On March 27, some 21 days after the fall of the Alamo, James Fannin and roughly 345 captured soldiers were executed by Mexican General Urrea at the order of Santa Anna after the fall of the Presidio la Bahia. The bodies of the soldiers were burned.
Out of this story came another one of a Mexican woman who had shown mercy to those who had been captured at other times or feigned death in the massacre. In various accounts, the woman was referred to by several variations of the name, including Alvarez, but for this account, we will use Francita Alavéz or just Señora Alavéz.
Her background is largely unknown but she is thought to perhaps have been wife or perhaps a lover of a Mexican officer, Telesforo Alavéz. She is first noted to have persuaded a Mexican soldier to spare the lives of several Texas captives from earlier battles, rather than to have them be sent on to Gen. Urrea to be executed with the captives from Goliad. Other accounts tell of her slipping into the stronghold where the Goliad captives were held and helping several of them escape the night before the massacre.
Her heroism was recounted by witnesses, Dr. Joseph Barnard and Dr. John Shackleford, who were spared by Urrea. Dr. Shackleford referred to her as “a second Pocahontas.” To their accounts was added another by one Isaac Hamilton who twice escaped, from Goliad and later from a Mexican stronghold at Victoria, the latter time reportedly aided by Señora Alavéz.
Francita Alavéz then passed almost unknown into history. Little of her later life is documented. Beginning with the son of Telesforo and Señora Alavéz, Matías Alavéz, descendants of Telesforo Alavéz have since lived and worked on the King Ranch, following the death of Telesforo. Señora Alavéz was in her 90s and bedridden when she came to the ranch. She reportedly died while residing on the King Ranch and was buried there in an unmarked grave. Descendants of the couple still live in the Kingsville area.
Accounts of her actions live on. The Battle of Goliad is reenacted annually and her story has been integrated into the reenactment, most recently in April of 2016. For many years, various individuals including Judge J. T. Canales and Mrs. F. L. Thomas gave lectures telling of Alavéz’s bravery. In addition, Mrs. Thomas is known to have compeleted an original one act play in 1935 about Señora Alavéz. Governor Price Daniel appointed the two and others at various times to a state Angel of Goliad Committee. The committee was authorized to plan a memorial to Señora Alavéz.
Concerning Mrs. Thomas, she is generally referred to in written accounts simply as Mrs. F. L. Thomas, but Mabel Clare Randall Thomas was a well known Central Texas speaker and author, having composed many poems and other works many of which concerned Texas history. In the early days of radio, she became known as “The Story Lady” as she read stories and poems for children over local radio. In 1963, she was named Texas Woman of the Year by Progressive Farmer Magazine and was honored in the Texas House of Representatives for her contribution to the literature of Texas and for her civic work in the Bryan-College Station area and Texas at large.
Several artistic works now exist in honor of Señora Alavéz. Hugo Villa was commissioned to create a bust of her and it is now displayed at the Presidio La Bahia Museum in Goliad. A statue by Che Rickman stands between the Presidio and the Fannin Monument, also in Goliad. She is the central character depicted in a painting by Everett Jenssen that hangs in the Goliad State Park museum. Images of these works may be seen at www.angelofgoliaddhp.com, a website created for descendants of Alavéz.
She will be revered forever in the memory of Texans. The following is the inscription on her Texas Historical Marker:
“Amid the cruelties of the Texas War for Independence, one notable woman committed acts of bravery and compassion. Francisca Alavéz (also known by similar names) accompanied Mexican Army Captain Telesforo Alavéz to Texas in March 1836. In seven incidents between March and April, she intervened with Mexican troops under command of Gen. José de Urrea to help captured Texian prisoners at Agua Dulce, Copano, La Bahia, Victoria and Matamoros.
On Mar. 20, Maj. William P. Miller and 75 men of his Nashville Battalion were captured as they unloaded their ship at Copano Bay. Alavéz insisted that binding cords which cut off circulation be removed and food and water be provided. The men were moved to Presidio La Bahia at Goliad, where hundreds of Col. James Fannin’s troops were already held after their capture at Coleto Creek. At least 342 men were taken out of the fort on Mar. 27 and shot under orders of Gen. Santa Anna in what was termed the Goliad Massacre. Alavéz helped save the lives of many men, including 16-year-old Benjamin Hughes. Another survivor, Dr. J.H. Barnard, recalled that she pleaded for their lives, helped sneak out some troops at night and hid some of the men. Her humanitarian acts included tending to wounds and sending messages and provisions to those still imprisoned.
The Texas Centennial of 1936 revived interest in Alavéz with articles, a play, and a bronze bust and historical mural for Goliad’s Memorial Auditorium. Additional commemorations, such as a resolution from the Texas Legislature in 2001, have helped confirm Dr. Barnard’s assertion that ‘her name deserves to be recorded in letters of gold among those angels who have from time to time been commissioned by an overruling and beneficent power to relieve the sorrows and cheer the hearts of men.'”
The story of the Angel of Goliad was another favorite of Officer Dennis Wesley.
© 2016, all rights reserved.
4 thoughts on “Francita Alavéz, the Angel of Goliad”
I checked out the website and I noticed that the last name changed from Alavéz to Álvarez. No wonder tracing genealogies can be tricky! 🙂 As always, great article!
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That seems to be correct, Ernie. Maybe one of the descendants might be able to clarify the various names we see.
I am studying her and this article had the information needed
it is great
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