Saturday, March 8, 2014

Dilue Rose and The Runaway Scrape

by Celia Yeary

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.

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.

Dilue writes:
"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.

Dilue writes:
"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.
Celia Yeary
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"
Wikimedia Commons.
Public Domain Photos


  1. Gosh. We think we have it bad with hordes of people shopping on days like Black Thursday. I couldn't imagine the horrors of trying to run for your life like that. Of being tired, hungry, scared, and wet - and sick- for most of that time.

    I really liked the tablecloth aspect of the story. Way to bring history to life, Celia!

  2. And we complain when we get stalled in traffic or the trains don't run on time!

    Glad we don't have to use oxen to get around.

    Morgan Mandel

  3. I can't imagine the hardships those people faced--and children enduring all that horror and death. What strong human beings they were. How sad that children came to be abandoned in all that chaos. Reading those quotes from her memoirs really brought that episode in history home to me.
    I remember your prior article, Celia. It was good and this one is outstanding.

  4. Some stayed behind in San Antonio. Read about them in Bill Groneman' "Eyewitness to the Alamo." The Runaway Scrape served to mix up the Texans - give them something in common to rally around.

  5. Maggie--I don't think any of us can imagine going through that. They did what they had to do, and we do what we have to do. Our ancestors and frontier women are a constant source of amazement to me. Have you noticed in this blog and others how long the women lived? Dilue married at age 13, had nine children, and outlived her husband 36 years!!! We do live longer than men, as a general rule, but how a female can go through that much and still be active is just astounding.
    Thanks for you comments--I loved the tablecloth story, too.

  6. MORGAN--isn't that the truth? We complain no matter how good we really have it. As the saying goes, "He'd complain if he was going to be hung with a new rope!" There's a message in there somewhere.

  7. Sarah, I, too, thought a lot about those abandoned children. What circumstances were so horrible that you'd leave your children by the side of the road or in a canebrake? Unbelievable.
    I think I love this kind of research because it makes me appreciate what they did to move out state/country forward. Sadly, some just weren't strong enough. But little Dilue? She just captured my heart. I wonder how that's pronounced?
    I always appreciated your thoughtful remarks. Thanks so much.

  8. I was recently reading about Dilue Rose as well: she's mentioned in 'Unflinching Courage: Pioneering Women who Shaped Texas' by Kay Bailey Hutchison. You might be interested in reading that, Celia! If you haven't already...

  9. What a fascinating story. Horrible all the more for being true. To think that children were abandoned along the way--inconceivable! Thanks for the post. Barb Bettis

  10. What a fascinating story. Horrible all the more for being true. To think that children were abandoned along the way--inconceivable! Thanks for the post. Barb Bettis

  11. Dac--I'll try to find that account. I have no doubt there was more behind this scrape than was known. Thanks.

  12. Andrea--I'll see if our library has it. I like books such as these, and I hope Kay Bailey did a good job with it. Interesting that you were reading about her, too.
    Thanks so much.

  13. Barb--so many events were inconceivable, weren't they? Think of the wagons west and the Donner Party. Lands, there are so many fascinating stories.
    Thanks for visiting my blog.

  14. Touching account of the misery suffered during the Runaway Scrape. Thanks for sharing, Celia.

    My grandmother was a generation or two later than Dilue, but she married at age 14 and bore at least 13 children. She outlived her husband by more than a decade. Those ladies were made of tough stuff back then.

  15. I believe women today are the offspring of those who gave meaning to "survival of the fittest." I have no doubt that these women could survive and cope if they had to. Every wooman today doesn't have life as good as some of us do and all of us are coping with things unheard of in those days which may be as much a challenge as the simple life hardships they faced. Not to take anything away from pioneer women, just to say the legacy goes on.

  16. Did you notice the new word I coined? Wooman might have its uses in some cases.

  17. LYN--I think girls matured earlier, maybe, than they do now. My grandmother, too, married at age 13 to a hand her family had hired. He was fifteen years older, and came when she was 11. He asked her father, "can I marry her when she's older?" He said, yes, when she turns 13. Amazing, isn't it. Sadly, my grandmother died in her 60s.
    I have a group photo taken before the turn of the 20th Century of the family and all the hands. My grandmother is in front--11--she has pigtails and she's holding a doll. My granddad is in the back row wearing a suit and black hat. A man almost old enough to be her father. But, you know, I loved my Granny and Papa. Loved them dearly, and they had a calm, sweet relationship.
    Thanks, Lyn, for your visit.

  18. Yes, Linda, you're right. I said earlier that those women coped with what they had to, and we cope with what we must. No doubt we have it easier, but still...we have hardships and heartaches they didn't.
    Life goes on, and no doubt that generation back then thanked God they didn't have it as hard as their ancestors. It's all relative, isn't it.
    Thanks so much--I always want to know what you think.

  19. Hi Celia,
    This is a wonderful post, I really enjoyed reading it. I don't think I could have survived the hardship those women endured.



  20. Margaret--I think all of us wonder if we could survive such things. But families survive whatever they must--even today in disasters of some kind, I wonder how can they do that?

  21. An amazing journey, filled with hardship and grief. After that, imagine how disheartening it would be to find your home in ruins. What incredible spirit they had to forge on.

  22. Jacquie--our pioneer/frontier families had to be made of stern stuff. I'm sure they did as they had every day...suck it up and dig in to clean everything up. As I recall, the Rose family moved shortly after returning home, so I guess it wasn't that much of a problem.
    Thanks for visiting!


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