Margaret Lea Houston

Margaret Moffette Lea was born on April 11, 1819, on her family’s farm near Marion, Alabama, to Temple and Nancy Lea. At fifteen, her father passed away. After that her family moved into town taking up residence in the home of Henry Lea, Margaret’s older brother and a prominent state legislator and businessman. Soon after Margaret began her education at Pleasant Valley Academy. At nineteen, she began her Bible studies at the Judson Female Institute.

In May 1839, Margaret attended a garden party held by her sister in Mobile, Alabama, and met General Sam Houston, the hero of the Battle of San Jacinto and first President of the Republic of Texas. Margaret at the time was twenty years old, and Houston was forty-six. While Margaret’s mother strongly opposed their relationship, Sam Houston proposed in June and Margaret said yes just a week after the proposal. After a year-long courtship, the two were married on May 9, 1840, in Alabama. Margaret was Sam Houston’s third wife.

In June, the couple relocated to Galveston, Texas. Sadly during the first year of their union, the couple spent time apart. The Texas pollen and heat contributed to Margaret’s chronic asthma and soon her health problems prevented her from traveling. Sam Houston was forced to leave her in Galveston at her mother’s home when he traveled around the state. Although the couple was separated for long periods, Sam and Margaret wrote frequent letters to show their love and devotion to one another.

After her recovery, Margaret began to set up their home in Cedar Point along Trinity Bay. Despite owning several houses, the Houston family came back to Cedar Point every summer. Margaret tried to keep her spirits up by gardening, writing poetry, and studying her faith. She was a devoted Baptist. At one point, she helped founding a church. She was also very committed to converting Sam and freeing him of his drinking habit, which she eventually did.

In 1841, Sam was re-elected for his second term as President of Texas. The couple moved to Washington-on-the-Brazos, the temporary capital. For the first time, Texas had its very own first lady. The first of their eight children, Sam Houston Jr., was born on May 25, 1843. After Sam’s term ended, he relocated the family to a temporary location on Raven Hill plantation, which was fifteen miles east of Huntsville. While Sam was away in Washington D.C serving as a senator, their first daughter, Nancy Elizabeth, was born. In December, bothered by pain Margaret moved in with her family. She was later diagnosed with a breast tumor. During the operation, Margaret refused any whiskey to ease the pain and instead bit on a silver coin between her teeth.

When Sam returned home, he moved the family closer to Huntsville at Margaret’s insistence. She wanted to be closer to the church and to the doctor. Their “Woodland Home” became Margaret’s favorite house, and four of their children, Margaret Lea, Mary William Houston, Antoinette Power, and William Rogers, were born there. In 1853, following Sam Houston’s Senate tenure, the family moved to Independence, Texas. In 1854, Margaret gave birth to her sixth child, Andrew Jackson, in Independence before again leaving for Huntsville. In December 1958, after the birth of their seventh child, they sold their "Woodland Home" to pay off debts and moved to Austin to live in the Governor’s Mansion, where their last child, Temple Lea, was born.

After Sam refused to sign an oath to the Confederacy and was removed from his position as governor, the family returned to Independence. The location allowed their older children to attend Baylor University. At the end of 1862 the family moved to the Huntsville region and rented the “Steamboat House” from Rufus W. Bailey. In July 1863, Sam Houston passed away surrounded by his loved ones.

Following his death, Margaret left Huntsville for good. At first she lived in Cedar Point, then moved to Houston, and later moved in with her mother in Independence. In 1864, she traded land for “The Root House” located next to her mother’s property in Independence. Her mother died on February 7, 1864. In the following years, Margaret’s two daughters got married and her first grandchild was born. On December 3, 1867, Margaret passed away from yellow fever. She was buried the same day in a plot next to her mother.

Images

Margaret M. Lea Houston ca. 1840

Margaret M. Lea Houston ca. 1840

Source: Sam Houston Memorial Museum View File Details Page

Margaret M. Lea Houston

Margaret M. Lea Houston

Source: Sam Houston Memorial Museum View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Briana Weaver, “Margaret Lea Houston,” East Texas History, accessed June 26, 2017, http://easttexashistory.org/items/show/133.

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