This morning the Junior Fellows began their second day of the Austin Trip by touring the French Legation Museum. The weather was definitely on our side, it was a nice warm morning in the high seventies.
We learned an incredible amount of Texas history in just one hour! We began by learning about the situation the State of Texas was in during 1836. They had just declared their independence and were going through a particularly difficult time dealing with national debt, the fear of further conflict with the Mexican government, and angry Native Americans who felt they had been run off the land. They were eager to find friends with political power in Europe, which is where a French Man by the name of Alphonse Dubois became part of Texas History. The French government sent Mr. Dubois on a fact-finding mission to see whether Texas was a country was worth investing time and resources. Mr. Dubois fell in love with the natural resources of the land and the positive experiences with its people. He spent his time touring the East Texas and enjoyed the idea of big plantations. When the King received Dubois’s positive feedback, he decided to move forward with the relationship, and France became the first European power to sign a treaty with Texas.
Mr. Dubois spent some time in Washington D.C. and was then sent to Austin, Texas. At this point Austin was a young city and only beginning to develop. The trip to Austin was very rough. For Mr. Dubois this was a big change; he was used to living luxuriously in Paris. He purchased 22 acres of land and began to build the Home that is now the French Legation Museum. While his home was being built he rented a cabin from Richard Bullock. After a very long and drawn out conflict with Mr. Bullock over high rent prices and out-of-control pigs, Dubois felt that the situation needed the government’s attention. He attempted to solve the situation by demanding that the Presidency deal with Mr. Bullock, but when it failed to do so he finally decided to move to New Orleans.
Although the issues with France were eventually mended by President Sam Houston, the capitol of Texas was moved from Austin to Houston. The home that Dubois built was sold to a Catholic Bishop who, in turn, sold it to Dr. Moseley Baker. Mr. Baker’s daughter, Lillie was the first to share the home with the public by giving tours. Once she passed away ownership of the home was finally in the hands of Texas government. The Daughters of the Republic of Texas were named custodians of the home. After some restorations and research the home was finally made into a Museum and open to the public in 1956.
The home itself is the oldest in the city of Austin. It was built in 1841 as a French style creole cottage. The front of the home is facing the south and has a very big porch. The home has three large doors leading to the porch and a significantly high ceiling which helps the heat rise during the hot Texas summers. The kitchen can be found behind the house; this was common because the kitchen was a very probable source of fires and distance was key to containing the fire and keeping it from spreading into the home.
The view of the Capitol from the porch of the French Legation was one of the most memorable moments of the tour. By law, this view must remain unobstructed, and it was absolutely beautiful!
Although the skyline won’t let us forget how far we have come, the view of the Capitol and the style of the will never let us forget our history and where we came from.