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Jane Long
"Mother of Texas"

by Jewel D. Johnson

      Jane Long, a Texas heroine of the pioneer days, lost her father before her first birthday, her mother at age fifteen, married at age seventeen, became a mother at eighteen and was widowed at age twenty-four. During her brief seven-year marriage, she gave birth to three children, all girls, only one of whom survived to womanhood. Jane had no descendants to bear the name Long. She never remarried, although two famous Texans, Mirabeau B. Lamar and Sam Houston did propose marriage. Her own strength and courage sustained her through many trying times. Jane Long died at the age of eighty-two at Richmond, Texas.

      Born on 23 Jul 1798 at Truman Place Plantation in Charles County, Maryland, Jane was the seventh daughter and tenth child of Captain William Mackall Wilkinson and wife Ann Herbert Dent. She was named for her maternal grandmother. In 1811, her widowed mother moved the family to Washington near Natchez and died there within two years. James Wilkinson and wife Ann Biddle became guardians of Jane. Though she called him "uncle", she was not his niece, but the daughter of a cousin. Jane lived in luxury, pampered by her guardians and had her own black slave girl, Kianatia, or "Kian" as Jane called her. Kian remained with Jane all of her life.

      Jane Wilkinson's first and only love was Dr. James Long, a native of Virginia, the son of Isaac Long. James was born 1793 and as a child moved with his parents first to Kentucky, then to Rutherford County, Tennessee. During the War of 1812, he served as surgeon in Carroll's Brigade. The Battle of New Orleans was fought early in Jan 1815; Dr. Long, under command of Gen. Andrew Jackson, was in that battle. The Wilkinsons had opened their home in Natchez to a number of the wounded men and it was there that Jane met the handsome young doctor who was to become her husband. Long, having come to dress the wounds of the soldiers, was instantly attracted to the beautiful young lady he met on the staircase. This chance meeting led to a whirlwind romance, but when Jane let it be known that she intended to marry, the Wilkinsons strongly objected. Not one to be denied anything, Jane announced, "Under the laws of the state of Mississippi, I have a right to name my own guardian and I shall name one who will not object - Dr. Long!" That's exactly what she did and married him on 14 May 1815.

      Long resigned from the army and began a medical practice at Port Gibson. Two happy years followed, during which their first daughter, Ann Herbert, was born in Nov 1816. Long's medical practice was not enough to keep him busy so he purchased a plantation near Vicksburg to fill his time. He soon became restless and they returned to Natchez, where he entered the mercantile business. In Natchez, he became involved with his fellow townsmen in planning an expedition into Texas, intended to secure its independence from Spain and to open the state to American settlement. Dr. Long was chosen to lead the expedition and proceeded to Nacogdoches. Jane was expecting another child momentarily and remained behind, with a promise to join him as soon as possible. Their second daughter, Rebecca, was born in June, 1819.

      Twelve days later, Jane followed her husband and became the first of many white women to brave the Texas frontier. She traveled by boat then mule with four-year old Ann, two-week old Rebecca and her faithful slave, twelve-year old Kian. Jane became quite ill on the journey and was forced to stay a month with her sister in Louisiana until she had recovered. Her sister insisted that she leave the children with her and Jane agreed. Little Rebecca died of unknown cause a month later.

      Forced by the Spanish to flee from Nacogdoches while her husband was on a visit to Jean Lafitte at Galveston, Jane later rejoined Long and returned to Louisiana to regain their daughter Ann. The little family, including Kian, was united for almost a full year at Point Bolivar near Galveston. Their home was a crude adobe structure with almost no furniture and certainly no conveniences. An uprising in Mexico caused Long to leave again. "I hope to be back in about three weeks" he told his wife, "and I'm leaving fifty soldiers here to protect you." It was the last time Jane ever saw her husband.

      Until the onset of that bitter winter of 1821, Jane felt secure, but when the food supply dwindled, the soldiers began to leave on one pretext to another. The last to leave were two doctors with their wives, begging Jane to leave with them. She shook her head saying, "My husband left me here and I'll stay until he returns." That winter was so severe that Galveston Bay froze over in spots. There at the lonely fort, not knowing what had happened to Long, and with only the company of two little girls, Jane gave birth to her third daughter, Mary James, on 21 Dec 1821. This child was the first Anglo-American child known to have been born on Texas soil, thus the title "Mother of Texas." Jane and her small group survived the winter by chopping fish and ducks out of the frozen bay. She occasionally fired an old cannon and flew her red petticoat on the flagpole to make the fort appear occupied by troops, in order to turn away Indians in the area.

      It was mid-summer before Jane learned that her husband had been shot and killed on 8 Apr 1822 in Mexico City. His death was reported as an accident, but enough evidence was found to suspect assassination. In any case, Jane's long wait for her husband was now at an end. Friends rescued the young widow and children from the fort and later accompanied them to San Antonio. After several months there, she journeyed to Louisiana to visit her sister and brother- in-law, Alexander Calvit. Her Texas-born daughter, Mary James, died June 1824 during this visit and Jane again returned to Texas, this time as one of Stephen F. Austin's Old Three Hundred colonists. She received a league and a labor of land in present Waller County in May 1827 and settled down to farming. Finding it difficult to make a living on the farm, she opened a boarding house near the town of Brazoria in 1832 and ran it for several years. Jane sent Ann to school in Natchez where she met and married Edward Winston; the young couple joined Jane in Texas three months later.

      Five years later, in 1837, Jane secured a tract of land about two miles from Richmond, Texas. She bought one Negro man slave to work the farm and until it began to pay, she operated a hotel in town. A grandson helped her run the farm and before the outbreak of the Civil War, she had one of the most valuable plantations in Texas. She was intensely Southern in her sympathies and refused to wear any clothing not made in the south. Her own dresses were made of cotton that had been grown, spun, woven and dyed on her own plantation. In her spare time she sewed and knitted garments for Confederate soldiers. Death had claimed her faithful slave Kian, but a granddaughter, also named Kian, stayed with her even after emancipation. Ed Edward Winston died and Ann latter married a Richmond attorney, James S. Sullivan.

      In her later years, Jane was called "Aunt Jane" or "Grandma Long". There, in her spacious plantation home, she smoked a pipe filled with home-grown tobacco, rocked in her favorite chair and reflected on her past with friends and family. Jane Long died at her plantation on 30 Dec 1880 and lies buried under a modest marker in the little cemetery at Richmond. The Texas Centennial Commission, in 1936, erected a marker at the site of her home.

This article about Jane Long appeared 17 Jan 1990 in the Northeast Texas Chronicle

You will find Jane Long in Our Database
Information about her lineage has been provided by Liz Lester


Copyright © 1998 by T. J. Jones

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