Adina Emilia de Zavala was the oldest child of Augustine and Julia Tyrrell de Zavala. Augustine (1832-1894) was the oldest of the three children born to Lorenzo de Zavala and his second wife Emily West (1809-1882). Lorenzo was married twice, first to Maria Josefa Teresa Correa y Correa with whom he had three children: Maria Manuela, Lorenzo (Jr.) and William Henry and second to Miranda Emily West whom he married after Maria Josefa passed away, and with whom he had Augustine, Emilia and Ricardo. The family lived near the San Jacinto battleground and Lorenzo, the grandfather, died late in the year 1836 at the age of 48, after being caught out in a norther while in his boat.
Augustine was married in 1860 to Julia Byrne Tyrrell. Adina was born the following year and was the first of at least six children born between 1861 and 1880. During Adina’s youth, the family lived in Galveston and later in San Antonio. Adina was well educated and taught school when she was in her twenties.
Adina had been teaching school in San Antonio and exhibited her interest in historic preservation as early as the 1880s. She became active with a group of other women in a group that became affiliated with the Daughters of the Republic of Texas (DRT). While their individual motivations may have been somewhat diverse, they had a number of common goals including preservation of the buildings and artifacts concerning Texas history. They also assisted in promoting the naming of public schools for influential individuals of the Texas Revolution and acquiring historic properties such as the San Jacinto battleground.
The State of Texas had acquired the Alamo chapel in the 1880s, but the building now generally known as the long barracks and surrounding areas of the Alamo chapel were in the hands of private businesses. The members contributed in various ways, but Adina is credited with securing for the Daughters of the Republic of Texas a right of first refusal from the business that owned the long barracks, should it be sold.
Adina also is said to have been the person who became acquainted with Clara Driscoll leading to Clara’s involvement in the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. Through a series of transactions, Clara Driscoll, whose ancestor had fought in the Battle of San Jacinto, furnished the money for the shortfall in funds raised to acquire the long barracks, enabling the purchase of the structure. It was then conveyed to the State if Texas with management and custody being vested in the DRT.
Driscoll and de Zavala disagreed on a number of aspects of the preservation, including who among the participants in the Alamo battle would be recognized and how such recognition would be accomplished. They also disagreed about which structures may have existed at the time of the battle, with the Driscoll faction favoring the demolition of some or all of the long barracks building. (1) Legal proceedings ensued resulting in de Zavala’s group being excluded from the DRT in 1909-1910. Over time, however, most aspects of de Zavala’s vision seem to have generally prevailed, although Clara Driscoll’s efforts over the years were timely, critical and significant and should not be ignored.
Adina de Zavala was active in preservation efforts for the rest of her life. Her role in these efforts is noted in the preservation of the Spanish Governor’s Palace and the other missions in San Antonio. She was a member of numerous historical organizations and was a founding member of the Texas State Historical Association.
Adina de Zavala remained single throughout her life. She died on March 1, 1955 at the age of 94 and was buried in San Antonio at St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery, a little over two miles southeast of the Alamo.
(1) Richard R. Flores, Private Visions, Public Culture: The Making of the Alamo, Cultural Anthropology, Vol. 10, No. 1, Published by Wiley on behalf of the American Anthropological Association.
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