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Museum To Honor Houstonís Memory With Funeral Reenactment, Presentation

July 3, 2013
SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt

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black and white photo if reenactors sitting around Sam Houston's coffin
Historical reenactors portray the events that occurred during Gen. Sam Houston's funeral on July 27, 1863. This reenactment will be repeated on July 27 for the 150th anniversary of Houston's death and funeral. —Submitted photo


For more than a century, Sam Houston State University has celebrated the birth of its namesake with an annual march to his gravesite, a ceremony and other activities. This July, for the first time, SHSU will also remember Gen. Sam Houston’s death with two days of events July 26-27 at the Sam Houston Memorial Museum.

The 150th anniversary of Houston’s death will include a presentation by Texas Historical Commission interpretive planner Hal Simon on Friday, the actual anniversary of Houston’s death, followed by a tour of the Steamboat House and a reenactment of Houston’s funeral on Saturday.

“Sam Houston died on July 26, 1863, and his funeral was held the next afternoon,” said Danielle Brissette, museum historical interpreter. “The 150th anniversary is a momentous occasion, warranting more than simply a moment of silence. The events we have planned will be tasteful, informative, unique, educational and even fun. It should be interesting for the whole family.”

A reception for Simon’s Friday presentation, "Death and Dying in the 19th Century,” will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Katy and E. Don Walker Sr. Education Center, followed by the discussion at 7 p.m. in the Walker Education Center auditorium.

“Hal has a longstanding interest in death, dying, and funerals of the past; the way that these customs have changed; and the way that our interpretation of grief has changed as well,” Brissette said. “Hal will have a lecture, with PowerPoint presentation, and possibly some historical artifacts related to funerary history.”

On Saturday, the museum will honor Houston’s memory with a series of activities beginning at 9 a.m., when the museum staff will open the doors to the Steamboat House for tours that will include historical re-enactors portraying various people in Houston’s life, according to Brissette.

“Museums so often stick to interpreting the daily life of people of the past, things like cooking, laundry, work, play, school; the meat and potatoes of daily life. Rarely do we get the opportunity to interpret the events that are unique or special: weddings, baptisms, births, or funerals,” she said.

“These events, although not as common, are as important to us as they were to our ancestors; they’re the events that mark the passing of time, that signify important changes, and as a museum, it’s important that we mark them as well,” Brissette said. “What’s more, we have an excellent opportunity at our museum because we are lucky enough to have the actual house in which Sam Houston died and in which his funeral was held.

“The house was moved to our museum in the early 20th century, but it was originally located near Oakwood Cemetery. We even have some of the original artifacts that were in the home when Sam Houston passed.”

When the museum opened the Steamboat House for tours last year, the staff used that event as a “rehearsal” for this year’s activities. This year’s tour will allow visitors a more interactive experience because they “will have an opportunity to wander at their own pace, meeting important people from Sam Houston’s life who attended his funeral,” Brissette said.

“You can meet his doctor, his family friends, and members of his family like Margaret and some of the children,” she said. “You can learn about medicine during Sam’s time, how he died, and about funeral and mourning customs, of course, all while walking on the floors where Sam once stood.”

“Mourning” visitors will receive a “mourning ribbon” for Houston, an item that was very popular during the 19th century at funerals, according to Brissette.

After touring the house, visitors can check out the Houston family’s Woodland Home or go to the museum gift shop, where Simon and a representative from the National Museum of Funeral History will show off original funeral artifacts and collections for visitors to examine and learn about.

The event will conclude with a masonic funeral reenactment, from 1:30-2 p.m. at the main Museum Rotunda, featuring local masons who have researched how Masonic funerals of the time were performed.

“We know that the local masons from Forrest Lodge No. 19 performed Sam Houston’s funeral in 1863, and these masons will help us to honor this event in 2013,” Brissette said. “It’s something we’re very excited about and just one of the aspects that will make this year’s event completely different from the one last year.”

For more information, contact museum marketing coordinator Megan Buro at 936.294.3839 or visit the museum on Facebook.



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