There is a native Georgian buried among statesman, soldiers, judges — prominent men and women — along with Stephen F. Austin, the father of Texas, and author James Michener, at the Texas State Cemetery. Not many Georgians know about Joanna Troutman, including those in the small Crawford County community of Knoxville, and why Texas became so proud of her.
Troutman was the creator of the first Texas flag which allowed for her to be buried where well-known governors like John Connolly and Ann Richards are interred. Football coaches Darrell Royal and Tom Landry are memorialized here, too.
The Texas State Cemetery is a well-kept place with rolling hills which offer final resting places for those who qualify for burial here. There is a state highway, Route 165, only a few feet wide, which runs through the cemetery. It is not well traveled and there is no traffic to disrupt the serenity of the cemetery. Hardwood trees abound. At least one magnolia stands stately with its penetrating fragrance adding to the dignity of the cemetery.
My acquaintance with the legend of Joanna Troutman came about when I became familiar with Knoxville, which is 25 miles southwest of Macon. Although its municipal charter was dissolved in 1996, owing to a state law which abolished city governments which were defunct or minimally defunct, Knoxville remains the county seat of Crawford County. It was the home of Troutman. Born in Milledgeville, she married Solomon L. Pope in 1839 and moved to Elmwood, a plantation near Knoxville.
When her husband died, she married a Georgia state legislator, named W.G. Vinson. She died in 1879 and was buried next to her first husband. That you have assumed would have been her final resting place, but in 1913 Texas Gov. Oscar B. Colquitt “secured permission” to remove her remains to the Texas State Cemetery. Her connection to Texas had to do with her sewing the first Texas flag.
In 1835, when Texas sent out a call for help with for its cause, a Georgia brigade, led by Col. William Ward, responded. Joanna Troutman designed and made a flag of white silk, bearing a blue five-pointed star, a ‘lone star.’ The flag was unfurled at Velasco, Texas, above the American Hotel and was carried to Goliad where one James W. Fannin Jr. “raised it as the national flag when he heard of the Texas Declaration of Independence.” The inscription on the monument honoring Troutman’s memory reads in part:
“When Texas was struggling to establish her rights as a state in the Mexican Republic, she sent forth an appeal for help. Georgia responded by raising a battalion of volunteers, and Miss Joanna Troutman, then 18 years of age, fired with love of liberty and the zeal of the volunteer, with her own hands made a beautiful lone star and presented it to the Georgia Battalion and they landed in Texas with it in December 1835.
“The flag was symbolic of the lone star struggle Texas was making. This flag was raised as the national flag on the walls of Goliad when he [Fannin] heard of the Declaration of Texas Independence March 8, 1836. It was constructed of white silk with an azure star of five points, on one side was the motto: ‘Where liberty dwells, there is my country.’ The tattered shred of this flag silently witnessed the murder of Fannin and his men at Golliad, March 27, following. Gentle pure, patriotic, the hands of Joanna Troutman wrought her love of liberty into the beautiful star flag, which witnessed the sacrifice of the men who brought it to Texas as the emblem of independence.”
Over the years, I have discovered Georgia connections everywhere. It always makes me proud.
Loran Smith is an administrative specialist for the University of Georgia sports communication department. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.