Margaret Lea Houston - Life in The Governor's Mansion

Life in The Governor's Mansion

The Texas Governor's Mansion had been built during the administration of Elisha M. Pease, who moved into the mansion in June 1856. The bachelor Governor Hardin Richard Runnels was the only other resident of the mansion before the Houstons. Until 1931, the state government of Texas made no provisions for furnishing and maintaining the mansion, and governors and their families (and supporters) had to assume the financial costs. Neither had there been any provisions in the state budget for a security force, military or private, to guard the mansion itself or the first family.

The Houston family with its retinue of slaves moved into the mansion in December 1859, during a political climate that was openly hostile to the new administration. Margaret feared for the family's safety in the unguarded mansion. Sam personally ordered furniture for the mansion. Runnels had requested furniture from the state legislature, but the matter had not made it to the floor before the arrival of the Houstons. The family quarters were on the second floor, and the twelve slaves remained on the ground floor. A governess was hired to look after the Houston children. Margaret withdrew from the public eye, permitting only family to visit her. This included Nancy Lea's cousin Robert E. Lee who was stationed at Fort Mason.

The Houston's youngest child Temple Lea was born in the mansion August 12, 1860, and delivered by Dr. Beriah Graham. Margaret was surrounded by her personal slaves. After recovering from childbirth, Margaret's only excursions outside the mansion were church activities.

On March 5, 1861, the state Secession Convention reorganized the state government, requiring a loyalty oath to the Confederate States of America by all state office holders. Houston refused. On March 16, the convention removed Houston from the office of Governor of Texas. The Houstons vacated the mansion, and Houston was succeeded in office by Lt. Governor Edward Clark.

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