Today is a state holiday. 180 years ago, Texas adopted its Declaration of Independence. We spoke with Lonn Taylor, the host of our history program, Rambling Boy, about a 19th century mystery surrounding the holiday.
It was March 2, 1836, and a handful of people were creating the Republic of Texas. They declared their independence from Mexico and 59 people lined up to sign the document. But the actual paper went missing in 1836.
Historian Lonn Taylor explains what happened. “The document disappeared from sight for 60 years, until Judge Seth Shepard, found it in the files of the State Department in Washington in 1896.
But there was a clue – writing on the last page of the document. “It reads, ‘Left at the Department of State, May 28 1836, by Mr. Wharton. The original.’”
And who was Mr. Wharton? “Mr. Wharton was undoubtedly William H. Wharton. One of the Texas commissioners sent to Washington in 1835 to seek funds for the Revolution.”
Shepard promptly sent the document back to Texas. “And it has been there ever since. Cared for first, by the Texas Secretary of State. Then, by State Board of Controls. And most recently, by the State Library Archives.
Taylor imagined that Texans wrote out the decalaration of independence, because it was expected of them, as part of the ritual of becoming their own entity.