Texas Buys Crockett's Last Known Letter

AUSTIN (AP) - Just two months before he perished defending the Alamo, Davy Crockett described to his daughter and son-in-law the land he treasured enough to die for its independence.

"I must say as to what I have seen of Texas it is the garden spot of the world," the famed frontiersman and former congressman from Tennessee wrote. "The best land and the best prospect for health. ..."

The Texas Historical Commission announced Tuesday it bought the letter, which is believed to be the last that Crockett penned before he and about 200 other Alamo defenders were killed by Mexican forces led by Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.

Gov. Rick Perry accepted the letter on behalf of the state during a brief ceremony Tuesday at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum.

"He stood tall against overwhelming odds and he refused to run away," Perry said of Crockett.

"It's clear that he cherished his principles above his life and died nobly in their defense," he said.

The state bought the letter for $490,000 from Simpson Galleries, a Houston fine arts auctioneer.

Ray Simpson said his grandfather bought the letter from a descendent of Crockett's in 1986 and misplaced it years ago. Simpson said he and his father found it about two weeks ago in their office.

The document likely could have sold for a much higher price in an open auction, Simpson said, but the family wanted to offer it to Texas first.

"Our family is very, very proud to have made this document available for the state commission to own," Simpson said.

State officials plan to eventually put the letter on display, but they have not decided when or where that will happen, Texas Historical Commission Chairman John Nau said.

The neatly scripted letter was dated Jan. 9, 1836, and was written from San Augustine, about 150 miles north of modern-day Houston. According to the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, it was addressed to his daughter Margaret and her husband, Wiley Flowers. Crockett arrived at the Alamo a month later and died in the siege the month after that.

In the note, Crockett described his "handy welcome" to Texas with a dinner and cannon fire. He said he expected to settle "on the Bodark or Choctaw bayou," which the Texas Historical Commission said is near modern-day Bonham, about 65 miles north of Dallas.

"I would rather be in my present situation than to be elected to a seat in Congress for life," he said.