Corn is legendary in Texas.


Nacogdoches unveiled a new sculpture of a Texas Revolutionary solider yesterday in our downtown’s historic district. The sculpture is in honor of the men from Nacogdoches who fought in the Texas Revolutionary war with Mexico. It reminded me afresh of the legend of San Jacinto corn. When important events transpire, wonderful stories grow like mushrooms or rather like corn in Texas. What follows is “the legend of San Jacinto corn.”

After the capture and surrender of the Mexican General Santa Anna, the wounded General Houston of the Texas army reclined back against a great oak and rested, producing an ear of corn from beneath his blanket, and he began to nibble it. A solider picked up a kernel and said he was going to take it home and plant it. Houston’s biographer Marquis James said, ” A genius had opened his lips.”

Another biographer Lester, C. Edwards said, “The exhibition of the ear of corn stirred up all the enthusiasm of the Texan soldiers, and they gathered round their General and asked him to allow them to divide the corn. ‘We’ll plant it,’ said they, ‘and call it Houston corn.’ ‘Oh, yes, my brave fellows,’ said the General, smiling, ‘Take it along if you care anything about it, and divide it among you—give each one a kernel as far as it will go, and take it home to your own fields, where I hope you may long cultivate the arts of peace as nobly as you have shown yourselves masters of the art of war. You have achieved your independence—now see if you cannot make as good farmers as you have proved yourselves gallant soldiers. You may not call it Houston corn; but call it San Jacinto corn—for then it will remind you of your own bravery.’ It is also said that in one of his dispatches that day to the people of the Sabine, the General said to those who had fled from their homes, ‘Return and plant corn.’ The soldiers distributed their corn, and it now waves over a thousand green fields in Texas”

Now, folks had been growing corn ( Zea mays) Texas long before San Jacinto. Corn is truly the Americas’ great grain contribution to the world. It formed the agricultural basis for all the great New World civilizations since pre-Columbian times. Corn, beans, squash, and tobacco are the agricultural corners of Native Americans. The planting of corn and beans together is an interesting subject. Corn is a heavy feeder when it comes to nitrogen; and, oddly enough, beans have the ability to “fix” nitrogen in the soil – a true symbiotic relationship. The beans climb the corn stalks and corn is naturally fertilized by the beans.

The planting of corn and beans together is a very old practice beginning with Native Americans. Their ancient legend goes like this- ‘Chief corn’ was looking for a wife; and, in a timely fashion the stylish, flashy, and brightly painted seductress ‘squash’ presented herself to be considered as a suitable companion to the kingly ‘chief corn’. But with hesitation she was ultimately rejected because she had a bad habit of languishing about with laconic lasciviousness across the ground. The more virtuous ‘maiden bean’ then presented herself ( I know you are thinking beans are not maiden like and feminine. You must have never eaten any of the fancy new “skinny” French varieties-oh la,la,). Bean, in contrast to squash, clasped herself to corn so dearly and with such passion that her fidelity was assured, and she was chosen as corn stalk’s bride….

But now our thoughts have drifted far from the fields of San Jacinto and the victory won there. I repeat General Sam’s words to his soldiers that day, “Now see if you cannot make as good farmers as you have proved yourselves gallant soldiers.”

How about planting a bit of corn in your gardens in honor of The Texas Revolutionary soldiers? Even though we have had an unusually mild winter, it is still not too late to plant corn. I sent my friend Greg Grant a question yesterday, “Can the folks in Nacogdoches plant corn at this late date?” This was his reply.

“Not too late to plant corn, just do so ASAP. As a matter of fact, there was an historic variety in Texas known as June corn (white with a few blue kernels) that could be planted as late as June…. I wish somebody still had some of that San Jacinto corn!!”


3 thoughts on “Corn is legendary in Texas.

  1. Loved the history in these stories.
    San Jacinto Day is also my birthday and I didn’t ever hear about the corn!
    Thanks Jeff

  2. The best source on San Jacinto Corn would be J Frank Dobie’s TALES OF OLD-TIME TEXAS. The first story on this very subject – From 1928 Dobie tried to find the Houston/SJ Corn and only got one reply to numerous inquiries – I am afraid that though the story may be true – the corn and any providence of such are lost to the winds of history.

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