Sunday, July 11, 2010

This Week in Texas Methodist History July 11

Lydia McHenry Writes Brother, “Do Not Treat Me Like an Idiot.” July 17, 1836

Lydia McHenry, Methodist lay woman, teacher, and mission supporter, immigrated to Texas in December, 1833, with her sister Maria Kenney and her brother-in-law, John Wesley Kenney. The move was prompted by the death of her parents, the Rev. Barnabas and Sarah Hardin McHenry in the cholera epidemic of the previous June. The travelling party arrived in Washington on the Brazos in December, 1833, but when spring came, they moved a few miles to the south in present day Austin County. That move was very significant since it was at that location that Kenney organized the famous 1834 Caney Creek Camp Meeting the following September.

Lydia McHenry and Ann Ayres opened a school on Feb. 1, 1836 at the Ayres residence at Montville (near present day Burton). It was at this school that Wm. B. Travis left his son Charles when he went to the Alamo.

February 1836 was, of course, a very poor time to launch a school because the Texas Revolution was underway. After the fall of the Alamo the Ayres household, including the students who boarded at the school, participated in the Runaway Scrape.

When they finally got back home, Lydia McHenry wrote her brother John McHenry in Hartford, Kentucky. She began her letter of July 17, 1836, in a highly contentious tone. As is often the case, the heirs of the McHenry estate (Lydia, Maria, and their brothers who stayed in Kentucky) disputed the distribution of the assets. (From what the author has been able to piece together from other sources, it seems that the two sisters left for Mexican Texas with at least two horses and three slaves before the estate had been probated. Inference on part of author)

She closes the last paragraph, “I have no wish to discuss the subject, but for God’s sake do not you and Martin any longer treat me as an idiot who required a guardian. . .”

McHenry then goes on to describe their Runaway Scrape adventures and return in which she found her bed destroyed and clothes stolen. Fortunately they were able to find all their cows so they did not starve. She then vented her anger on the Texas government. . .
Our cabinet, with the exception of two, Genl. Zavala and Genl. Lamar, a Frenchman, is perhaps the worst imbecile body that ever sat in judgment on the fate of a nation. Weak, corrupt, and credulous, they were with difficulty prevented from setting Santa Ana (sic) at liberty, notwithstanding all his crimes, upon his bare word that he would pay the expenses of the war.

The same letter reported that John Wesley and Maria Kenney had changed the name of their infant daughter to Emily Travis Kenney in honor of their fallen friend.

The original letter is in the Hardin Collection of the Chicago Historical Society. Some of those letters were published in the Southwestern Historical Quarterly, January 1971.


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