It was a cold Austin afternoon on the day before Christmas as I passed this rather out of place statue more than once on my way to the Texas State Capitol Building. Wandering in between searches for an open cafe to get some work done and a few photo opportunities. Little did I know about the connection between the tallest state capitol building in the United States and this woman lighting a cannon, seemingly pointed at nothing in particular.
In my travels I’ve come across a number of significant but subtle sites from lonely trees in the desert to haunted (slightly Satanic) palaces. But there was a fire in this cold piece of steel I was drawn to and her name was Angelina Eberly. She was an innkeeper who, while working on December 30, 1842, noticed a theft in progress across the street. It was members of the Republic of Texas attempting to secretly move the national archives from Austin to Houston. When Eberly realized this she fired a canon into the General Land Office Building (she was aiming at the thieves but fortunately for them, Eberly missed.)
Still, the firing of the cannon was enough to draw the attention of local cavalry who were able to chase and track down the bandits. Eberly’s actions were a turning point in what is known as the Texas Archive War – the attempt by then Texas President Sam Houston to move the capitol of Texas from Austin to Houston. (Texas was an independent republic at the time and not yet a part of the US.)
Because of Angelina Eberly, the archives were retrieved and returned to Austin before the next morning. 3 years later when the Republic of Texas was admitted as America’s 28th state, Austin, not Houston, was made the capitol – which it remains today. Thanks, in large part, due to that 3 kilo canon ball fired by Eberly near the spot where her statue stands today. So I suppose it’s true what they say, don’t mess with Texas – or perhaps more fittingly, don’t mess with Texas’ women.