Tuesday, January 09, 2007

January 9

Anson Jones, the last president of the Republic of Texas, took his own life in a Houston hotel on this date in 1858. A physician by training, Jones had renounced medicine and migrated from Great Barrington, Massachusetts to Texas during the early 1830s and played important roles both the war with Mexico and -- a decade later -- the annexation of the republic by the United States. After Texas' absorption into the union in 1845, Jones was bitterly disappointed not to be appointed to the US Senate. Sam Houston and Thomas Jefferson Rusk were awarded the seats instead. In a spite-soaked letter to a friend, Jones predicted that his tombstone would someday read, "Murdered by a Country He Served and Saved."

During the last decade of his life, Jones wallowed in his disappointment, which was only accentuated by a crippling arm injury that came during a fall from his horse. In 1857, Rusk vacated his seat by committing suicide; his wife had recently died of tuberculosis, and a tumor was discovered in his neck. Coupled with Sam Houston's decision to run for governor, the death of Thomas Rusk meant that Anson Jones' senatorial ambitions suddenly appeared nearer to realization. Buoyed by misplaced optimism, he returned to the state capital, where he expected a triumphant welcome and a quick election to the upper house of Congress. Instead, Jones' arrival was virtually unnoticed in Austin, and he spent his days in his hotel room, brooding over his memorabilia from days gone by, including newspaper clippings and old letters that he believed would vindicate him in the eyes of history. After receiving exactly zero votes in the state legislature, Jones' life spiraled toward its conclusion. After selling his plantation for a quarter of its value, Jones traveled to Houston in January 1858 and sequestered himself in the Old Capitol Hotel for four dismal, lonely nights.

On January 10, it was reported that the forlorn Texas statesman had been discovered "lying across his bed this morning at half past 8 o’clock, a discharged pistol in his hand and his brains blown out. This is all the particulars of this lamentable affair we have been able to obtain.” Jones' wife Mary, twenty years his junior, became a widow for the second time.