At the Birth of Texas - The Diary of William Fairfax Gray
The Right Man
History has a way of putting the right man in the right place at the right time.
William Fairfax Gray didn't know it when he set out for Texas in 1835, but he was about to document the events of the Texas Revolution in real time.
He thought he was coming here to gather information about Texas land opportunities for his partners back in Virginia. Instead, a chance meeting with Stephen F. Austin thrust him into the chain of events that led to the birth of the Republic of Texas.
He personally carried letters from Austin to Sam Houston and Thomas Rusk letting them know Santa Anna was marching for Texas and concluding: "This of course leaves us no remedy but one, which is an immediate declaration of independence."
Col. Gray stuck around and had a front row seat as things unfolded.
- He was at Washington-on-the-Brazos throughout the Convention to observe the writing and signing of the Texas Declaration of Independence. And he wrote about it.
- He heard the story of the fall of the Alamo straight from Joe, the slave of Col. William Barrett Travis, who was right beside him when he was shot down. And he wrote about it.
- He stayed with Lorenzo de Zavala at his plantation across Buffalo Bayou from where Texas independence would be won. And he wrote about it.
- He went along on the Runaway Scrape. And he wrote about it.
- He met nearly all the players in the revolutionary drama. And he wrote about them.
In a Class of its Own
There are lots of books about the Texas Revolution. Some are treasures, written by men who participated in the events described. But almost all were written years or decades after, and memory is seldom perfect. They are also colored by the personal friendships and animosities of the writer.
The diary of William Fairfax Gray is different. It was written on the spot, as things happened, by an astute observer with no horse in the race.
As T. R. Fehrenbach said:
"Gray wrote spontaneously about people with whom he had no previous contact, and his impressions, although acquired on short acquaintance, add greatly to our understanding of the key men in the great drama unfolding around him."
That's what places it in a class all its own.
- At the Birth of Texas - The Diary of William Fairfax Gray
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