HUNTSVILLE, Texas – If you’ve ever traversed Interstate 45 between Houston and Dallas, chances are you’ve seen Sam Houston standing tall in Huntsville. But if you dig a little deeper here, you find a hot bed of history dedicated to one of the founding fathers of Texas.
Popular stops include his towering statue, the museum full of Houston history and his gravesite on the edge of the Oakwood cemetery.
Proud Texans constantly come to pay their respects here but every year on Sam’s birthday, which happens to be Texas Independence Day, a small group of Sam Houston State students come together to march.
Through the streets of Huntsville, they head north. Passing by murals of the man the hour, these students take the time and effort to reflect on the contributions Sam made not only to our state but also our country.
As they ascend the last hill towards the final destination of Sam, they find a group of Texans ready to celebrate with them.
“We come before you to celebrate the courage and the accomplishments of our ancestors who have made this great state and country what it is,” one of the presenters said as he addressed the crowd.
No matter the age, race, or background there’s one thing this broad band of Texas has in common. Their love of the lone star state.
“Texans understand the importance of that. Not a lot of people are going to brag like oh yeah I woke up in California. No one cares,” another speaker said to the audience. “We all woke up Texans today, and that’s a beautiful thing.”
James Patton with the Walker County Historical Commission is a 6th generation Texan and he’s seen many of these marches to Sam’s Grave, a Sam Houston State Tradition that harkens back all the way 1889.
“It’s a tradition that they started, and it’s important that it continues,” James said. “And hopefully it’ll grow through the years, and more students will participate and realize the importance of Houston to his state.”
One of the newer traditions of this Texas holiday is a mystery. For the last few years, nobody knows how long for sure, someone places a trey full of Sam favorite snacks at his resting place. Oysters, sugar cookies, and coffee are offered as homage to Houston.
John Murray comes regularly to this celebration because he has a special connection to Sam.
“You know, everybody grows up and wants to please their parents, and that’s tough,” John said. “That’s really hard to do, but try pleasing your great great grandparents.”
With another decedent of Sam by John’s side, his own granddaughter Lila, the pair place a wreath in honor of the long time descendant.
What better way could you end a celebration of our state without welcoming a few outsiders in? If you’re not from Texas but have always wanted to be called a Texan, well now you can be baptized and become one.
“It began as sort of a joke, and it’s grown,” James said. “Initially we baptized them with Texas holly water, which is Brazos River water scented with bluebonnets sanctified at the Alamo. Well, we can’t get that any more so we use water from Sam Houston Spring.”
So stop by the great Sam Houston’s grave to honor a visionary that knew what Texas could be and still inspires people from long lines of lone star state lineages to some of the newest natives.
“I feel like today I’m a prouder Texan than I was yesterday, or than I was earlier today,” said Sam Houston State University student Maleia. “I feel like I’m more proud to be a part of Texas and of course to be a part of Sam Houston than I was before. So I feel like it would be a really, really good opportunity for all Texans to experience.”