Cypress Folks Have Always Stood Out

Cypress Folks Have Always Stood Out

| September 1, 2017

The historical marker of the Matthew Burnett homesite at Telgue Park.

The historical marker of the Matthew Burnett homesite at Telgue Park.

One of the best sources for the history of this area during the 1835-1838 era is the journal of William Fairfax Gray, who visited Texas between January 28 and April 25, 1836. The journals of his travels were published in 1909 by his son under the title From Virginia to Texas. The book is rare and valuable today. Fortunately it was reprinted by Copano Bay Press in 2015 titled: At the Birth of Texas, the diary of William Fairfax Gray 1835-1838. The original can also be read online free from several sites. It is one of the few source accounts that was written on a day-to-day basis during the travels. Most sources available for the era were written several years after the experiences and in most cases 20, 30, 40 and 50 years after the writer experienced the events of 1836. This fact gives Gray’s diary credibility few others sources have.

Gray was a soldier with the rank of Major, and a lawyer. He went to Mississippi and Texas in 1835-36 as a land agent for Thomas Green and Albert T. Burnley, both of Washington D.C. He purchased land in both states. He encountered the Texas Commis­sioners of S.F. Austin, Wharton and Archer in New Orleans at their friends of Texas meeting on January 6, 1836. The Commissioners were there to raise $2 million to fund the war of independence. Gray participated in the initial funding which was secured by land in Texas at 50 cents an acre. It was the prerogative of the lender to take cash repayment of land. He was traveling with the interim Texas government from Washington on the Brazos to Harrisburg when they came to stop at the Burnett place on March 22, 1836 on Cypress Creek. The Texas army would stop there within a month en route to San Jacinto. Today a historical marker commemorates that camp in Telgue Park off Huffmeister Road. The following is quoted from Gray’s diary:

“Stopt at Mrs. Burnett’s, a widow woman, who keeps the only house on the road between Roberts and Harrisburg, a distance of forty miles, at 11 o’clock. Got a feed of corn for our horses, and an excellent snack of broiled beef, butter, milk and a good cornbread for ourselves. She is a poor widow, with several young children, yet she would receive nothing for what we ate. She charged twenty-five cents only for the feed of each horse, and for that she made the apology that corn was scarce, and when what she had was gone she would have to buy more. She had a plenty of meat and milk, and we were welcome to it. What a contrast between the kindheartedness of this poor widow and the fleecing disposition of the rich Mr. Groce! ……Such instances should be recorded as redeeming circumstances.”

Gray returned to Houston in 1837 and became a prominent Texan. He and his wife are buried in Houston’s Glenwood Cemetery.

If you would like learn more about Cypress, Texas, or American history, please visit Commissioner Steve Radack’s Cypress Top Historic Park at 26026 Hempstead Highway. Contact them at cypresstop@pct3.com or 281-357-5324. The Cypress Historical Society is in the California Poppy yellow train depot replica in the back of the park. The Society has genealogy and historical information for the greater Cypress area. Contact them at cypresshistsociety@att.net or 281-758-0083. If you have questions or comments about this article please contact Fred Collins at fcndc@juno.com.

Historical facts courtesy of Cypress Top Historic Park Collection & Cypress Historical Society: Preserving Cypress History for Posterity.


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