In March of 1842, George W. Terrell sent a gift to former president Andrew Jackson. His accompanying letter read:
Sir, I send you herewith a pipe as a memento of the friendship I entertain for you personally and the respect I bear your character.
It is of no value of itself, and derives its only consideration from the recollection with which the material of which it is composed, is associated, being carved out of the stone of the Alamo, that memorable spot consecrated by the blood of Travis and of Bowie of Crockett, of Bonham and many other noble hearts who yielded their lives a willing sacrifice in the cause of human liberty.
Such an offering, although valueless in itself, I know will not fail to be prized by one who has ever shown a willingness to pledge his fortune, peril his life, and stake his reputation, in the same great cause in which these gallant spirits fell.”
Reuben Potter shed light on the pipe’s origin in a letter he wrote to the New Orleans Crescent in 1855:
“I passed the summer of 1841 in San Antonio, and found there two men, an artist and a stone-cutter, engaged in manufacturing, from the stones of the Alamo, various small mementos, such as vases, candlesticks, seals, etc.
The artist was a Mr. Nangle, who, as he told me, had formerly been established in Philadelphia as a seal cutter and jeweler; but had left there on an imprudent enterprise, in which he had been plundered and ruined by a man who had induced him to embark in it.
Being unwilling to return in poverty to his former associates, he had come to Texas, and after a few years of campaigning and other occupations, had turned his professional skill to account in the manner above mentioned. His productions were, many of them, executed with rare beauty, the fine work being done by him, and the first roughing out by his companion.”
The artist was William B. Nangle, an Englishman who had come to America as a young man. Col. Potter was so impressed with his work that he encouraged Mr. Nangle to create a monument to the Alamo defenders from the very stones of the fort.
And so he did.
It was ten feet tall, consisting of an obelisk set on a square base and ornamented with the names of Travis, Bowie, Crockett and Bonham.
The four sides of the top were inscribed:
“To the God of the fearless and the free is dedicated this altar, made from the ruins of the Alamo.”
“Blood of heroes hath stained me. Let the stones of the Alamo speak that their immolation be not forgotten.”
“Be they enrolled with Leonidas in the host of the mighty dead.”
“Thermopylae had her messenger of defeat, but the Alamo had none.”
Mr. Nangle had hoped to sell the monument to the Republic of Texas, but the government had no money. So he took it on tour, charging 25 cents to view it. The monument was placed in a wagon and hauled by oxen to Houston, then placed on a barge and exhibited in Galveston.
Then it was on to New Orleans and the hope of large crowds. But the citizens of New Orleans failed to show and the monument was seized and sold to cover the costs of the exhibition.
In 1858 it was found among the rubbish of a New Orleans marble yard near St. Patrick’s Church. A short while later the Texas legislature appropriated $1500 for its purchase and installation in the vestibule of the old Capitol.
It was all but destroyed when the Capitol burned in 1881. The top portion of the monument was discovered in the ruble by Judge John P. White, who retunred it to the state in 1888. For many years it was displayed at the General Land Office. It is now in the care of the Texas State Library and Archive.