The Last Hero of San Jacinto


Alfonso Steele was born in 1817 in Kentucky. Leaving home at the age of 17 to seek his livelihood, he acquired passage down the Mississippi River on a flatboat and made his way to Lake Providence, Louisiana in late 1834. After working at various temporary jobs for almost a year, he joined Ephraim Dagget's volunteer force which then headed to Texas to fight for it's independence. 

Arriving in Washington-On-The-Brazos on New Year's Day, 1836, the contingent found that Texas had not yet declared independence from Mexico. Most of the men left and went back home, but Alfonso had no family and no particular reason to return to Louisiana so he stayed and began working in the hotel across the street from where the Texas delegates were busy crafting the declaration and at a gristmill several blocks away. After grinding corn at the gristmill, he made bread to be served at the hotel and began serving meals to the delegates as they worked late into the night.

Once independence had been declared, Alfonso joined a company of men who began training for the battles which would surely be ahead. When word of the fight at the Alamo reached the town, the company raced to San Antonio to join the fight. Just after crossing the Colorado River, the company of soldiers received word that the Alamo had fallen and all of its defenders slaughtered, their bodies thrown into a pile and burned. With this news, the men returned and joined Sam Houston's army.

On April 21, 1836, fighting hunger and exhaustion, Private Steele was in the front lines as the outnumbered Texans fought the Mexican army. After firing two shots, Steele took a mini-ball in the chest. The bullet went through his left lung and knocked him from his horse, but Alfonso got back up and continued to fight. Closeby, General Houston's horse took a mortal wound, falling and throwing him to the ground, but Houston jumped up, mounted Alfonso's now riderless horse and continued leading his men. Alfonso's horse would also be killed during the fight becoming the 2nd of 3 horses Sam Houston would ride during the battle.

Although grievously wounded, Alfonso continued the fight until the Texas army had won the field of battle and secured independence. He was then carried to a nearby home which had been hastily converted into a hospital. Several days later, he was transported by boat to a hospital which was better equipped to handle his serious wounds. 

Against the odds, Steele began recovering and after many weeks hovering between life and death, was discharged from the hospital and the army. With a small stipend for his service in the army, Alfonso then made his way to Montgomery County where he started farming and raising cattle.

Alfonso and Mary Ann
On September 28, 1838, Steele married Mary Ann Powell of Tennessee. She had come to Texas in 1833 at the age of 10 by covered wagon with her cousins the Berrymans and the Parkers. The Parker family established Fort Parker in Mexia where in 1836, several family members were killed or kidnapped by Comanche, including Cynthia Ann Parker, Mary Ann's playmate. Cynthia Parker who would later marry a Comanche chief and have a son by him, Quannah, who would himself become the last free Comanche chief. 

After Alfonso and Mary Ann were married, they sold his farm and moved to Robertson County (which later became part of Limestone County) and established another farm and ranch. By all accounts, the union and their life together was happy and quiet. Their marriage lasted 65 years and produced 10 children, only ending when Mary Ann passed away of natural causes in 1903.

When his wife died, Alfonso finally fully retired and moved into the home of a grandson in Kosse, about 50 miles from Waco. His final years were happily spent being visited by many of his 250 descendants and telling stories of his life in the early days of Texas. Steele died at age 94 on July 8, 1911 and was buried in the Mexia City Cemetery, the last living participant of the battle for Texas independence at San Jacinto.




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