Angelina Peyton Eberly is credited with having saved Austin as the capital of Texas by preventing the state archives from being removed to another location. While her name may not be as familiar as others, her story is one worth knowing.
Angelina was born in 1798 in Tennessee to John and Margaret Hamilton Peyton. She married Jonathan C. Peyton, her first cousin, in 1818. The couple came to Texas around 1822 and they eventually settled in San Felipe de Austin around 1825 where together they operated an inn. Jonathan died in 1834, but Angelina continued to live in San Felipe de Austin until the town was destroyed and abandoned in the so-called Runaway Scrape, rather than to have it fall to the advancing Mexican Army during the Texas Revolution.
Angelina and her children had moved to Columbia where in 1836 she met and married a widower by the name of Jacob Eberly. In 1839, the couple moved to Austin where they operated the Eberly House, a hotel. Its location is thought to have been roughly where Congress and 6th Street is today. Jacob died in 1841 after which Angelina continued to run the inn on her own.
The Texas Archives were the official documents of Texas, and included all of the Republic’s land titles, treaties, military records of the revolutionary period, other documents and various historical artifacts. In late December of 1841, the re-elected President Sam Houston ordered their removal to Washington-on-the-Brazos. Though Austin was the capital of Texas, the Texas Congress had continued to meet in Harrisburg, recently renamed Houston City.
Sam Houston had been elected as the Republic’s first president, serving from 1836 to 1838. Presidents could not serve successive terms, and Mirabeau B. Lamar was elected as the second President, serving until mid December, 1841 when Houston began to serve a second term.
Earlier in the year, Sam Houston had lobbied to transfer the archives to Washington-on-the-Brazos and possibly eventually to Houston City, either one of which he deemed to be a safer location for them than Austin, which he thought was still vulnerable to hostile Indian and Mexican forces. Twice during the year, in March and then in September, San Antonio had fallen to Mexican forces, and Houston reasoned that there was little to stand in the way of an advance of hostile forces from San Antonio to Austin, in addition to the Indian threat. In response to Houston’s December order, Captain Thomas J. Smith and Eli Chandler of the Rangers led a small group of men in a plan to slip into Austin, seize and remove the archives. The men began to load the archives onto three wagons. This came to the attention of Eberly, who alerted others and turned the city’s six pound cannon onto the building, lighting and firing it. It had a two fold effect by damaging the building and also arousing nearby residents.
The riders and wagons took off, heading north and getting as far as Brushy Creek, near the current location of Round Rock, where they were overtaken and they surrendered the records. The documents and artifacts were returned to Austin, where they have remained ever since. The incident became known as the Archive War and Angelina Eberly’s exploits became a local legend.
In the years that followed, Eberly first ran a leased inn in Lavaca and then another in Indianola on Matagorda Bay from 1851 until her death in 1860. In 2004, some 162 years later, a statue of Angelina Eberly and a cannon was placed near 6th and Congress in Austin. The work was commissioned by Capital Area Statues, Inc., a nonprofit organization, and was designed by illustrator and cartoonist Pat Oliphant.
Eberly was interred at Old Town Cemetery in Indianola, but the cemetery and most of the town was washed away in a hurricane and flood in 1875. A second hurricane battered what little remained of the town in 1886, and Indianola was abandoned. Many years later, a Texas Historical Marker was placed near the location of the old cemetery.
(Image credit: indianolatx.com)
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