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Lot 146

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Robert J. Clow Appeals to Sam Houston of Texas in 1853

[SAM HOUSTON]. Robert J Clow, Autograph Letter Signed, to Sam Houston, February 1, [1854], Lavaca, Texas. 2 pp., 7.625" x 9.75" Fire damage to right side, affecting ten lines on first page.

In this interesting letter, Texas merchant Robert J. Clow asks U.S. Senator Sam Houston to support the appointment of John W. Maulding to the position of collector of customs to fill a vacancy created when the incumbent died under suspicious circumstances.

Complete Transcript:

Lavaca Texas Feby 1st 1853 [1854]

Genl Sam Houston / U.S. Senator

Dr Sir,

I beg to inform you that our mutual friend Genl A Somervell (Collector of the District of Saluria) was drowned some few days since in the Bay of Matagorda, by the capsizing of his boat in a severe “Norther.” Whose death I know you will sincerely regret, as he was a good citizen, warm hearted gentleman, and a staunch friend of yours.

In connection with the above Melancholy event, I beg further to state that the office has become vacant—and that a mutual friend of ours, has petitioned for the office, To wit, Majr J. W. Maulding of this place, as he is in every way worthy of the post, and both qualified & needful, I ask it as a personal favor to myself that you will use your recommendation and influence to secure his appointment. I need not assure you that he is a staunch democrat, of the true school, or [I?] should not ask his appointment. He is an old Texian aged about 58, with a considerable family, and [I?] am certain has more claims than any citizen on the Bay and a thousand more than any strang[er]. Genl Rusk knows him well, and can speak [...] in his favor, as he presided a number of years in [...] eastern Texas. His petition has been signed by all the respectable merchants of this place, among whom I humbly place myself.

Now my dear General allow me to urge for him more warmly that I would for myself. Your personal attention, in the premises, for I feel confident that he will get the appointment, if you solicit it. You may rest assured, it will be worthily bestowed, or he should not be so represented by

Your old friend / and Mo obt svt

Ro. J. Clow

Alexander Somervell (1796-1854) was born in Maryland and became a merchant in Louisiana in 1817 and in Texas in 1833. In 1842, he became collector of customs for the port of Calhoun, and was reappointed to the position when Texas became part of the United States and held it until 1850. President Franklin Pierce reappointed Somervell as collector of customs in 1853. Somervell died on January 20, 1854, under mysterious circumstances. He started from Lavaca to Saluria on the eastern end of Matagorda Island in a small boat, carrying a considerable amount of money. He drowned, and his body was found lashed to the timbers of his capsized boat, but the money was never found.

In this letter, Clow promoted the appointment of John W. Maulding (1795-1860) to the position. Born in Kentucky, Maulding married Celia Rosannah Fear (1802-1860) in Illinois in 1819. After living in Missouri and Arkansas, Maulding migrated to Texas by 1850, when he was a wealthy tavern keeper in Lavaca.

Faced with many applicants and recommendations, President Pierce nominated James W. Moore of Galveston to the position of collector of customs in March 1854, to replace Somervell. Moore declined the appointment, and Pierce nominated Darwin M. Stapp as collector in June, and the U.S. Senate approved the appointment the following day. Although he did not receive this appointment, Maulding did receive Pierce’s appointment as postmaster of Brushyville, Texas, in July 1856, a post he held for seven months before the post office there was discontinued.

Robert J. Clow (1813-1886) was born in Pennsylvania and migrated to Texas in 1834. In 1845, he was a chief clerk of the government of Texas under President Anson Jones, the last president of the Republic of Texas. In 1848, Clow married Elizabeth Adams (1825-1914), with whom he had at least four children. From at least 1850 to 1870, he was a merchant in Lavaca, Texas. In 1857, he represented Calhoun County in the state legislature. By 1880, he had moved to Austin, where he was a clerk in the comptroller’s office.

Samuel Houston (1793-1863) was born in Virginia and left home at age 16 and lived with the Cherokee. He enlisted to fight the British in the War of 1812 and came under the tutelage of Andrew Jackson. After the war, he settled in Tennessee and began to practice law. In 1822, he was elected to Congress and served from 1823 to 1827. He was a strong supporter of Andrew Jackson during his term in Congress. In 1827, he became governor of Tennessee but resigned in 1829 before his term ended after his wife left him amid rumors of alcoholism and infidelity. In the early 1830s, Houston was in Washington to expose the frauds committed by government agents against the Cherokee. When a Congressman accused him of impropriety, he beat the Congressman with a cane on Pennsylvania Avenue. He was arrested and found guilty but given a light fine, and he left for Mexico. By 1835, he was a major general in the Texas Army, and he signed the Texas Declaration of Independence in March 1836. In the Battle of San Jacinto in April 1836, Houston surprised Mexican general Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna and won a decisive victory that secured Texas independence. Houston served as President of the Republic of Texas from October 1836 to December 1838, and again from 1841 to 1844. After the annexation of Texas to the United States, Houston served as U.S. senator from 1846 to 1859. In 1859, Houston became governor of Texas but resigned less than two years later because he refused to take the Confederate loyalty oath. He retired from public life and died at his home.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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