The Great Runaway

I have deep roots in Texas, thanks to the five generations (on both sides of my family) that came before me.

My earliest ancestors came from Kentucky to Texas by covered wagon in 1830. Composed of father, mother, an 11-year-old son, and three younger girls, they probably traveled with extended family, all looking forward to a new life at the “end of the rainbow”, albeit in the foreign country of Mexico.

Like many others, they claimed their land, worked it, and built a home and a new life. Even though they had promised their loyalty to their new country years ago, they were not able to shake the deep impression of “freedom” that the many generations of their American ancestors had passed to them, and, just 6 years later in 1836, when the tyrannized Texans proclaimed their independence from Mexico, the men of the family were not alone in heading out to join Sam Houston’s army and fight for their rights. That left the women and children, the sick and old to fend for themselves in a horror-filled, muddy move toward safety that they called “the Great Runaway”, or the “Runaway Scrape”.

When the pattern of being pursued by and retreating from the Mexican army had played out for far too long, the men saw that they would finally get to engage their enemy at San Jacinto. It would be the first real battle for 17-year-old Jerome, and his young cousin, Joel.

The battle itself was short, but the war was won, and afterward some of the Texians were ordered to round up the hiding, scattered survivors as prisoners of war.

Joel joined up with a small company to aid in the round up, and, a few days later, the group came across a strangely dressed “soldier”, limping in his pair of silk slippers. The sergeant had expressed that he wanted to kill every Mexican they came across, either for revenge or
convenience, but that was too much for Joel. He asked that the man’s life be spared, and volunteered to accompany the prisoner back to camp alone. And, if that wasn’t merciful enough, he let this Mexican prisoner ride his own horse back into camp — and you, being a student of the history of our great state, have figured out the rest of the story: That “soldier” was none other than the Mexican President, Santa Anna, himself.

El Presidente did not forget the kindness of this young man. He had profusely thanked him all the way back to the Texian camp, and later presented him with his own gold-buttoned vest as a token of his thanks.

Now, every story from those five generations of my ancestors isn’t as dramatic as this one. In fact, most of my people left very light footprints. But I have learned a few things from studying my family history — Follow that road to the rainbow’s end. Make sacrifices for a good
cause. And always, always be kind.

Story submitted by Kelly Marberry