Tuesday, February 27, 2024

EPHRAIM RODDY: Representative at the Convention of 1833



Editor’s note: The story of Ephraim Roddy is told by his third great-grandson Gerry Miller. Gerry is a member of the Sons of the Republic of Texas and serves the David Crockett Chapter as parliamentarian.

My name is Ephraim Roddy. Most people around here call me “Major Ephraim,” but the courthouse folks refer to me as “Old Eph.” I was born Aug. 5, 1786, in the Susquehanna Valley, Pennsylvania, son of John Roddy and Elizabeth Jameson, both formerly of Cork, Ireland.

I enjoyed school and was considered an apt student by my teachers. I developed a keen desire for adventure as a boy that persisted throughout my life.

In 1800, when I was 14 years old, my father allowed me to accompany him on a business trip. We stopped in Washington, D.C., and I got to meet President Thomas Jefferson. I was charmed by the affable manner of the red-headed Virginian.

When I got a little older, I decided to become an attorney. I studied law and graduated from South Carolina State University.

I entered military service in the U.S. Army and attained the rank of major.

In 1819, I married Harriet Harrison Earle, youngest daughter of Col. John Earle, South Carolina planter and revolutionary soldier.

My spirit for adventure was aroused by the westward movement, and I took my family west in a covered wagon to Texas in the summer of 1831. We took up residence on Washington on the Brazos, where I had a farm and engaged in the practice of law.

I was chosen to represent Washington on the Brazos at the Convention of 1833. In April of that year, we drafted a state constitution and a bill of rights, which included the right to trial by jury, habeas corpus and freedom of the press, all of which the Constitution of 1824 lacked. Our document also provided for Texas to separate from Coahuila and a prohibition of African slave traffic in Texas.

Sam Houston chaired the committee that drafted the new Constitution. Stephen Austin took our new Constitution to Mexico City to present it to the Mexican government. They rejected it. This trip led to the imprisonment of Austin until August 1835. The Declaration of Nov. 7, 1835, without success, attempted to gain support of other Mexican states to restore the Constitution of 1824, that Santa Anna had abrogated.

The convention at Washington on the Brazos and the Texas Declaration of Independence of March 2, 1836, became a declaration of war for our independence. The rest, as they say, is history.

Upon reflection, I remember the early days before the revolution with fondness for interesting times and interesting people. During my legal career, I recall trying one particular hotly contested case. At the trial, the other lawyer – a young, passionate red-headed fellow – pulled a Bowie knife on me, threatening my life. I responded by opening the tiny blade on my penknife, saying, “I’m ready!” The judge and jury broke up laughing at the ridiculousness of the scene before them. The tension was broken, and the trial continued. I won.

The passionate lawyer, William Travis, later to be Col. William Barret Travis, met his end as commander of the Alamo, in March 1836, giving his life for our freedom and independence, like so many others. I was privileged to be acquainted with Houston, Austin, Bowie, Travis and Crockett.

In 1844, I was appointed to lay out the county seat of Washington County, sell lots and handle the business of the county. I was privileged to be one of the first commissioners of Brenham, Texas. On Feb. 3, 1845, I was elected the Justice of the Peace and served in that capacity. During this time, I continued farming and the practice of law.

After the war, things settled down. We still had raids north of the border by unhappy Mexicans. We also had raids by Comanches, Apaches and Kiowas. We tolerated floods, drought, freezes and hurricanes. Life on the Texas frontier was a daily struggle to survive, but a challenge that free men were more than willing to take. My wife and I are buried in the cemetery at Liberty Hill, Texas. I lived a life rich with God’s blessings, a real adventure.

God bless Texas!