Festivities to commemorate life of university’s namesake

The traditional “March to the Grave,” birthday cake and toast, as well as a dedication of a cabin utilized by the University’s namesake will all be a part of the birthday celebration of Gen. Sam Houston on Wednesday, March 2.

Festivities, which will also commemorate the 175th Anniversary of Texas Independence, will kick off at 9:15 a.m. at the Sam Houston Statue and Visitor’s Center with refreshments.

Beginning at 10:30 a.m. the traditional march to Sam Houston’s gravesite at Oakwood Cemetery will assemble behind Austin Hall and proceed to the general’s grave around 10:40 a.m., led by the SHSU ROTC down University Avenue.

Scott Sosebee, executive director and editor of the East Texas Historical Association, will speak at the ceremony, which will begin at 11 a.m. at Houston’s gravesite in Oakwood Cemetery.

Sosebee, also an assistant professor of history at Stephen F. Austin State University, specializes in the history of Texas and the American south.

Following the ceremony, activities will move to the Sam Houston Memorial Museum, where Bear Bend Cabin will be dedicated and the traditional “Toast to Texas” and birthday cake will celebrate Houston’s birthday at 2 p.m.

“Bear Bend is a classic double pen, planked log two-story cabin with a central dog trot,” said Megan Buro, museum marketing coordinator. “The two pens display differing notching styles, one a square notch and the other a half-dovetail.

“Tradition says Sam Houston often stayed here while bear hunting,” she said. “Local historians relate that ‘…General Houston…would help drive bears into a U-shaped bend in Atkins Creek, a spot…still called Bear Bend.'”

The cabin was moved six miles from its original site in Montgomery County and restored by B. Carroll and Mae Tharp in 1987. In October 2010, it was moved again to the Sam Houston Memorial Museum grounds and is being restored.

“Once completed-the chimneys have to be finished-Bear Bend will be open to the public and incorporated into museum tours and educational programs,” Buro said.

The tradition of celebrating March 2 in Huntsville stems back to 1889 when students from the Sam Houston Normal Institute marched to Gen. Sam Houston’s grave. This lasted until the mid 1960’s, but was resurrected in 2001 by SHSU’s Walter P. Webb Historical Society, according to Buro.

This year marks the 30th Anniversary of Walker County Historical Commission’s sponsorship of March 2 celebrations in Huntsville, which began in 1981 through a program called “Texas Heritage Days.”

Oakwood Cemetery is located at Sam Houston Memorial Drive (Avenue I) and 9th Street. In the event of inclement weather, the event will be held at Mance Park Middle School, near the cemetery.

All activities are sponsored by the Walker County Historical Commission, the Sam Houston Memorial Museum and the Sam Houston Statue and Visitor’s Center.

For more information, call 936-291-5920.

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