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The Ulster-Scots Society of America
An Ulster-American Story


     Jane Houston lived in Ballybracken in 1725 and at a time of famine in the north of Ireland found it hard to survive as a widow with four sons. She managed to exist for a few more years and even married again but eventually decided to take her family to America. Under the Ulster custom of Tenant Right she was entitled to be paid for the improvements she had made to the farm and this provided enough for the passage money to the New World from Larne.

    The boys grew up in New York and like many other Ulster immigrants they moved south and west. One went down through the Alleghenny Mountains to Virginia. Samuel Houston married Elizabeth Paxton, and in 1793 at Timber Ridge Virginia, their fifth child, Sam Houston was born. The Houstons moved on to Tennessee in 1807, and it was there that Sam Houston would come into contact with the Cherokee Indians.

    At that time the dictator of Mexico, General Santa Anna led an army of 5,000 men north to solidify Mexico's control of the vast Texas territory which was being defended by a scattered force of American settlers.  Sam Houston became the Commander In Chief of this settler army.  Once the powerful Mexican army arrived in the settlement of San Antonio, it found itself confronted by a force of 182 men, mostly of Ulster-Scots descent who had taken up defensive positions in a ruined church at the Alamo.  They were led by the brave young Colonel William Travis and included Jim Bowie whose ancestors came from  Auchnacley and Davey Crockett whose roots were in the Strabane.  For the next 13 days they repulsed repeated assaults, delaying the advance of the Mexican army, until they were finally overrun by the superior force.  The Mexicans paid a high price for taking the Alamo loosing 1600 killed in the process.  The Alamo defenders bought precious time for the remaining American forces to consolidate and prepare for an offensive strike.  The Alamo defenders were to die before Houston could reach them, but subsequently his forces defeated the Mexican General Santa Anna at the battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836, and thereby secured the independence of Texas. Sam Houston, descendant of the Houstons of Ballyboley, was to become the first President of Texas and a folk hero. Santa Anna was defeated and the future of Texas was secure as part of the Union.

    In his honor a village was renamed, Houston, and was to grow with the discovery of oil and in time became America's Space Centre. As Apollo touched down on the moon's surface they received the message “Houston, the Eagle has landed” so the first word spoken from the moon was the name of a poor family from Ballynure.


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