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'You have to tell the whole story' | Huntsville museum honors former slaves of a Texas founding father

The Sam Houston Memorial Museum has a new exhibit on display. "12 Plus One" honors the former slaves of Sam Houston who were essential to the success of Houston.

HUNTSVILLE, Texas — The "12 Plus One" exhibit represents the ongoing research by the Sam Houston Memorial Museum on the 12 individuals listed as property on Sam Houston's probate inventory in 1863. The "Plus One" is the person who fled from bondage to Mexico.

"You have to tell the whole story, and be able to do research on those people who were enslaved on our property," said Derrick Birdsall, who is the museum's director. "It fleshes out and helps us tell the story of Sam Houston. The total picture, not just the good, not just the bad, but the man himself."

The museum has been able to use primary sources and first-hand documents from Sam Houston as well as some of his former slaves to better understand the "12 Plus One."

Each of these people was born into slavery and all eventually found themselves working and caring for the Houston family. Joshua Houston was a blacksmith, Tom Blue was a coachman before fleeing to Mexico in 1862, Eliza Revel was a cook and Jeff Hamilton was a personal bodyguard.

Unfortunately, the museum still knows very little about the other nine former slaves of the Houstons.

"We hope that this exhibit spurs further research, we know quite a bit about four of Houston's slaves," Birdsall said. "When Houston passed away, he had 12. We know very little to nothing other than names and mentions in the journals over the years. So it's my hope that this exhibit and exhibits like this will spur further research and help us learn more about the people that shaped Houston's life."

The "12 Plus One" exhibit is located at 1402 19th street in Huntsville and will be on display until February 27.