Lone Star pride shines in the life of Gina Chapman Bouchard
Hard core Texans are making their plans to celebrate Texas History Month. You have a little time – it’s not until next month. March is, by decree of the Legislature, Texas History Month. If you’re looking for the biggest Texas birthday party, travel 70 miles north on March 2 to Washington-on-the-Brazos. Among the truly dedicated Texans, there you’ll find Houstonian Gina Chapman Bouchard.
In the picturesque State Park on the Brazos River is the historic site, where in 1836 under the direction of Sam Houston and George Childress, with Mexican President Santa Anna besieging the Alamo, the Texas Declaration of Independence was drawn up literally overnight. Drawing heavily on the United States Declaration of Independence, the document declares Texas, “a free and sovereign nation.”
The events are re-enacted each year by the Texas Army. Each ‘soldier’ in this official modern-day Texas Army is commissioned by the Governor as a “Colonel.” And just like the original army, they are all volunteers who provide their own uniforms and weapons. And like the original patriots, they come from all walks of life. This new army is dedicated to getting it right when it comes to authenticity. They’re also dedicated to educating folks about Texas history.
The trek will then move south to San Antonio for events marking the fall of the Alamo on March 6. Gina will be among the 300 or so folks who will squeeze into The Shrine at the Alamo for the Alamo Defenders Descendants ceremony.
In the dimly lit church, re-enactors march in carrying the flags of every state and nation represented at the Alamo during the famous battle 170 years ago. Then, as each of the heroes’ names are called, the descendants rise. To see it is thrilling; but because the Shrine is so small, it’s almost impossible to get an invitation, unless you’re a descendant.
Not many folks can copy Gina’s road map to the evening ceremony. First of all, you have to be a Daughter of the Republic of Texas. She is the great-great-great-granddaughter of The Rev. John Haynie. The reverend was a Methodist circuit rider and first chaplain of the Congress of Texas. (Gina would make her religious ancestor proud today because she serves as Lector and President of the Worship Leaders Guild at St. John the Divine Church.) Another patriotic ancestor, Joseph Hyland, was a soldier at the battle of San Jacinto. It doesn’t stop there. Gina has 13 ancestors who were actually in Texas prior to the revolution.
The Daughters of the Republic of Texas, of whom there are now more than 10,000, were made custodians of the Alamo by the State Legislature in 1905. The DRT’s nine-member Alamo Committee actually runs the Alamo. And, yes, Gina is one of the nine; hence, she gets to go to the ceremony.
Running the Alamo free to the public is a big job. It is done through proceeds from the gift shop, as well as grants and financial gifts. Last year saw the 100th celebration of the effort. Gina chaired the kick-off for the year-long anniversary party, helping to raise half a million dollars to preserve the Long Barrack, the area where most of the defenders died.
Gina is President Elect of the San Jacinto Descendants, of which there are 400 who have presented themselves for membership and been approved. She and Al Davis serve as co-chairs of the upcoming San Jacinto Day Commemorative Celebration, which will be held at the battlefield on April 21. All are welcome.
Gina will also be busy July 4, as she is Regent, Lady Washington Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, the oldest Houston chapter, as well as the largest DAR chapter worldwide. In 2007, she’ll be busy coordinating the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Jamestown Colony. The original John Haynie arrived there 14 generations ago. Without being a Native American, Gina is about as close as you can come to a native Texan.