At the end of Part IV of the History of the Alamo I wrote that the San Antonio Express newspaper,in an editorial, called for a historic and patriotic society be formed to save what was left of the Alamo. Such a society was formed by two “angles” of the Alamo. However, even their leadership and guidance would further cloud and distract from what was the true Alamo battlefield.
Adina de Zavala (1861-1955), The Alamo’s first Angel
Adina de Zavala was the granddaughter of Lorenzo de Zavala, one of the signers of Texas’s Declaration of Independence and the first Vice-President of the Republic of Texas.
Lorenzo de Zavala (1788-1836), was an extremely important person in Texas history. Born in Mexico’s Yucatan in 1788, de Zavala was a successful physician and politician. De Zavala would severe as Mexico’s ambassador to France and Spain. After Mexico had won its independence from Spain he would help to write Mexico’s first constitution in 1824.
During the Mexican revolution of 1829, de Zavala was forced into exile in the United States, were due to his foreign diplomatic skills he was welcomed. Two years later de Zavala returned to his Mexico, only to cross paths with the raising dictator, Santa Anna. Not liking what Santa Anna was doing to his country de Zavala moved as far away from the political turmoil of Mexico City as he could, to the Mexican State of Texas.
As Santa Anna’s policies toward Texas grow more outrageous de Zavala was one of the first to became involved in the Texas revolution. As I mentioned before, de Zavala was one of the signers of Texas’s Declaration of Independent, as well as helping to write the Texas Constitution, and became the Republic of Texas’s first Vice-President.
Shortly after the end of the Texas Revolution de Zavala’s health began to fail, and on November 15, 1836 he died of pneumonia, at age 48. In Mexico, de Zavala is considered by some as a traitor, in Texas he is one of its revered founding fathers.
You can imagine the young Adina hearing the stories about her grandfather, Texas’s fight for independence, and the battle of the Alamo. Texas history, and its pride, was deep in her soul. So much so that in 1889 she gathered a group of women together to discuss ways to save the quickly vanishing historical sites before they were lost forever, she called her group the De Zavala Daughters.
Two years later, in 1891, another woman’s organization formed, composed entirely of female descendants of the first families who had settled Texas before it became a State. This organization called itself, Daughters of the Republic of Texas (DRT). In 1893, de Zavala joined her organization with the DRT, becoming the De Zavala Chapter.
Even before joining with the DRT de Zavala had already been working hard to save the missions along the San Antonio River. These historic buildings had badly fallen into disrepair, and became the targets for vandals. One of the missions de Zavala had a very special interest in preserving was the Mission San Antonio de Valero, the Alamo.
As I stated in my last post, the State of Texas now owned the Alamo church, and had turned custody of it over to the City of San Antonio. The entire time that the city had control of the Alamo church they had done nothing to restore or improve this historic building. It stood as it had, with all of the alterations made by the U.S. Army, Hugo Grenet and Gustav Schmeltzer.
Adina de Zavala saw more than just the Alamo church that needed to be saved, its Long Barracks also needed saving. Even though the city had condemned the grocery store building de Zavala was confident that the original strong stone walls of the mission’s Convento, which lay beneath, could be saved.
In 1902, her DRT chapter formed the Congress of Patriotism, whose plan was to buy the Long Barracks and then create a “Texas Hall of Fame” museum, which would be housed in that restored building. De Zavala and her chapter used all their influence to convince the Long Barrack’s owner, Charlies Hugo, to give them first rights to purchase if he were going to sell the building.
One year later Hugo notified de Zavala that he had received an offer from a hotel group to purchase the building and property. It was now time for her DRT chapter to act. Even though Hugo would accept $10,000 less than what he was offered, as a gift to the DRT, the $75,000 he did require was beyond what they had.
De Zavala and the DRT needed someone who could personally, and quickly, cover the purchase amount. In the entertainment industry such a person is called, “an angel.” There was one DRT member who could personally write a check for the $75,000 they needed; she was the daughter of an extremely wealthy rancher, her name, Clara Driscoll.
Clara Driscoll (1881-1945), the Alamo’s second Angel
Clara Driscoll also had deep connections with Texas history. Clara’s grandfather, Daniel O’Driscoll, had immigrated to the United States from Ireland. In 1829, he settled in Texas as part of the McMullen and McGloin Colony. O’Driscoll had fought in the Texas Revolution at the battles of Nueces Crossing and San Jacinto. For his service he was given 1,200 acres, plus another one-third league of land in Victoria County Texas.
O’Driscoll moved his family to the town of Refugio, where he opened a tavern, and also began raising cattle. He served as the towns Justice of the Peace, until he was killed in a carriage accident in 1849.
It was Clara’s father, Robert Driscoll Sr., who changed the family’s name from O’Driscoll to just Driscoll. By 1890, Robert Driscoll Sr. had amassed an amazing multi-million dollar empire in ranching, banking and commercial land development.
Clara Driscoll’s interest in historical preservation came about while she was living in Europe, and with her family’s history, she also had a deep love for Texas history. When she arrived back in Texas she was appalled at the state of neglect of its historic buildings, especially the Alamo church.
Driscoll heard of the new women’s group forming, the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, and quickly became one of its first members. Clara became the star of the DRT, not only because both of her grandfathers had fought at San Jacinto, but also because her father was extremely wealthy. And it was because of this that de Zavala and her group came to Clara for help.
Two different visons on saving the Alamo
Clara Driscoll wrote a personal check for $500 to Charlies Hugo as a goodwill down payment while the DRT began fundraising projects to pay off the balance. However, the DRT’s fundraising efforts fell way short of the needed amount, and so again Driscoll personally covered the balance. In August of 1905 Clara Driscoll became the new owner of the Hugo & Schmeltzer building.
With Clara now owning the Long Barracks the DRT began petitioning the State of Texas for custodianship of both Alamo buildings. Driscoll, de Zavala and their DRT chapter didn’t believe that the state or the City of San Antonio fully recognized the historical significance in restoring the Alamo.
From all the pressure placed on them by the DRT the Texas State Legislature passed an appropriation bill authorizing a $65,000 payment to Clara Driscoll for the Long Barracks property. On October 4, 1905 Driscoll conveyed the title of the Long Barracks to the State of Texas, and the state then named the DRT as custodians for both the Alamo church and Long Barracks.
Even as the property transfers were taking place it became apparent that de Zavala and Driscoll had extremely different views on what “was” the Alamo. De Zavala saw the Long Barracks as being equally as important as the church in the history of the Alamo, while Driscoll saw only the church as being “the Alamo.”
Driscoll’s view of the Alamo should have been known to de Zavala and her group from the very beginning by her writings. In 1900 Clara wrote to the San Antonio Express, “Our Alamo…how do we treat it? We leave it hemmed in on one side by a hideous barracks-like looking building, and on the other by two saloons…Today the Alamo should stand out free and clear. All unsightly obstructions that hide it away should be torn down and the space utilized for a park. I am sure that if this matter were taken up by some enterprising, patriotic Texan, a sufficient amount could be raised that would enable something of this kind to be done.” Driscoll’s reference of the, “hideous barracks-like looking building,” was the Alamo’s Long Barracks, still covered by the Hugo & Schmeltzer stores exterior walls.
Clara Driscoll had fallen to the same belief that started back during the time of Sam Maverick, that nothing of the original mission complex remained except for the church. This is again shown in Driscoll’s 1905 letter to the Fort Worth Record, “The monastery fell to pieces long ago, and on the ground it occupied a grocery store stands today.”
Driscoll didn’t seem to realize, as Adina de Zavala did, that beneath the covering façade of Hugo & Schmeltzer’s store still lay the walls of the Alamo’s historic Convento/Long Barracks.
And while de Zavala’s vision was to protect, preserve and restore all of what remained of the Alamo, Driscoll was looking to raise the fallen defenders of the Alamo to godlike status by creating, not a historical site, but a shrine. And to do that she needed to remove a large eyesore.
My next post will tell of the escalating fight between these two women to fulfill each of their visions, in what has been termed, “the Second Battle of the Alamo.”
Some of the Sources Used:
Thompson , Frank. “The Second Battle of the Alamo.” The Alamo: A Cultural History, Taylor Publishing, 2001.
Nelson, George. “The Alamo at the Time of Civil War.” The Alamo: An Illustrated History,
“Alamo Low Barracks and Main Gateway.” Texas Historical Markers on Waymarking.com, Waymarking.com, 2018, waymarking.com/waymarks/WM3DJ6_Alamo_Low_Barracks_Main_Gateway.
Wikipedia . “Alamo Mission in San Antonio.” Wikipedia , Wikipedia, 28 July 2018, en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alamo_Mission_in_San_Antonio.
“Alamo History Chronology.” The Daughters of the Republic of Texas, The Daughters of the Republic of Texas, drtinfo.org.
“Warehouse to Shrine: 1878-1905.” CHRONOLOGY, The Alamo, thealamo.org.
“Historic Photos of the Alamo.” Search: Historic Photos of the Alamo, Google, http://www.google.com/search?q=historic+photos+of+the+Alamo&rlz=1C9BKJA_enUS69: