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Authors, historians honor county namesake

Authors and historians Dr. Robin Montgomery and daughter Joy Montgomery appeared before Grimes County commissioners Wednesday, April 22, to tell the story of the county’s namesake, Jesse Grimes. The Montgomery’s are members of the Grimes County Historical Commission and are currently writing a book about Grimes’ life.

Grimes County Historical Commission chairman Al Peeler introduced the duo as “Grimes County’s finest historians.” Dr. Montgomery has written 13 books of which three were co-authored with his daughter.

Joy Montgomery opened their presentation saying, “I think it’s appropriate that we are here on the day after the battle of San Jacinto because Jesse Grimes was there at San Jacinto. He was a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence and his son Alfred Calvin Grimes died at the Alamo. One of Travis’ (Lieutenant Colonel William Barrett Travis) last letters from the Alamo was addressed to none other than Jesse Grimes.”

Off to Texas

Grimes was born in North Carolina but moved to Washington County, Alabama Territory, where he served as the county clerk, justice of the peace and county judge from 1820-1825 during the beginning of the new territory.

The death of his wife Martha while giving birth to twins and his subsequent remarriage to Rosanna Ward Britton, marked a new chapter in Grimes’ life, and one that would lead him to Texas in 1826.

According to Montgomery, Grimes joined Stephen F. Austin’s second colony and was elected first lieutenant of the First Company, Battalion of Austin.

Referring to a map of Stephen F. Austin’s colony that included what is now Grimes and Montgomery counties, she said, “A lot of our primary settlers were a part of this colony.”

Grimes was subsequently appointed by Travis as primary judge in this region of the Stephen F. Austin colony.

Montgomery said, “He was a councilman. He was also in charge of finance, also in charge of the military. Then when it came to the provisional government of Texas, he was appointed by then Governor Henry Smith as a colonel. He was part of the general council making decisions going forward.”

Grimes’ responsibilities included serving on the military, finance, land and Indian affairs committees.

The road to San Jacinto

The next provisional governor, James Robinson, reached out to citizens in Grimes Prairie and Montgomery to join the fight for Texas independence. It was as their representative that Grimes signed the Declaration of Independence, and where he received the letter from Travis at the Alamo urging the convention to take a stand on independence. Montgomery explained that the government was “going back and forth.”

Travis wrote, “Let the convention go on and make a Declaration of Independence.”

She said, “Travis was urging them to take a stand and he knew Grimes would help them to make a stand. That is why he wrote to Jesse Grimes. At the same time, his son (Alfred Calvin Grimes) died at the Alamo.”

From the Republic to secession

Grimes served the Republic of Texas in numerous capacities which included senator of the first congress, senator pro Tem of the first session, representative for Washington County, first chief justice for both Washington and Montgomery counties, and later as the senator for Grimes, Montgomery and Walker counties. He was always involved in finance and improvement of public lands, roads and bridges.

Though against secession, Grimes held Texas together after Governor Sam Houston and the Lieutenant Governor both stepped aside. Grimes died in 1866 at Grimes Prairie but his anti-secession sentiments cost him his popularity. Much like Sam Houston, he was buried without honors because of his stance on the Civil War.

Montgomery said, “Even today there is not a marker. There was a state marker, but it’s on private land and you can’t get to it, and the cemetery is not preserved. He was reinterred in Austin in 1929 at the State Cemetery so the State recognized him, and I think it’s time Grimes County recognizes its own.”

A Texan of importance

The Montgomery’s co-authored “The Cradle of Texas Road,” a book about the original Montgomery County area out of which 5-7 present day counties were carved, including Grimes.

Dr. Montgomery said, “What we are working on now is a book about Jesse Grimes to spread his fame around. We think he is one of the most important people in Texas history over 30-40 years.”

Dr. Montgomery expressed excitement at working with “this very enterprising” Grimes County Historical Commission and said, “In conjunction with what we’ve got going, amongst other things, we can make Jesse Grimes famous over the whole state.”