Eliza Allen Houston Douglass

Elizabeth Ann Allen was the first wife of Sam Houston. Quite a bit younger than Houston, she was born in 1809 to John and Laetitia Saunders Allen in Tennessee. The Allens were a wealthy family of the Gallatin area. Houston was born in 1793, so he was some 16 years older than Eliza when they married in 1829. Some accounts will give her age to be sixteen but according to genealogical sources, she was about twenty. Although they were only married about eleven weeks, the reason for their separation and eventual divorce has been the subject of speculation ever since.

Houston had been born in Virginia to Samuel and Elizabeth Blair Paxton Houston. His father died in 1807, when Sam was only about thirteen years old, leaving Elizabeth to raise a rather large family. She moved them to Tennessee and supported the family. She is not known to have ever remarried. Sam later left home and went to live with a friendly Cherokee tribe for about three years. It was from this experience that he likely developed a level of comfort with and warmth toward the Cherokee, and other tribes, that would remain with him throughout his life. He studied the law and lived in Nashville from about 1823 to 1827, serving for some time as a United States Congressman. Sam was elected governor of Tennessee in 1827 at the age of about thirty-five.

Houston became acquainted with Eliza Allen in the 1820s and they were married in early January, 1829 in Tennessee. Before returning to Nashville, they spent one night at the home of family friends. Houston needed to return to Nashville to resume his duties as governor. Not much is known about the details of their relationship, but it failed and by March, the marriage was over. Houston determined to resign as governor and leave the state.

Neither Eliza nor Sam Houston is believed to have officially commented on the cause of the dissolution. Various theories include an irreconcilable difference of some kind between them, some possible prior relationship that held the affections of Eliza, suggestions of Eliza’s lack of feelings for Houston, and the like.

Eliza returned to live with her family. However, both of Eliza’s parents died a few years later, beginning with her mother’s death in 1832. Her father died the following year. Houston and Eliza remained separated for about eight years until Houston secured a divorce in 1837. Afterward, they both remarried with Eliza marrying a widowed doctor named Elmore Douglass. Dr. Douglass, Houston and John Allen had all served in the United States military during the War of 1812. It is unknown how well acquainted they may or may not have been during that period. Houston and John Allen were believed to have known one another through their common friendship with Andrew Jackson.

Dr. Douglass had been previously married to Elizabeth Savin Fulton since 1818. The couple had at least four children. Their oldest son, Edward Douglass, had tragically drowned when he was still a teenager in May, 1835. Later that same month, his wife Elizabeth (also known as Eliza) died of electrocution when their home was struck by lightning. A newspaper account stated that the house had suffered lightning strikes on three previous occasions. Dr. Douglass and Eliza Allen Houston were married in 1840 and had at least four children, one of which (William H. Douglass) died as an infant, another (Harriet Louisa Douglass) who died at the age of ten and the other two (Martha Allen Douglass and Susan Miller Douglass) who lived to be adults. Neither of the older daughters of Dr. Douglass and Eliza Allen Houston Douglass were known to have ever married, so there are no known descendants of the marriage other than the four children.

Upon leaving the state of Tennessee for Texas, Houston had gone to live for a time with the same Cherokee people he knew from his youth. During that period, he is said to have lived there with a woman of part Cherokee ancestry who is referred to as Talahina Rogers. Houston and the woman are generally thought of as having been married. At some point, they separated and she is believed to have died at about thirty-nine years of age of pneumonia and be buried at Fort Gibson in Oklahoma. Talahina may or may not have been her name, but it is engraved on her tombstone.

Sam Houston and Margaret Lea Houston were married from 1840 until Sam’s death and had eight children. The youngest was Temple Lea Houston and the oldest was Sam Houston, Jr. The family generally resided near Independence and later in Huntsville.

Houston was initially deeply disturbed by the breakup with Eliza at the time. However he was publicly complimentary toward Eliza and is believed to have remained cordial with her parents until they died. Tennessee Public Television published a copy of Houston’s 1829 letter to his former father in law in which he expressed affection for Eliza and that he was unhappy to be united to a woman who could not feel the same toward him. That is probably about as close as anyone will come to reading a public explanation for their breakup. Of the four individuals, Eliza Allen Houston Douglass was the first to pass away, dying in 1861 of cancer. Dr. Douglass passed away in 1862. Both are buried in a city cemetery in Gallatin, Tennessee. Sam Houston died in 1863 and is buried in Huntsville. Margaret Lea Houston died in 1867 and is buried in the little cemetery adjacent to the Baptist Church in Independence.

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