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GOD & TEXAS: Dilue Rose Harris

Dilue Rose Harris was not only an EYE-witness of early Texas history, but an EAR-witness, too! She saw and heard bygone happenings unfold in real time. In a 3-part series beginning in 1901, Dilue published her reminiscences in the Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association.

As an eight year old, Dilue moved to Texas with her family in 1833. Her father, Dr. Pleasant W. Rose, was a respected physician who brought his family by schooner to Harrisburg. He kept a meticulous journal which served as a basis for the account Dilue wrote, while including her own memories.

In her reminiscences, Dilue shares her experience as the family moved from Harrisburg to Stafford Point (now Stafford), back to Harrisburg, and on to Columbus. 1833 Texas was untamed wilderness. Dilue wrote that when they landed at Harrisburg, it had “two dry goods stores, a steam sawmill and twenty homes, but no church, preacher, school or courthouse to be found.”

The move to Stafford Point was a nightmare. The first night out Dilue remembers that “the owls were singing a funeral dirge, and the wolves and buzzards were waiting to bury us!” Once in Stafford Point, they settled into a guarded routine of building their homestead and defending themselves from wild animals, turbulent weather, and roving Indians.

Since Protestant churches and schools were prohibited in Spanish Texas, Dilue’s mother, Margaret, was always looking for a visiting preacher. Bible study was very important in the Rose family. Unfortunately, Margaret had lost the family Bible on the voyage to Harrisburg.

When neighboring settlers had a dispute, Judge David G. Burnet, the future interim president of the Republic of Texas, held court under the live oak trees by the Rose home. Two of the lawyers in the case were William B. Travis, who would later command the Alamo, and R. M. Williamson, known as Three-Legged Willie.

When the court sessions ended, some of the attendees wanted a party. But Margaret, the unquestioned woman of the house, enlisted Baptist preacher John Woodruff to lead hymns and preach the Word. Dilue wrote, “Mr. Woodruff prayed and exhorted the people to lead pure lives. Mrs. Stafford and mother sang the hymn, ‘On Jordan’s stormy banks.’”

Dilue wrote extensively about the Texas Revolution, including how she made bullets for the Alamo defenders. She also provides a detailed account of the Runaway Scrape, and her exuberance when they heard that Santa Anna had been defeated in the Battle of San Jacinto.

At age 14, Dilue married Ira A. Harris, and moved to Columbus, eventually bearing nine children. This remarkable woman began writing her reminiscences at age 74. Texas History is more complete because Dilue Rose Harris recorded the pertinent details for us today.

But more importantly, Dilue reminded us of how vital worship and study of the Bible was to many early settlers. She understood the words of Jesus in Matthew 4:4, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

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