September 3 1959- Francis X. Tolbert

GM – FBF – Today I would like to share with you a story that has been misunderstood and represented falsely for years. This story has been told in many ways through song , movies and books. This African American woman changed the fate of the Independence of the territory of Texas from the Mexican power of the time. Let’s look closer at the one they called “The Yellow Rose of Texas” – Enjoy!

Remember – “The Battle of San Jacinto was probably lost to the Mexicans, owing to the influence of a Mulatta girl (Emily) belonging to Col. Morgan who was closeted in the tent with g’l Santana, at the time the cry was made “the Enemy! They come! They come! + detained Santana so long, that order could not be restored readily again.” – Sam Houston

Today in our History – September 3, 1959 – Francis X. Tolbert, a prolific journalist, writes in his journal – The Day of San Jacinto (1959) that Emily was a “decorative long-haired mulatto girl…Latin looking woman of about twenty.”

Emily D. West (c.1815–1891), also known as Emily Morgan, is a folk heroine whose legendary activities during the Texas Revolution have come to be identified with the song “The Yellow Rose of Texas”.

West was a free woman of color, of mixed race, or a “high yellow”. She was born in New Haven, Connecticut. In 1835 she was contracted to James Morgan in New York to work as an indentured servant for one year in Morgan’s Point, Texas, at the New Washington Association’s hotel as a housekeeper. Several months into her year of indentureship, on April 16, 1836, West and other residents were kidnapped by Mexican cavalry. West was forced to travel with the forces of General Antonio López de Santa Anna as they prepared to face the army led by Sam Houston, and was in the Mexican camp on April 21 when Houston’s force attacked. The Texans won the Battle of San Jacinto in 18 minutes.

According to legend, Santa Anna had been caught unprepared because he was having sex with West. No contemporary accounts indicate that Santa Anna was with a woman at the time, but the story was recorded in the journal of Englishman William Bollaert in 1842, who was told the story by Sam Houston during a steamer trip. After Bollaert’s diary was published in 1956, amateur historians began to expand the tale, with Henderson Shuffler suggesting that West fit the description of the girl in the then-popular folk song “The Yellow Rose of Texas”. The story continued to grow, with many references to West’s beauty, as the legend took hold by the 1986 Texas Sesquicentennial.

Historian Philip Thomas Tucker questions the reliability of the tale pointing out that “Santa Anna possessed a distinct aversion to the intermingling of races.” Santa Anna held that much of Mexico’s political troubles were due to this, holding that “We have failed because of our deplorable racial mixture, and the responsibility for this sad state of affairs lies with the Spanish missionaries who saved the Indian from extinction
After the Battle of San Jacinto, the real Emily West wanted to leave Texas, but the papers that declared her “free” had been lost. Major Isaac Moreland, commandant of the garrison at Galveston, vouched for Emily in her application for a passport. Emily possibly returned to New York in March 1837.

It is unknown if she did carry James Morgan’s surname, as was supposed, although this was the custom for indentured servants and slaves at the time. Also, arriving coincidentally in Morgan’s Point on board Morgan’s schooner from New York was Emily West de Zavala, the wife of the interim Vice President of the Republic of Texas, Lorenzo de Zavala, and grandmother of Adina Emilia De Zavala The widowed Mrs Lorenzo de Zavala had returned to New York in 1837 at about the same time as Emily D. West, although West de Zavala returned to Texas in early 1839 Denise McVea suggests that the Emily West of the Yellow Rose of Texas legend was Emily West de Zavala. There is no contemporary or primary evidence that Emily D. West and Emily de Zavala were the same person. Research and play the song to your babies and make it a champion day!