This Week in Texas Methodist History April 10
Methodists Flee Advancing Army in Runaway Scrape, April 1836
This year Texans are observing the 180th anniversary of the Texas Revolution and the creation of the Republic of Texas. During the second week of April 1836 the Runaway Scrape was at full tide as civilians were fleeing the advancing Mexican armies.
Two Methodists left first person accounts of their participation in the Runaway Scrape. These reports by David Ayres, Lydia McHenry, provide valuable insights for this crucial event in Texas history.
The evacuation actually began in January around Refugio and San Patricio, but really picked up steam after the fall of the Alamo in early March. When Sam Houston retreated from Gonzales in mid-March, the civilian population realized that they were defenseless against the Mexican armies. As settlements between the Colorado and Brazos Rivers became deserted, the muddy roads became clogged with desperate Texians in all sorts of carts and wagons filled with whatever the refugees could stuff into them. There were many reports of deserted farmsteads, unmilked cows, and abandoned livestock. There were reports of fleeing Texians burying the valuables they could not carry.
There was considerable congestion at the river crossings of the Brazos and Trinity where heavy rains had made the ferry landings too muddy for the cart wheels. The human stream was directed east toward Louisiana or to Galveston Island where they hoped to secure boat passage to the United States.
The Methodists who left accounts of their participation were David Ayres and Lydia McHenry who traveled together. McHenry had been living at the Ayres home at Montville (on the LaBahia Road about 10 miles from where Rutersville would be established in 1838) where she and Ann Ayres had opened a boarding school. One of their resident students was Charles Edward Travis (b. 1829) the son of William B. Travis who had placed his son in the Ayres home on the way to the Alamo.
Ayres was too old and deaf to serve in the regular army so he wrote that he assisted in the evacuation. Although his home was at Montville, he had a store at Washington on the Brazos from which he supplied troops from his inventory. His personal account was published several years later in the Texas Christian Advocate the denominational newspaper of which he was financial agent.
Lydia McHenry, who had come to Texas in December 1833 with here sister and brother-in-law Maria and John Wesley Kenney, wrote of returning and finding the home plundered by vandals, not by the Mexican army. She was especially distressed that her feather bed had been destroyed. The account is contained in a letter to her brother John McHenry of Hartford, Ky, July 17, 1836. The original letter is part of the Hardin Papers at the Chicago Historical Society.
Another account from this turbulent time is buried in semi-obscurity in Oscar Addison’s edited version of Joseph P. Sneed’s Diary. Sneed came to Texas from Mississippi and was appointed to the Montgomery Circuit which consisted of all the settlements between the Trinity and Brazos Rivers from Spring Creek in the south to the Falls of the Brazos (near Marlin) in the north. In 1840 the Republic of Texas had a fort at the Falls. On one of his trips there Sneed recorded the first person account of John Holliday, an army officer who had survived the Goliad Massacre. Addison found the Holliday memoir in Sneed’s papers so he just included it in the Sneed Diary. Holliday had survived by jumping in the river and remaining hidden until the Mexicans moved on.