Adina de Zavala had exhausted her resources. Remnants of the Alamo mission, then owned by Grocers Hugo and Schmeltzer, were about to be sold to a hotel firm. What to do?
She raced across the street to the Menger Hotel, to inform the owners that a competitor was on the scene. The owners weren’t there, but Adina was introduced to a guest named Clara Driscoll. And there, the duo that saved the Alamo was born. Driscoll’s money and de Zavala’s determination carried the day.
Adina had the credentials. She was a school teacher and historian who devoted her life to preserving Texas’s historic properties and traditions. The granddaughter of Lorenzo de Zavala, first vice president of the Republic of Texas, she grew up near the San Jacinto battlefield. Her father, rancher Augustine De Zavala, served in the Texas Navy. He married Dublin-born Julia Tyrrell. Adina was well educated but, despite her surname, never learned the Spanish language.
Her efforts in San Antonio centered on protecting the four missions and the Alamo. All were falling prey to souvenir hunters. Adelina mobilized volunteers to gather contributions of bricks and lumber to repair the old buildings.
She and Clara Driscoll disagreed violently about the old convento, the so-called “long barracks.” Driscoll wanted them removed to present a park-like atmosphere around the old chapel. De Zavala maintained that the most vicious part of the Alamo battle took place there.
Adina de Zavala took matters into her own hands to save the long barracks. She barricaded herself inside the old building for three days. She ignored a sheriff’s order to vacate – she refused to read it, and when it was read to her, she stuck her fingers in her ears. National newspapers told her story to the rest of the world. She was right; later excavations proved the historic nature of the structure.
Stranger than fiction? Sounds like the basis for a good western novel.
(I’m relying on a 1995 article by San Antonio historian Frank W. Jennings.)
February 10, 2011
“The difference between perseverance and obstinacy is that one comes from a strong will, the other from a strong won’t.” – Henry Ward Beecher.