Featured Article and Did You Know That?.....

March 2001

Jane Herbert (Wilkinson) Long:

Daughter of Maryland, Wife of Mississippi, Mother of Texas

Jane Herbert Wilkinson was born on July 23, 1798. Some say she was born in St. Mary's County, but in all likelihood she was born in Charles County. She was the youngest child of William Mackall Wilkinson (1752-1812), a native of Calvert County and of Ann Herbert Dent (1756-1813), a native of Charles County

Almost immediately after the death of her father, Jane and her mother left Charles County and moved to the Mississippi Territory (now Adams County) and lived at "Propinquity" Plantation", the home of Jane's sister, Barbara Wilkinson, the wife of Alexander Calvit. This was probably a necessity, as it appears that William Mackall Wilkinson was heavily in debt at the time of his death and had been having financial difficulties for years.

Jane is said to have met Col. James Long, a physician and a native of Culpeper County, Virginia, as he was returning from the Battle of New Orleans. They were married on May 14, 1815 at Natchez, Mississippi. Their first child, Ann Herbert Long was born on November 26, 1816.

The Longs would lead a quiet life until early 1819 when the United States seized both Florida and Texas. In the negotiations that followed, Spain agreed to accept $5 million for Florida, but Texas was returned to Spanish rule. There was much dissatisfaction with this decision and it led to an attempt to establish a Republic within Spanish Texas. Col. James Long, primarily using his own funds, raised arms and followers. It is thought that, despite "official U.S. policy", he had the support of General Andrew Jackson and high U.S. government officials.

When Col. Long left Mississippi in the early part of June, 1819, he took with him the flag that Jane Herbert (Wilkinson) Long and her sister designed and made which would represent this new Republic of Texas. The design of this flag has never changed and it is, of course, the official flag of the state of Texas and the basis from which they derive their nickname of "The Lone Star State."

By June 23, 1819, Col. Long, commanding a force of almost 300, occupied Nacogdoches, issued a Declaration of Independence, and established a government. Col. Long was named as President and Commander of the Army.

Jane apparently had all intentions of accompanying her husband when he left for Texas, but was in the last weeks of pregnancy with their second child, Rebecca who was born on June 19. Just twelve days after Rebecca's birth, Jane was on her way leaving her children in the care of her sisters. She arrived in Texas in August but was forced to flee in November when Spanish troops approached their frontier outpost. Jane returned to get her children, finding that Rebecca had died during her absence.

In 1820, Col. Long attempted to enlist the support of Jean and Pierre Lafitte (well known pirates) to establish Galveston Island as a port of entry for the new Republic of Texas. Events overtook them as Col. Long learned that the Spanish were on the march to Nacogdoches. To ensure the safety of his family, Col. Long sent them and a small group to Bolivar Peninsula, opposite Galveston Island. It is said that, as they arrived, they observed Lafitte's ships as they were leaving that area for the last time.

It was not long before Col. Long and his men were captured and transported to Mexico City. On April 22, 1822, James Long died in Mexico. The opinions vary about the circumstances of his death and range from accident to secret orders.

In the meantime, Jane refused to leave the small fort at Bolivar Point until her husband returned. Eventually Jane (who was pregnant), her daughter Ann Herbert Long, who was six years old, and a slave girl named Kian (some give her name as Kiamatta) who was only 12 years old and who had accompanied Jane when she left Mississippi, were the only ones left at Bolivar Point.

Their biggest threat at this time were the Karankawa Indians (who were cannibals). To ward off Indian attacks, Jane and Kian would fire the fort's cannon every morning and fly a red flag (made from a flannel petticoat) over the fort to make the Indians think that the fort was occupied by troops.

Jane gave birth in an ice-encrusted tent to her third child, Mary James Long, on December 21, 1821. There are those who state that this child was the first child born to an English-speaking woman in Texas and was the reason that Jane was termed "Mother of Texas", however, there is evidence to support that Jane had already been given that title well before her last daughter was born.

Finally in early 1822, Jane had no choice but to abandon her vigil and joined another family at their camp. She had no idea where her husband was or if he was living or dead. She did not find out about his death until almost three months later, in the summer of 1822. She eventually took her children and Kian and went to stay with her sister in Alexandria, Louisiana, but returned to Texas after the death of her youngest daughter on August 24, 1824.

Jane received title to land in Fort Bend County and Waller County, Texas from Stephen Austin in August, 1824. Jane, however, lived in San Felipe, Texas where she opened a boarding house. She sold a part of her property in Fort Bend County on which the town of Richmond, Texas was developed (now the county seat). In 1837, she moved to Fort Bend County and opened another boarding house in Richmond while developing a plantation on her other property.

Jane never remarried, although she was courted by such famous Texas figures as Stephen Austin, William Travis, and Sam Houston. She died in Fort Bend County, Texas on December 30, 1880. A centennial marker was erected in her honor in 1936.

[This flag was displayed by the Long Expedition and is considered by some to be the flag of the second Texas Republic (first was that set up by the Republican Army of the North in 1812). It was the first movement for Texas independence that used the red and white stripes of the newly founded Confederation of American States and was the first to display a single Lone Star Image from C. E. Gilbert Jr. A Concise History of Early Texas: As told by its 30 historic flags, 1964].

 

Prepared by: Linda Reno, March, 2001.

Did you know that...

Julia Boggs Dent, 1826-1902, the wife of President Ulysses S. Grant, was a descendant of Thomas and Rebecca (Wilkinson) Dent of St. Mary's County.

 

General James Longstreet, 1821-1904, "Lee's Old Warhorse" was also a descendant of the same couple and that he and Julia Boggs Dent were fourth cousins.

 

Samuel Dashiell Hammett, 1894-1961, author of "The Thin Man" and "The Maltese Falcon" was born at Great Mills in St. Mary's County?

 

Archibald Binney, 1763-1838, who with his partner, James Ronaldson began the business of type founding in Philadelphia and that this formed the foundation for the printing industry in America, lived at "Porto Bello" in St. Mary's County from 1814 until his death in 1838. He entertained many notables at his home, including Lafayette and Andrew Jackson.

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