Early Life and Marriage To Sam Houston
Margaret Moffette Lea was born on April 11, 1819 in Marion, Alabama, one of six children of Temple Lea and his wife Nancy Moffette Lea. Temple died when Margaret was 15. Nancy Lea moved into the home of her son and daughter-in-law Henry and Serena Lea, accompanied by her son Vernal and younger daughters Margaret and Antoinette. Margaret was described as a beauty, "accomplished, well-connected and deeply religious."
Margaret was a talented pianist who also played Spanish guitar. She wrote poetry and loved romantic novels. Margaret's father Temple Lea had been a Baptist circuit preacher. Nancy was a delegate at the formation of the Alabama Baptist Convention in 1823, during which Nancy had the distinction of being the only female delegate. Temple was the state treasurer of the convention . The wealth in the family came from the Moffettes. Nancy was the financial manager of the family, developing an Alabama slave cotton plantation. Margaret Lea was baptized by Reverend Peter Crawford at the Siloam Baptist Church at age 19. She received additional religious training at the Judson Female Institute. Rev. Crawford also performed the marriage ceremony of Margaret Lea and Sam Houston in 1840. Sam Houston was introduced to Nancy Lea through Antoinette's husband William Bledsoe when Houston was in Mobile, Alabama promoting Texas land sales through a company in which he had a financial interest. Bledsoe had become acquainted with Houston through Nancy's son Martin Lea. Houston's business meeting with Nancy Lea was followed by a garden party at Bledsoe's home where Houston met Margaret. Houston's sales pitch on the land prospects was convincing enough that the Bledsoe's and Nancy Lea left for Texas before Margaret's wedding to Sam on May 9, 1840. The marriage was her first and Houston's third (counting his marriage under Cherokee law to the widow Diana Rodgers Gentry, who was part-Cherokee.) Her family had opposed the marriage as they disapproved of Houston's age, divorce, and reputation as a hard drinker and a rake.
Because of Margaret's youth and religious nature, many of Sam Houston's friends thought that the marriage would not last for six months, but it was quite successful. They observed that Margaret acted as a tempering influence on Houston, who reformed his behavior in middle age. She encouraged him to stop his heavy drinking, a problem in earlier years, and to attend the Baptist Church.
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