Recently we happened upon one of Albany’s most interesting stories. Emily West, from Albany, who was the wife of the first vice-president of Texas in 1836.
The history of Texas is the story of many cultures (like America). It includes Native Americans, indigenous peoples of what is now Mexico, Spanish conquistadors, “Americans”, and the French who all lived there. (If you want to learn more, one of the best easy reads is James Michener’s historical novel “Texas”. A 400 year sweeping saga published in 1985.)
But we’re going to fast forward to 1824, when the Mexican people gained their independence from Spain. (Not unlike Americans in the Revolutionary War.)
Enter a brilliant multi-lingual physician from Mexico’s Yucatan Region, Lorenzo de Zavala. He helped write the first Mexican Constitution, and was the country’s foreign minister to France. He came to disagree with the dictatorial methods of Santa Anna, Mexico’s leader and was banned from the country. He embarked on travels across the U.S.
In 1831 in Albany, he met a young woman about 21, Amanda West working in the prominent Crosby’s Hotel on South Pearl and Beaver Streets. Her family was originally from the town of Westerlo (probably Rensselaerville). She was said to have been beautiful, intelligent, vivacious, and a darling of Mrs. Crosby, the owner’s wife.
Amanda and Lorenzo were smitten. He had been a widower for some time. They were married in NYC in a small Catholic Church on the lower east side in 1831, and traveled to Mexican Territory in what is now Texas.
De Zavala was an advocate for Texas Independence. After the Battle of the Alamo, de Zavala drafted the first Constitution of the Texas Republic, and designed its first flag. De Zavala, what we might call an “Hispanic”today, became the first vice-president of the Republic, and is venerated as a founding father of the State of Texas.
Alas, Lorenzo, a good deal older than Amanda (who by now was using the first name Emily), died in 1836. Emily and her 3 children traveled back to Albany and she married a man from named Henry Fock (or Folk), we think from Westerlo. They lived in Buffalo Bayou, northwest of Galveston and had several children. In her later years she again became a widow and married a sawmill owner.
Emily remained in Texas and died in the early 1880s.
Her granddaughter, Adina Emilia De Zavala, became an American history teacher. She’s credited with the campaign to preserve and save the Alamo for future generations.
(I discovered this story when Sam Haynes, Ph.d, head of the Center of Southwestern Studies, reached out to me wanting to know more about Crosby’s Hotel, for his biography of Emily.)
Copyright 2021 Julie O’Connor