Early Political Acts
Before women could hold office or even vote, some Austin women found other, untraditional ways of participating in the political scene.
Angelina Eberly was a fiery character remembered for her vital role in the Texas Archives War which saved Austin from losing its position as the seat of government.
Eberly was born in Tennessee in 1798. She married in 1818, and the couple moved to New Orleans and later to San Felipe de Austin in Texas where they had three children and operated an inn and tavern. After her first husband died, Angelina married Jacob Eberly. By 1839 they had settled in Austin where they ran Eberly House, an inn at Congress and Pecan (now 6th) streets. There, Eberly served dinner to Texas President Mirabeau B. Lamar. Later, President Sam Houston decided to stay at her inn rather than live at the president’s home. Jacob Eberly died in 1841, but Angelina continued to run her inn.
PICB 07906 AF - Biography - Eberly, Angelina
Eberly’s moment of fame came in December 1842 when President Sam Houston ordered the removal of government documents from the General Land Office to Washington-on-the-Brazos. Since he assumed office, Houston had been determined to move the capital’s location, which had been chosen by Mirabeau Lamar.
Though accounts of the “archives war” differ in the details, legend commonly holds that Angelina fired a large brass howitzer cannon loaded with grape shot, alerting citizens of Austin who formed a posse and retrieved the archives. When the documents were brought back to Austin they were temporarily held at her house.
After securing the future of Austin as the capital, Eberly continued to run her inn for a few more years. In 1846 she ran a tavern in Lavaca, and by 1851 she owned a hotel in Indianola where she lived until her death in 1860.
Amelia Barr, an English writer who lived in Austin from 1856 to 1866, told a story of Lucille, a young Austin woman who was not afraid to creatively express her opinion at Texas’ Secession Convention in March 1861. Lucille, 16 years old and a Unionist, was sitting with Barr in the balcony watching the scene from above. According to Barr, “the air was full of the stirring clamor of a multitude of voices – angry, triumphant, scornful, with an occasional oath or epithet of contempt.” When Governor Houston refused to pledge allegiance to the Confederacy, Lieutenant Governor Edward Clark was sworn in as governor instead. As Clark approached the bar of the House to take his oath, Lucille leaned over the railing and spat on the parchment, which Clark then covered with his handkerchief.
“Why did you do that, Lucille?” Barr asked.
“To express my opinion. Did you see Clark’s handkerchief?”
“Then I suppose he got what I sent. And it is in Clark’s handkerchief! In Clark’s pocket! Poor Spittle! What an ignominy!”
Ordinance of Secession, undated, C06682, Chalberg Collection of Prints and Negatives
[Amelia Barr], undated, PICB 12043
|During Samuel Houston’s tenure as President of the Republic of Texas, he ordered the government’s archives be removed from Austin so that the capital city could be set up elsewhere. Angelina Eberly’s actions foiled Houston’s plans. Later, as Governor of the State of Texas, he did not support secession and refused to take an oath to the Confederacy. As a result, he was removed from office. Amelia Barr’s story of “Lucille” recounts this event.||
[Samuel Houston], undated, PICB 04207
|Edward Clark was Lieutenant Governor of Texas when Governor Samuel Houston refused to join the Confederacy in 1861. Houston was removed from office, and Edward Clark took his place. As Clark made his oath to the Confederacy and signed his name to the Ordinance of Secession, a young woman named Lucille spat at him to express her disgust with him.||
[Painted Portrait of Edward Clark], undated, C02998, Chalberg Collection of Prints and Negatives