by Celia Yeary
|GIRL IN SUNBONNET-WINSLOW HOMER-1878|
Dilue Rose was only ten years old when she and her family were caught up in the terrible exodus called The Runaway Scrape. They'd moved to Texas only two years before and had barely settled in near Harrisburg when word came that Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna and his Mexican army were gathering on the Rio Grande River. The war between Texas and Mexico had begun.
The residents around San Patricio, Refugio, and San Antonio began to move east in large groups as early as January.
In March, Sam Houston arrived in Gonzales and learned of the fall of the Alamo. He decided on retreat to the Colorado River and ordered all inhabitants to leave everything and accompany him. People from all over Texas began to move toward Louisiana and Galveston Island to escape the Mexican Army. This began the Runaway Scrape on a very large scale.
Like all others, Dilue Rose's parents, Dr. Pleasant Rose and wife Margaret, were ill-prepared for the long trek east. In their state of panic, they left food on the table, a fire in the fireplace, stock to be tended, and chickens left to roam.
No one made proper preparations to survive on the run. They used any means of transportation available, or none at all, meaning many walked, including women and children. Babies and toddlers were carried which made the flight even more difficult.
As a young girl, Dilue followed her family as all other children did in a desperate attempt to get to Louisiana or Galveston Island.
|DILUE ROSE HARRIS|
As an elderly woman, Dilue used her father's journal along with her childhood memories of the horrors of The Runaway Scrape to write memoirs of those days. Those pages were used to write her story in various publications, including a book titled Texas Tears and Texas Sunshine-Voices of Frontier Women.
"We left home at sunset, hauling clothes, bedding, and provisions on the sleigh with one yoke of oxen. Mother and I were walking, she with an infant in her arms, while Father rode their one horse. Brother drove the oxen and my two little sisters rode in the sleigh.
When we got to the San Jacinto River, there were five thousand people waiting for the Lynchburg Ferry. We waited three days before crossing.
Our hardships began there. The river was rising and there were struggles to see who should cross first.
Measles, sore eyes, whooping cough, and every other disease known to man broke out. We got on the ferry first because of my little sick sister. The horror of crossing Trinity was difficult to describe. Once on the ferry, the flood waters broke over the banks above. It took eight men to get us to safety."
By April 1 the prairie was a scene of chaos and desolation and death. The spring rains fell in sheets, making every river crossing a terrifying ordeal. Women floundered waist-deep in mud, babies in their arms. Some families gave up running and simply cowered where they were, in the tall prairie grass and bottomland canebrakes. Many refugees sickened and died along the trail. Children were abandoned. Thieves stole horses, claiming they were for Houston's Texian Army.
After weeks of intolerable conditions, a young man rode toward their camp, shouting, "Turn back! Turn back! Houston's army has whipped the Mexicans, and it's safe now. Go home! Turn back!"
They soon learned that the return trip was just as horrendous as the running away.
"We crossed the San Jacinto River and stayed late into the night on the San Jacinto battlefield. A soldier asked my mother to go with him to see Santa Anna as a captive and the Mexican prisoners, but she would not go, saying she was not dressed to go visiting. Instead, I got permission to ride there with him.
Earlier, I had lost my bonnet in the raging river, and Mother made me wear a tablecloth tied over my head. But I wouldn't wear the tablecloth again since I would be seeing some of the young men.
I was on the battlefield of San Jacinto on April 26, 1836. Two days later I turned eleven years old.
We left the battlefield late in the evening. We had to pass among the dead Mexicans, and once Father had to stop and pull one out of the road so we would not run over the body.
The prairie was very boggy, it was getting dark, and now there were thirty families with us. We were glad to leave the battlefield, for it was a gruesome sight. We camped that night on the prairie, and could hear the wolves howl and bark as they devoured the dead."
The family arrived home after many days of grueling travel. When they arrived, they found the house ransacked, dishes broken, furniture tossed about and broken, the floor torn up, and hogs running around in the house. They had practically nothing, and so the starting over began.
"Father had hidden some of our better things in a big chest so that no one could find them. We had left in our better clothes. Now our better clothing was in that chest, and among them was my old sunbonnet. I was prouder of that sunbonnet than anything, for I was sorely tired of wearing that tablecloth."
--Dilue Rose was born in 1825 in St. Louis, Missouri on April 28.
--After the Texas Revolution, her family moved to the area of Bray's Bayou five miles outside Houston.
--There, Dilue attended school.
--At age 13, she married Ira A. Harris who served with the Texas Rangers.
--They had nine children.
--Ira died in 1869 at age 53.
--Dilue died in 1914 at age 89.
NOTE: One of Dilue's little sisters died during The Runaway Scrape. If you recall reading my post of a couple of months ago titled, "Mary and a Horse Named Tormentor," she also was in the Runaway Scrape with her husband and babies. One of her babies died during the exodus, as well.
Romance...and a little bit of Texas
The Handbook of Texas On-Line: State Historical Association
Texas Tears and Texas Sunshine: Voices of Frontier Women
Reminiscences of Dilue Rose Harris
Mike Kearby's "Texas"
Public Domain Photos