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Mon, 04.24.1815

Emilie D. West, Texas Legend born

Emilie D. West statue

*The birth of Emily D. West is celebrated on this date, c.1815. She was a Black indentured servant and a folk heroine whose presence during the Texas Revolution is identified with the song "The Yellow Rose of Texas."

West was a free Mulatto woman from New Haven, Connecticut. In 1835 she was contracted to James Morgan to work as an indentured servant for a year in Morgan's Point, Texas, at the New Washington Association's hotel as a housekeeper. During the indentureship, on April 16, 1836, West and other residents were kidnapped by Mexican cavalry. West was forced to travel with the forces of General Antonio López de Santa Anna as they prepared to face the army of Sam Houston and was in the Mexican camp when Houston's force attacked and won the Battle of San Jacinto.

After the Battle of San Jacinto, the real Emily West wanted to leave Texas, but the papers that declared her "free" had been lost. Major Isaac Moreland, commandant of the garrison at Galveston, vouched for Emily in her application for a passport. Emily possibly returned to New York in March 1837. It is unknown if she did carry James Morgan's surname, as was supposed, although this was the custom for indentured servants and slaves at the time.

Also, arriving coincidentally in Morgan's Point on board Morgan's schooner from New York was Emily West de Zavala, the wife of the interim vice president of the Republic of Texas, Lorenzo de Zavala, and grandmother of Adina Emilia De Zavala. The widowed Mrs. Lorenzo de Zavala had returned to New York in 1837 at about the same time as Emily D. West, although West de Zavala returned to Texas in early 1839. Denise McVea suggests that the Emily West of the Yellow Rose of Texas legend was Emily West de Zavala. There is no contemporary or primary evidence that Emily D. West and Emily de Zavala were the same people. An oral narrative has said that Emily D. West died in 1891.

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