The Monument of Thomas J. Rusk at Oak Grove Cemetery in Historic Nacogdoches


Thomas J. Rusk Monument at Oak Grove Cemetery in Historic Nacogdoches

The Monument of Thomas J. Rusk at Oak Grove Cemetery in Historic Nacogdoches

Thomas J. Rusk was born in the Pendleton District of South Carolina on December 5, 1803. He worked as a clerk in the county office, studied law, was admitted to the bar, and began the practice of law in 1825 after which he moved to Clarksville, Georgia and married Polly Cleveland daughter of General John Cleveland with whom he engaged in a business partnership. In 1834 Rusk came to Texas pursuing individuals who had embezzled some of his funds. These were never recovered but he settled in Nacogdoches with his family and after hearing the citizens denounce the despotism of Mexico he joined the independence movement. As a delegate from Nacogdoches to the Convention of 1836 Rusk signed the Texas Declaration of Independence and served on the committee to revise the constitution. After the Fall of the Alamo Rusk helped President Burnet move the government to Harrisburg, and on April 21, 1836 he was a commander of the Texas Army that decisively defeated Mexico at the Battle of San Jacinto. Under President Houston's first administration Rusk was appointed Secretary of War and represented Nacogdoches in the Second Congress of the Republic. In 1838 he commanded the militia that suppressed the Cordova Rebellion. In this same year he was elected Chief Justic of the Supreme Court and established the rule of Mandamus against public officers. In 1840 Rusk resigned this position to return to the practice of law, entering into a partnership with J. Pinckney Henderson, the first governor of Texas. Later Rusk headed the bar of the Republic of Texas. In 1845 as president of the Convention he supported the annexation of Texas to the United States. His legal knowledge contributed significantly to the constitution of the new state. Rusk helped to establish Nacogdoches University, the first non-sectarian university in the state, and for a time was president of this institution. In February of 1846 the first state legislature elected Rusk and Houston to served in the United states Senate. Rusk was popular in his party and was encouraged to become a presidential candidate in 1856.16 President Buchanan offered him the position of Postmaster General in 1857 and during that year the United States Senate elected him president pro tem. Despondant over the death of his wife in 1856 and suffering from a fatal illness Rusk took his own life on July 29, 1857. The Texas Centennial Commission placed this monument at the graves of Rusk and his wife in 1936. The town of Rusk and Rusk County are named in his honor. The following is an excerpt from the report that Rusk wrote to President Burnet after serving as a commander of the Texas Army in the victory at the Battle of San Jacinto:

"........The Sun was sinking in the Horizon as the battle commenced,
but at the close of the conflict the Suns of Liberty and Independence rose in Texas........
........a Volume would not contain the many deeds of individual daring and bravery
each Captain has been required to make report........
and I hope justice will be done to all the brave and noble spirits
who mingled in the glorious achievement of this day........
All have my highest approbation........
With such men sustained as we shall be by the patriots and lovers of Liberty in our Mother Country,
hateful despotism cannot find a resting place for the sole of her foot
upon the beautiful plains of Texas........
This glorious achievement is attributable not to superior force
but to the valor of our soldiers and the sanctity of our cause........
Never in the annals of war was the interposition of divine providence signally displayed........
This Brave Band achieved a victory as glorious as any of the records of history
and the happy consequences will be felt in Texas by........generations to come........"



(Next Picture: Mary's Monument)
(Oak Grove Outline)
(Main Outline)
(Main Thumbnails)