Jane Herbert Wilkinson Long was born on July 23, 1798 to Captain William Mackall Wilkinson (1752-1799) and Ann Herbert Dent Wilkinson (1756-1813) in Maryland. She was the tenth child born to the couple. William M. Wilkinson’s father had died at the age of forty-four when William was only three years old. He had been raised by an uncle, Benjamin Mackall, Jr. William’s family had lived in Maryland as far back as the 1600s. He inherited land from his late father and added to it during his lifetime. His military title of captain came from his service in Lower Battalion, Prince George’s County Militia, 1777, during the American Revolution. Jane’s mother, Ann Herbert Dent also came from a family of early American residents of Maryland, going back at least three generations. Ann’s family also was actively involved in the American Revolution with her father, grandfather and great grandfather all having military titles.
Jane’s mother Ann also died when Jane was a teenager, and Jane went to live with her older sister, Barbara Wilkinson Calvit in Mississippi, where she met her future husband, Dr. James Andrew Long who had been serving in the War of 1812.
On May 15, 1815, Jane was married to Dr. Long at Propinquity Plantation in Natchez, Mississippi. Over the next few years, the couple had three daughters, Ann Herbert Long (1816-1870) and Rebecca Long (1819-1819) while they were living in Mississippi and Louisiana, and on December 21, 1821 another daughter, Mary James Long (1821-1824) was born in Texas. Ann was the only child who lived to become an adult. Dr. Long was active in the effort to colonize Texas as an independent area, at variance with the existing federal arrangement with Spain under the Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819 which had affirmed Spanish territorial claims. Dr. Long was said to often be away leading what were essentially quasi-military campaigns into the area. On one final incursion, he was captured near San Antonio, taken to Mexico and killed, though perhaps by accident, with his death occurring April 8, 1822.
The birth of their daughter Mary James Long in late 1821 was once touted as being the first birth to an English-speaking mother in Texas, giving rise to Jane being referred to as the “Mother of Texas” during her lifetime. However, given that there were numerous early births in the area, the birth of Mary James Long is now considered to be “one of the first” births to an English-speaking mother in Texas and not the first. The circumstances around the birth were interesting, though, as James was once again gone. Jane, a young slave girl named Kian and six year old Ann Herbert Long were living in a tent on Bolivar Point when Mary was born. It was late December and their supplies were dwindling and a seasonal norther covered their tent with ice. They survived the harsh conditions but eventually moved away from Bolivar Point early in 1822.
Jane relocated to further up the San Jacinto River. The river itself has two forks, each of which originate in Walker County, one to the east and the other to the west of Huntsville. The river currently has at least two major dams that are water sources for Lake Conroe and Lake Houston and reach the Gulf of Mexico after emptying into Galveston Bay. In the early days, it was part of the habitat for native tribes including the Karankawa and Akokisa. According to accounts, she was living upriver on the San Jacinto in 1822 when she learned that Dr. Long had died in Mexico.
Though she had been alone much of her married life already, Dr. Long’s death was a turning point in her life. Rather than leaving, she chose to stay in Texas although she returned to Louisiana for visits from time to time. She took it upon herself to go San Antonio and petition Governor José Félix Trespalacios for some kind of Mexican government pension on behalf of her husband. Trespalacious had a prior relationship with Dr. Long and also Ben Milam during Mexico’s rebellion against Spain. She was unsuccessful at this but after another trip east with relatives, she set out to claim a league of land in the Fort Bend area in Austin’s Colony. This was not unusual, and Jane was one of several widows to do so. Accordingly, she is listed among Austin’s Old 300 names. Several months after the death of her youngest child Mary James, she received two portions of land, a league in Fort Bend County and a labor in Waller County in the late summer of 1824.
Jane is not thought to have resided on her Austin Colony property for several years until her remaining daughter Ann finished her education back in the southeast. Ann married Edward Winston. Jane and the newly wed couple returned to Texas around 1832. The marriage was short lived, since Ann’s husband Edward died in 1834, after they had one child. Ann later married James Shephard Sullivan with whom she had several more children.
Jane is believed to have been living at San Felipe de Austin during much of the Texas Revolution. She and others fled the area for a time during the so called Runaway Scrape, when residents escaped area for a while to avoid Santa Anna and the Mexican Army. Residents and others destroyed and burned the old town to prevent its looting by Santa Anna’s forces. She was known to be a supporter of the Texas Revolution and as such, she personally knew Stephen F. Austin and other well known individuals of the day.
In the next chapter of her life she acquired a hotel or boarding house from a W. T. Austin (not believed to be closely related to Stephen F. Austin) in Brazoria which she operated for a number of years, after which she moved to her property in Fort Bend County about 1837. She remained there in the general area of what is now Richmond, Texas until her death in 1880. During Jane’s later years, she engaged in business, operating another boarding house, operating a cotton farm and buying and selling land as her fortunes rose and fell. The town of Richmond was developed on property that included her original Austin Colony grant.
Jane never remarried and is buried in the old Morton Cemetery in Richmond. Her daughter Ann predeceased her in 1870 and is also buried there along with various other members of their family.
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