DRT History

DRT Pictorial History

On November 5th, 2016, the Daughters of the Republic of Texas (DRT) celebrated their 125th Anniversary Celebration at the LBJ Ranch National Park in Stonewall, Texas. 

The DRT is the oldest patriotic women’s organization in Texas and one of the oldest in the nation. In 1891, Betty Ballinger and Hally Bryan formulated plans for an association to be composed of women who were direct descendants of the men and women who established the Republic of Texas. Their ongoing mission has been to perpetuate the memory and spirit of those who achieved and maintained the independence of Texas.

The story of Texas and the story of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas have been intertwined from the beginning. The DRT exists so that the next generation will understand the struggles of early Texans for freedom and independence. It is more important now than ever that Texans — and the world — understand our state's rich history.

Today the organization has grown to over 7,000 members. The DRT continues to play an important and significant role in propagating Texas history by maintaining tens of thousands of historical documents in the DRT Library Collection, helping to educate today’s students on the bygone eras of Texas, preserving various historical properties, operating the Republic of Texas Museum in Austin and much more.

Join us below for a pictorial tour of some of the highlights of the DRT's 125 years of service. 


Formation of DRT

In 1891 during discussions in the law office of William Pitt Ballinger of Galveston, cousins Betty Ballinger and Holly Bryan Perry conceived the idea of an organization to honor the patriots of the Republic of Texas.  On November 6, 1891 (Founding Day) the first DRT chapter, the Sidney Sherman chapter of Galveston, was formed. Mrs. Anson Jones, widow of the last President of the Republic of Texas, was elected President.

The Cradle

The small building known as the Cradle was originally the Galveston law office for William Pitt Ballinger. Here in 1891, Betty Ballinger and her cousin Holly Bryan Perry conceived the idea of an organization to honor our Republic of Texas patriots. The Cradle survived the disastrous 1900 Galveston hurricane, and in 1975, after the heirs of William Ballinger deeded it to the Daughters, it was moved to its current location at 29th Street and Avenue O ½. The Cradle is lovingly cared for by the Sidney Sherman Chapter of Galveston.

New Yorker Bernhardt Wall, also known as the “Postcard King,” sketched this drawing of the Cradle in 1937.

Saving the Alamo

The Alamo church, owned by the State, was under the custodianship of the city of San Antonio from 1883 until 1905 and was in terrible disrepair. Due to the efforts of Adina de Zavalla and Clara Driscoll, the Alamo Convento or Long Barracks was purchased by the DRT.  On October 4, 1905 the governor formally conveyed the decaying Alamo shrine to the custodianship of the DRT, and the state reimbursed Clara Driscoll for the personal monies she had used to save the Long Barracks. Both properties now composed the Alamo Complex and were lovingly preserved and cared for by the Daughters for the next 110 years.

1907 Joint convention of the Daughters and the Texas Veteran’s Association

At their last meeting in 1907, only six Republic of Texas veterans answered “roll call.” After the memorial service, one veteran expressed that due to “age and infirmities,” he would be unable to attend future meetings. The association then voted to dissolve the association. Before adjourning for the last time, it was resolved that “the holy memories of the organization should be merged with the patriotic association of The Daughters of the Republic of Texas.”  They then bequeathed their memories as a precious legacy to The Daughters.

DRT finds a Home

In 1917, the DRT was able to move its relic collection and museum pieces to the 2nd floor of the old General Land Office on the Capitol grounds.

Formation of Children of the Republic of Texas

At the 1929 DRT Convention, a motion was made to organize a society to be called the “Children of the Republic of Texas” for both boys and girls. The first chapter was organized by the Alamo Mission chapter of San Antonio and was called the Alamo Mission Children of the Republic of Texas chapter. The formation of the CRT ensured that our children would be able to carry on the important work of the DRT.

Texas Centennial

DRT committees were appointed to plan and execute the many Centennial celebrations honoring 100 years of Texas independence in 1936.

San Jacinto Monument

After the Daughters lobbied the State Legislature, the San Jacinto monument was created to mark the Texas Centennial. Ground was broken on San Jacinto Day in 1936. The world’s tallest war memorial was dedicated on April 21, 1939, 103 years to the day after General Sam Houston had defeated General Santa Anna.

French Legation

The French Legation was built in 1840 by Alphonse de Saligny as a legation to the newly formed Republic of Texas. The building was purchased by the State of Texas in 1945 after it had been used as a family residence until 1943. Custodianship was then given to the DRT. Restoration was completed in 1956, and the French Legation was then opened to the public.

DRT Library and Collection

The library was established in 1945 to house the many books, manuscripts, maps, art, etc. that had been donated to the Daughters. A building paid for by the Daughters was constructed on the grounds of the Alamo and then deeded to the State of Texas. The collection has developed into the premier collection of early Texana materials in the State. In 2012 when the General Land Office was given custodianship of the Alamo, a dispute developed between the State of Texas and the Daughters over the ownership of collection. The conclusion of this legal dispute gave the Daughters full and complete ownership of the collection.

Great Seal of Texas

The Daughters of the Republic of Texas had proposed a design for the reverse of the state seal that was adopted by the 1961 legislature in a concurrent resolution. The reverse was based on 1931 art designed by architect Henry C. Wedemeyer, who worked on a commission from the Daughters. Governor Daniel approved the concurrent resolution on August 26, 1961. The procedure was unusual because the legislature adopted the art itself as the reverse of the state seal, as opposed to the usual practice of adopting a description, or blazon, which is later rendered by an artist.

Purchase of Current DRT Headquarters & Republic of Texas Museum Building

In 1992, under the guidance of President General Betty Burr, the DRT purchased its first permanent home. This building, located at 510 E. Anderson Lane, houses our current Republic of Texas Museum and DRT Headquarters.

New DRT Library

During the summer of 2016, the 38,000-item DRT Library Collection closed to the public to accommodate the transition to its future home. The library’s move away from the Alamo Shrine was “the end of an era,” but it was the beginning of a new chapter for the DRT. Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and the Bexar County commissioners, County Clerk Gerard Rickhoff and City Councilman Roberto Treviño with Texas A&M University-San Antonio to negotiate a lease for nearly 10,000 square feet of secure, museum-quality space at San Antonio’s former Federal Reserve Building.

Republic of Texas History Center

DRT’s Vision for the 21st century is the construction of a new Texas History Center composed of the Republic of Texas Museum and DRT Headquarters. The Center will be built on land in Austin that lies adjacent to the historic French Legation. It was purchased by the Daughters in 2013.