From late 1853-59, U.S. Senator Sam Houston, who was also past President of the Republic of Texas and one of the most recognized political figures in 19th century America, lived with his family in Independence on property he bought near Baylor Female College on Academy Hill. Houston and his wife Margaret Lea Houston had moved to Independence in 1853 because, as he wrote to a friend, no other place “presented the same advantages in an Educational point of view” for educating their growing family.
After Houston was elected governor in 1859, the family rented their Independence house and moved to Austin. When Houston was removed from office in 1861—because he opposed Texas seceding from the Union—the family resettled in Huntsville where they also owned a house.
After Houston died in July 1863, his widow Margaret Lea Houston returned to Independence with seven of their eight children. (The oldest, Sam Jr., was serving in the Confederate Army.) Although Mrs. Houston still owned the property near Academy Hill, she chose to continue renting it and move into this larger house nearer her mother and overlooking the Town Square. During the next four years, Mrs. Houston sent her oldest children to Baylor, oversaw the marriages of her two oldest daughters, and persuaded Baylor President William Carey Crane to write a biography of Sam Houston.
In September 1867, a yellow fever epidemic hit the Texas coast and quickly traveled inland. Already frail, Mrs. Houston contacted the fever and, attended by her two youngest daughters, died in this house at age 48 on December 3, 1867. Yellow fever victims were buried immediately for fear that contaminated bodies spread the sickness. Consequently, Mrs. Houston was buried in Independence next to her mother’s vault (across from the Independence Baptist Church) rather than being taken to Huntsville where her husband was interred.