Orleans and published the terms of the colonization. The first colonists began to appear in Texas by land and sea by November/December, 1821.

On Sept. 19, 1821, Dr. James Long left Jane at his fort in Bolivar to gather additional volunteers to wrest Texas from Spain. Instead of returning in a month, he was captured, taken to Mexico City and killed. When he did not return, the troops defending the fort dwindled with every ship that passed. In November 1821, the sloop, the Lively, carrying the first of Stephen F. Austin’s settlers, stopped to ask Jane to go to the colony with them. She was alone except for her young daughter, and a slave, Kian. Jane refused the request and gave birth to a child on Dec. 21, 1821.

Early in 1822, Jane learned that her husband had been captured by the Spanish and later killed by Mexican revolutionaries. She temporarily returned to the Natchez plantation, owned by her sister and brother-in-law, the Calvits. When her youngest child died, she and the Calvits came to Texas as part of Austin’s original 300 settlers.

In January 1823, the provisional Mexican government granted each family approved by Austin – a head right of land. In April, Austin induced the congress to introduce 300 families on his terms. Returning to the colonies in July 1824, he set up his headquarters in San Felipe De Austin on the banks of the Brazos.

By December 1825, Jane Long and the Calvits lived near San Felipe De Austin. During this time, the Austin-Long connection began. Austin “beat a path to Jane’s door,” and she and her sister made him a suit of buck skins. He even petitioned the Mexican Government for a widow’s pension for Jane, citing her husband’s attempt to overthrow Spanish rule. (Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1824.) Though the pension was denied, Austin granted her a head right of land (4,428 acres (a league) for grazing and 177 acres (a labor) for farming. She was one of only 10 women of the original 300 who received that much. But to keep it, Jane Long and the Calvits had to improve it, so they moved onto the land and produced some crops, but it was not enough to make a living.

As discontent in the colonies spread, and Brazoria became the “unofficial port and settler center,” Jane convinced her daughter, Ann, and her new husband, Edward Winston, to move to Brazoria. Soon after landing in Brazoria in January 1831, Edward died from consumption. In March 1832, Jane first announced the tavern she and her daughter would run in the newspapers The Constitutional Advocate and Texas Public Adviser. The tavern quickly became the center of social life and revolution plotting. Jane operated her tavern in Brazoria from 1832 – 1837.

Jane held two historic balls, the Santa Ana Ball (July 21, 1832 – after the Battle of Velasco) and the Liberation Ball (September 1835 to celebrate Stephen F. Austin’s liberation from Mexican imprisonment) at her tavern. Austin attended both balls, and both furthered the cause of the Texas Revolution. During the time of the first ball, Jane secreted arms for the Texans in a brick out-building and organized the women of Brazoria to make bullets for the Battle of Velasco. At the second ball, Stephen F. Austin made a speech, which was taken as a call-to-arms.

Between the times Jane opened her tavern in 1832, until April of 1833 when Stephen F. Austin was appointed to secure Texas statehood from Mexico, the two Texas legends met and conferred often at the Brazoria tavern. While Austin was in Mexico seeking Texas statehood, and continuing until January 1834, when news came that he had been arrested and imprisoned in Mexico City under suspicion of trying to incite insurrection in Texas, Jane ran the tavern and plotted a revolution.

But in March 27, 1834, she suddenly leased out the inn she had operated to M.W. Smith. When word reached the colonies that Austin was returning, she returned to business. On Sept. 1, 1835, when Austin reached Brazoria, he went directly to her boarding house. He had been absent from Texas for 28 months. A few days after his return, on Sept. 8, 1835, Jane gave a ball in his honor, and most colonists attended.

When Sam Houston’s army fell back prior to the battle of San Jacinto, and hostilities in Brazoria were imminent, Jane secured her boarding house and relocated to Bolivar. After the victory at San Jacinto, she returned and reopened her tavern in Brazoria. It was the site of a “Victory Ball” on Oct. 29, 1836. Austin was again a guest at the festivities. A short two months later, December 27, 1836, Austin died at the age of 43.

Austin’s death changed things in Brazoria, and once the spring rains of 1837 had stopped long enough for the roads to become passable, Jane Long moved to her land near San Felipe and opened a boarding house there. By the late 1840s, she had established a plantation on her own land. She raised cattle and grew cotton, which was more profitable to her than inn-keeping. She never remarried.

The Mother and the Father of Texas knew each other well enough to confide in one another and to be concerned about each other. Some people contend that this relationship was platonic, but I disagree. I think the Mother and Father of Texas did more than rock the cradle of revolution. Why do I think that? The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach …

This recipe below is one Jane Long used when she ran her tavern at Brazoria. Most women only include the name of someone they love when they name him in the recipe title.

Stephen F. Austin’s Favorite Pecan Pie

½ cup sugar
1 cup dark sorghum
3 tablespoons fresh cow’s butter
3 fresh eggs
1 teaspoon essence of vanilla flavoring
Pinch of salt
1 cup fresh pecan halves
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 pie crust that is unbaked

Stir the half cup of sugar and sorghum over a moderate fire until they boil. Stir in your butter. Meanwhile, beat the eggs until the whites and yellows are blended. Pour the hot mixture over the eggs and stir. Add flavoring, salt and pecans. Now mix the flour and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Sprinkle this over the bottom of the unbaked pie crust. Pour the filling into the crust and cook in the oven which should be moderate (350 – 375 degrees). Cook about 45 minutes.

Note: this is a very different Pecan Pie. You can make it close to how Jane did if you use fresh yard eggs, Mexican vanilla, no-hormone butter, and Brazos bottom pecans. Make sure you use sorghum molasses.

(Jan wants to hear from you. Write her in care of The Bulletin. Email: john.bulletin@gmail.com. Snail mail: The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton TX, 77516.)