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Annual Independence Day, Birthday Celebrations To Include March, Tales, Cake

Feb. 20, 2014
SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt, Megan Buro

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The Walker County Historical Commission, the Sam Houston Memorial Museum, and the Sam Houston Statue and Visitor’s Center will celebrate Texas Independence Day and Gen. Sam Houston’s birthday with a weekend of activities in Huntsville March 1-2.

headstone and sculptures at Sam Houston's grave
During the annual "March to the Grave," members of the SHSU and Huntsville communities gather at Austin Hall and walk to the final resting place of Gen. Sam Houston (above), at the corner of 9th Street and Avenue I.

Festivities will get underway on Saturday (March 1) at the Katy and E. Don Walker Sr. Education Center with a panel discussion on the Cherokee Tennessee Texas Connection, featuring special guests Robin Montgomery, acting director of the Oxford Graduate School; Tommy Wildcat, Cherokee Nation musician, storyteller and cultural historian; and Anita Batisse, Alabama Coushatta Of Texas Tribal Council member, from 2:30-4:30 p.m.

“Each year we want to try to do something different to honor Sam Houston’s birthday, and the panel talk gives us the opportunity to learn about his life in Tennessee before he came to Texas,” said Megan Buro, museum marketing coordinator.

Following the panel, from 5-6:30 p.m., will be a wine and cheese reception at the Sam Houston Statue and Visitor’s Center featuring Tommy Wildcat, a Cherokee master storyteller and flutist who will share tales about Sam Houston.

On Sunday (March 2), Gen. Sam Houston’s birthday, events will continue with a buffet luncheon at 11:30 a.m. at the W.S. Gibbs Conference Hall in the Walker Education Center, followed by the “Toast to Texas” and birthday cake.

Around 12:15 p.m., the SHSU history department and ROTC will lead the traditional march to Houston’s gravesite at Oakwood Cemetery for the annual ceremony honoring Houston’s accomplishments, which will start at 2 p.m. Marchers will assemble at Austin Hall, on the SHSU campus, and proceed to Sam Houston’s grave along University Avenue.

This year’s featured speaker is Bill O’Neal, state historian of Texas, who will discuss Houston’s legacy as a leader.

O’Neal has taught at Panola College, East Texas State University (now Texas A&M—Commerce), Columbia College and also at the high school level.

He has received numerous honors; has written many books and articles; has appeared on television documentaries that aired on TBS, CMT, the History Channel, Discovery Channel and A&E; and is a member of the Wild West History Association, Hall of Fame Member of the National Association of Outlaw and Lawman History, West Texas Historical Association, Texas State Historical Association, Western Writers of America, and East Texas History Club. He is also past president of the East Texas Historical Association.

In the event of inclement weather, the ceremony will be held at Mance Park Middle School, located near Oakwood Cemetery.

Immediately following the gravesite ceremony will be the “Baptized Texan Ceremony,” a tradition that will continue as featured in Texas Highways in March 2013 as a way for non-native Texans to burnish their Lone Star credentials by being “baptized” as a Texan at Houston’s gravesite on Texas Independence Day. There will also be tours of Oakwood Cemetery offered immediately after the ceremonies.

Gen. Sam HoustonDuring the ceremony, James Patton, from the Walker County Historical Commission, will sprinkle water on the heads of non-native Texans who now live here.

"The ceremony is something fun that the historical commission has been doing for the last couple of years as part of the birthday celebration," Buro said. "The 'baptism' is for those who, like Sam Houston, weren't born in Texas but got here as fast as they could.”

The tradition of celebrating March 2 in Huntsville stems back to 1889, when students from the Sam Houston Normal Institute would march to General Sam Houston’s grave.

In 1981 the Walker County Historical Commission began sponsoring March 2 events through a program called “Texas Heritage Days.”

In recent years, SHSU students, with the help of the history department, have continued the tradition of marching to Houston’s grave.

In addition to the weekend activities, the Sam Houston Memorial Museum has a special exhibit on display for the public through April in the museum rotunda.

“The Letters” presents a rare opportunity to view a small sampling of actual correspondence between Sam and Margaret Houston during the time the Houstons’ occupied the Woodland Home, according to museum curator of exhibits Casey Roon.

Also available in the rotunda through March will be the Texas Revolution Scavenger Hunt, wherein visitors can search for clues throughout the museum’s collection for objects that relate to the Texas Revolution.

Reservations are required for the wine and cheese reception on Saturday and the luncheon and “Baptized Texan Ceremony” on Sunday. For more information on reservations and payment, contact Jamie Matthews, with the Sam Houston Statue and Visitors Center, at 800.289.0389 or jmatthews@huntsvilletx.gov.

The Sam Houston Memorial Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Sunday, from noon to 4:30 p.m.; and is closed on Mondays and holidays.




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