(July 2, 1798–August 15, 1860)
On Austin’s Congress Avenue stands a striking bronze sculpture of a woman firing a Howitzer cannon. That woman is Angelina Eberly, the heroine of the little-known, but distinctly Texan, Archive War of 1842.
Eberly was born in Tennessee in 1798 and came to Texas as a young woman. By 1839 she was widowed and running a boarding house in Austin. That year, the Texas Congress moved the Republic’s capital from Houston to Austin.
President Sam Houston, however, wanted to keep the capital in the city that bore his name. So when an invading army from Mexico reached San Antonio in 1842, ole Sam took advantage of the alarm to secretly ordered government archives be transferred from Austin back to Houston, effectively moving the seat of government.
But as the boxes of land titles and other documents were being stealthily loaded onto wagons, Eberly spotted the activity. She made her way to an armed cannon to defend the city. She fired it, alerting the citizens of Austin. The archive conspirators bolted, but were caught less than twenty miles outside of town and the vital documents were reclaimed.
The archives remained in Austin, and Austin remained the capital of the Republic—and subsequently of the state, when Texas joined the United States three years later. Eberly died in Indianola in 1860. Her gravesite is lost, but her likeness still stands guard over the streets of Austin.
Texas State Library and Archives Commission. “The Archives War.” http://www.tsl.state.tx.us/treasures/republic/archwar/archwar.html
King, C. Richard. “Eberly, Angelina Belle Peyton.” Handbook of Texas Online. http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/EE/feb2.html
King, C. Richard. The Lady Cannoneer: A Biography of Angelina Belle Peyton Eberly, Heroine of the Texas Archives War. Burnet, Texas: Eakin Press, 1981.
Winfrey, Dorman H. “The Texan Archive War of 1842.” Southwestern Historical Quarterly LXIV: 2 (October 1960).
Photo of sculpture: http://www.flickr.com/photos/alex_stanhope/4426966219/
This story first aired on March 10, 2012.