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Texas Heritage Society Meeting - September 24, 2009

The September 24, 2009 meeting of the Texas Heritage Society was held in The Woodlands, Texas.  Texas Heritage Society President, Kameron Searle, was our speaker and a business meeting was held.

Kameron Searle's presentation was about: "Facts are Stubborn  & The Significance of Primary Sources to Accurate Historical Research in Texas."  As an example, Searle presented his paper, "Sam Houston Rode a Gray Horse."  Searle's paper is an example of how one historian or author gets a detail incorrect and future researchers don't bother to check to see if the information is true.  Over time the error is repeated by later writers and the repeated error becomes fact in the retelling. 

In Searle's example, he pointed out that most of Sam Houston's biographers and many Texas historians have incorrectly advised their readers that Sam Houston rode into the Battle of San Jacinto on a white stallion and that this was the horse killed under Sam Houston during the battle.  Searle believes Marquis James is responsible for the original error in the color of Houston's horse in his Pulitzer Prize winning biography of Sam Houston, The Raven

Many primary sources, including at least one source by Sam Houston, himself, and several eyewitness accounts of participants in the Battle of San Jacinto prove conclusively that Houston rode into the Battle of San Jacinto on gray stallion, not a white stallion.  Searle says this fact does not change the history of Texas in any dramatic or significant way, but the lesson is important.  To much Texas history is based on hearsay, folklore, legend and myth and much of the history of Texas could benefit from a fresh look at the primary sources created contemporaneously with the events under discussion.

Searle is not a revisionist as that term commonly implies today.  Too many revisionists have tried to impose the moral, cultural and political ideas of the 21st century on the their historical subjects in the distant past. For the most part, these revisionists do this to either make a political statement today or advance an academic agenda.  As the term "revisionist" has become tainted, Searle believes himself to be a "correctionist" historian focusing on correcting factual errors that have crept into Texas history.

Facts are stubborn things;

and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion,

they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.  

John Adams

Borrowing from a quote from American founding father, John Adams, Searle says facts are indeed stubborn things and they are out there waiting to be discovered in as yet untapped primary historical sources in archives, libraries, museums, courthouses, etc. throughout Texas and the United States.  Too many historians take the view that "there is nothing new under the sun," but that is because they are relying almost exclusively on the same old histories of dubious accuracy which have been "under the sun" for decades and which have already been "hashed and rehashed" thousands of times already.

History does not repeat itself. The historians repeat one another.

Max Beerbohm

The problem is that historians for decades have taken the easy route and relied almost exclusively on secondary sources.  These historians relied on the secondary sources and then did not check the validity of those sources.  This is how we end up with so many Sam Houston biographies and Texas histories that inform their readers that Sam Houston was riding a white stallion into the Battle of San Jacinto.

"A history, whose author draws conclusions from other than primary sources or secondary sources actually based on primary sources, is by definition fiction and not history at all." 

Kameron K. Searle

Searle believes the future of Texas history should not be revisionism; it should be correctionism. 

Among the other topics discussed were ideas of members regarding the ongoing development of the THS web site, ideas for future publications of the Texas Heritage Society including The Journal. First Vice President, Hewitt Clark, provided more details about the Tour of Texas History #3 - The Mier Expedition planned for October 30, 2009 and October 31, 2009. 

Texas Heritge Society