The Yellow Rose of Texas

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Statue of Emily D. West (Morgan) by Veryl Goodnight in Houston

Emily D. West, the Yellow Rose of Texas, is someone of legend who helped the Texans to win the Battle of San Jacinto and lives in Texan history as a great heroine.

History is full of myth and legend. In Texas, the Yellow Rose of Texas is one such legend, though little is actually known of the real individual.

From what historians have been able to discover, the Yellow Rose of Texas was a woman named Emily D. West who came to Mexican Texas in 1835. Some accounts state that she was a free black woman. Others claim that she was of mixed race, or mulatto, and decided to enter into indentured servitude to escape prejudices of her race.

Whatever the circumstances, she signed a contract with James Morgan in New York City on October 25, 1835 to travel to and work on Morgan’s settlement of New Washington in Texas. She arrived in December 1835.

The Battle of San Jacinto

On April 16, 1836, while Morgan was commanding his own troops in Galveston, Col. Juan N. Almonte arrived at New Washington while pursuing the President of Texas, David G. Burnet and his family. Burnet was able to outrun Col. Almonte, but the Mexican troops decided to remain in there.

The following day, General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna Perez de Lebron arrived in New Washington and took a liking to Emily West. It is unknown whether or not she was taken captive by the Mexican army or if she was victimized in any way.

Legend, however, states that she sent another servant of Morgan’s to Sam Houston’s encampment to inform him of Santa Anna’s location. Legend also claims that Santa Anna was very much a ladies man. He had left a wife in Mexico, taken a second bride in a teenage Texan captive and sought the company of yet another pretty woman.

What is known is that Mexican historians spoke of Santa Anna’s mulatto mistress during the Texas campaign. Also, on the morning of April 21, Sam Houston observed Emily making Santa Anna a champagne breakfast.

That afternoon, the Texans were able to mount an attack at San Jacinto during the Mexican’s siesta time. Emily was reported to have been helping Santa Anna with his. When the Mexicans were attacked, Santa Anna fled the scene half-dressed.

Emily West’s Recognition

When Col. Morgan returned from Galveston, he reportedly released her from her indentured servitude and issued her a passport back to New York. He never hesitated to relate Emily’s story to friends and acquaintances. Emily left the Republic of Texas in March 1837.

Modern Evidence of Emily West

In 1956, William Bollaert published a story which was related to him by either Sam Houston or Col. Isaac N. Moreland, who Emily worked for after the Battle of San Jacinto, of a mulatto girl who kept Santa Anna in his tent all day and prevented him from rushing to the conflict. This is the only more modern documentation which is available to historians.

While the story of Emily D. West is fuzzy at best, the Yellow Rose of Texas will always live in legend and will continue to be remembered every April 21st in the Lone Star State.