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Mary Jane Harris Briscoe    

MRS. MARY JANE BRISCOE, HOUSTON. The death of this honored and beloved lady, whose life-history reaches back to the early days of Texas, occurred at her home, 620 Crawford Street, Houston, Texas, during the night of March 8, 1903. The funeral took place from Christ Episcopal Church in that city at 4 p. m. Wednesday, March 11, Rev. H. D. Ayes officiating. Interment in Glenwood Cemetery.

The following children survive her: Mrs. M. G. Howe, Mrs. Adele B. Looscan and Parmenas Briscoe, of Houston, and Andrew B. Briscoe, of San Antonio.

In the printed report of the annual meeting of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, held at Waco, April 20-21, 1903, are two pages (especially set aside for the purpose), containing the following:

“IN MEMORIAM.

“MRS. MARY JANE BRISCOE
“Honorary Life Member
“Texas State Historical Association, 1897-1903.
“First Vice-President
“Daughters of the Republic of Texas, 1891-1903.
“Member Texas Veterans’ Association.
“First President
“Sheltering Arms, Woman’s Home, Houston.
“BORN AUGUST 17, 1819, AT ST. GENEVIEVE, Mo.
“DIED MARCH 8, 1903, AT HOUSTON, TEXAS.

“The members of San Jacinto Chapter, Daughters of the Republic of Texas, with hearts full of grief for the death of Mrs. Mary J. Briscoe, First Vice-President of the general organization, and member of this Chapter, ask that these resolutions of regret be adopted and spread upon the minutes of the Chapter, and copies be sent to her family and the daily press:

“While we recognize the gentle hand of God in giving His beloved sleep, and bow with resignation to Him ‘who doeth all things well,’ believing that rest was joyful to her after her long and painful illness, yet, do we mourn our loss of sister, friend and counsellor in this organization. In her home, inspired by her noble ideas of patriotism, encouraged and guided by her helpful advice, the society of the Daughters of the Republic had its birth, and for the twelve years of its existence she has been its beloved First Vice-President. Her interest in the work for which we organized, and especially in the work of this Chapter, never grew less fervid, and her devotion to the cause of the old battlefield will be an inspiration to us for nobler efforts in its behalf, as it was, when on the morning we heard her spirit had fled to its better home, and we, faltering between our reverence and grief for the dead, and duty to our cause, seemed to hear her bid us ‘Go’ to San Jacinto, where the old oaks are keeping their silent watch over the long neglected graves of our heroes.

“Mrs. Briscoe was a woman nobly planned, and the whole circle of her life a grand fulfillment of its promises. In the beautiful freshness of her youth she came to link her name and fortune with the heroes then battling for liberty and independence. She became a central figure then, and for more than half a century her womanly merit, her patriotic devotion, her singleness of purpose, her lovely Christian example, and her domestic virtues of every hue and form have made her conspicuous, and will continue to keep her fresh in the minds of all who shared her acquaintance or lived in the genial atmosphere of her friendship. To-day, she is gone, and like loving children weeping for their mother, we lay this little tribute of our affection on the altar of her memory. We shall miss her dear face from our meetings, her clear judgment and wise counsels that have so long pointed out the way for us, but her example will be to us as a fragrant flower the grave can not wither. We will think of her

‘In that great cloister’s stillness and seclusion,
By guardian angels led;
May we walk with her and keep unbroken
The bond which nature gives,
Thinking that our remembrance, though unspoken,
May reach her where she lives.’

“To the members of her family, San Jacinto Chapter extends its loving sympathy, hoping that our all-wise and merciful Father will sustain and comfort them in this dark hour of sorrow.”

Mrs. Mary Jane Briscoe was born August 17, 1819, at St. Genevieve, Missouri, where her parents, John B. and Mrs. Jane (Birdsall) Harris, were temporarily residing. During her infancy they returned to New York. Her girlhood was spent in that State at the home of her grandfather, half way between the towns of Waterloo and Seneca Falls.

Her mother and elder brother moved to Texas in 1833.

She remained at school in New York until after the battle of San Jacinto, and then, in company with her grandfather, Louis Birdsall, her cousin, George Babcock, and her younger brother, John Birdsall Harris, proceeded to Texas, traveling by canal to Cincinnati, thence by steamboat to New Orleans, where they were joined by other relatives, thence on the schooner Julius Caesar to Quintana, at the mouth of the Brazos, where they arrived in the latter part of September, 1836, and thence on the steamboat Yellowstone up the river to the town of Brazoria, where they stopped for about two weeks at the boarding house of Mrs. Jane Long, widow of Dr. James Long, famous as the leader of “Long’s Expedition.”

The Texan Congress was holding its first session at Columbia, only a few miles distant, having assembled October 3d, and Mrs. Long’s house was much frequented by the members and by the President and other officers of the Republic. Here Miss Harris formed the acquaintance of Gen. Houston and many other persons of distinction.

On the arrival of her brother, De Witt Clinton Harris, with a saddlehorse for her, the entire party proceeded to Harrisburg, conveying their household effects in ox-wagons the distance of fifty miles with much difficulty, as heavy rains had fallen and the prairie was for the greater part of the way covered with water. They. found her mother living in the only house spared by the Mexicans when they burned the town a few months before. It escaped the torch for the reason that it stood in the edge of the prairie and was not seen by them. Her own home had been destroyed. When they arrived they found her engaged in having it rebuilt by Mexican prisoners, a number of whom had been assigned to her for the purpose.

In, the little house in the edge of the prairie Miss Harris first met her future husband, Capt. (later Judge) Andrew Briscoe. They were married August 17, 1837, by Hon. Isaac Batterson, then one of the justices of the peace for the county.

As her husband was an historic personage and her life was blended with his until the time of his death, the following relating to him may be appropriately incorporated here: He was descended from a cavalier family, members of which emigrated from England to Virginia in Cromwell’s time, was the son of Hon. Parmenas Briscoe, and was born in Adams County, Mississippi, November 25, 1810; moved to Texas in 1834 with a large stock of goods and established himself at Anahuac, at the mouth of the Trinity, the chief port of entry on Galveston Bay; resisted the illegal collection of customs dues by Teuorio in June, 1835, and was imprisoned by that officer, who, however, was compelled to release him by William B. Travis and a band of Texans who loaded a six-pounder cannon on the sloop Ohio and attacked the fort—the first armed movement in defiance of Mexican despotism made by the colonists in that year; was elected captain of the Liberty Volunteers in October, 1835; participated with them in the battle of Concepcion, October 28, 1835; took part in the storming and reduction of San Antonio in December 1835; was a member of the Plenary Convention that assembled at Washington-on-the-Brazos, March 1, 1836, and was one of the signers of the Texas declaration of independence; raised a company of regulars (Company A) for the army and commanded it in the battle of San Jacinto; was appointed Chief Justice of Harrisburg county and moved with his wife to the town of Houston, where he purchased a two-story house on Main Street (the first dwelling on the street), one block from the capitol; secured a charter for the Harrisburg and Brazos Railroad in 1839, the first obtained in Texas, but after a few miles of grading was done the enterprise was abandoned; returned to Harrisburg in 1840 (after the expiration of his term of office); built there a two-story brick dwelling, and engaged in the cattle business until 1849; then moved to New Orleans, where he established a banking and exchange house, and, after a brief illness, died October 4th of that year.

After his death Mrs. Briscoe lived for two years on the plantation of his father, Hon. Parmenas Briscoe, in Claiborne County, Mississippi. This gentleman settled in the territory of Mississippi in 1809, commanded a company in the Creek war, was a distinguished member of the Legislature of Mississippi several years prior to and including 1843, was a recognized leader of Democracy in that State until March, 1851, then went to California, and during the return trip died on shipboard near Acapulco, Mexico, and was buried at sea.

Mrs. Briscoe came back to Texas in 1852; resided at Anderson, in Grimes County, until 1857; moved thence to Galveston, and in 1859, at her mother’s suggestion, returned to Harrisburg, where she resided until 1873, in which year she moved to Houston, thereafter her home.

She was a member of the Episcopal Church, and was confirmed as such by Rt. Rev. Bishop Freeman, the first Episcopal bishop of the diocese of Texas. She was also a member of the Texas Veterans’ Association and frequently attended its annual meetings.
Among her other accomplishments she was a graceful and forcible writer; some of her productions (notably a description of the meeting of the Texas Veterans’ Association at Temple in 1887) evince a skill seldom possessed except by those whose profession is writing, and whose pens have begun, at least, to “ope’ the world, mine oyster,” as Ancient Pistol declared he would do with his sword.

April 21, 1837, she attended a ball given at Houston in honor of the first anniversary of the battle of San Jacinto. She was then the beautiful Miss Harris, the principal attraction to a score of admirers, and. danced with Gen. Houston and other notables. Ex-Gov. Lubbock was her partner in several dances. He, perhaps, is the only person now living who participated in the pleasures of the occasion.

Judge Briscoe left large landed interests, which she husbanded by wise management and left to her heirs.

Her children loved her with a devotion that makes her loss one that no words can reconcile them to, that only the Great Healer can give them fortitude to bear. The people of the entire State honored her. May the sod rest lightly upon her remains, the choicest flowers of spring adorn her grave, and the birds sing above it their sweetest songs, for there is all that earth may claim of her.

Year Book for Texas: party conventions, election returns, inauguration of Governor Lanham and Lieutenant-Governor Neal, legislative work, public officials and current reports of departments and state institutions, important events, obituaries of distinguished dead, industrial development, statistics, biographical sketches, and historical manuscripts never before published. Raines, Cadwell Walton, Austin, Tex.: Gammel-Statesman Pub. Co., 1903, pages 35-39. View image of this page on line.  Search Hundreds of 1880s-1920s Texas History Books for biographies and historical information on your ancestors.  View the book page images on line and print them out for your genealogy file!  Try the family history collection for free for 14 days!

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