The Rare Love Story of Sam Houston & Margaret Lea

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Sam Houston played an integral role in both Texas and United States history. He was a man of honor who fought through many a battle with courage and strength. However, there was another side of Sam Houston not taught about in history books. It is an untold tale of the great love between he and his wife, Margaret Moffette Lea.

Margaret was just 17 when she first laid eyes on Sam. She was standing in the crowd, and he had just arrived by boat into New Orleans. On May 22, 1836, Sam had arrived for medical treatment for the ankle he injured in the Battle of San Jacinto. From that moment forward, Margaret knew that her destiny was to be somehow tied to that of Sam Houston’s.

A Love Story

Margeret and Rose

Photo: Courtesy of Denton Florian

Margaret and Sam were introduced to each other at a garden party in Mobile, Alabama in 1839. It was love at first sight; however, Sam was under the impression that Margaret was her married sister. According to Sam and Margaret’s great-great granddaughter, Madge Roberts, Sam said to a friend, “You know, if that charming lady wasn’t already married I think I’d give her the chance to turn me down.” To which the friend quickly replied, “Well, General Houston, you’ve got the wrong sister. That’s the unmarried one.” He didn’t leave her side for the rest of the party.

Sam Houston and Margaret Moffette Lea were married the following year on May 9, 1840. This was Sam’s third marriage. The first ended in divorce and the second ended amicably in Indian Territory. However, this marriage was different. He and his new wife seemed to be destined to be together. Soulmates, so to speak, and Margaret influenced his life in ways that no man could ever imagine.

Margaret made it a point to play an important supportive role in Sam’s life. She helped him overcome “the bottle” and led him to his own baptism. It was a glorious day for Margaret to see Sam be baptized, and though she was reserved, she even shouted out in church that day. Margaret never traveled with Sam, though. One might think that a bit odd, but she was intent on making sure things were at order at home. Her mission instead was to create “a haven of a home that would beckon him.” She did exactly that for the entirety of their marriage. Together, the couple were parents to eight children: four boys and four girls. Sam passed away in July of 1863 of pneumonia. Nearly four and a half years later, Margaret passed away from a case of yellow fever.

Love Letters

Sam Houston and Margaret Lea letter

Photo: southwestcollection.wordpress.com

While the account of Sam and Margaret’s love is one of warmth, romance, and destiny, no spoken or written tale can help us to relate to just how deep their feelings were. However, letters written between the couple take romance to a whole different level and really portrays just how madly in love they were.

Sam to Margaret
September 22, 1840
Washington, D.C.

“My love, I am so unhappy while separated from you, that I feel myself most happy when writing to you.  You are always present in my thoughts, and remain supreme in my affections.  My love, I do sincerely hope that you will hear no more slanders of me.  Do be satisfied, if you hear the truth you shall never hear of my being on a ‘spree.'”

Sam to Margaret
January 8, 1841
Austin, TX

“Oh, I am weary of public life. How hateful are even its honors! I feel, my love, that I can only be happy when I will be with you. I feel my only love, as tho I cou’d only be calm, intelligent and happy when I cou’d hear your voice and enjoy the admonition of your wisdom! I wou’d then be a rational, cheerful, and happy man.”

Thy devoted husband,

Sam to Margaret
December 6, 1846
U.S. Senate Chamber

“I reflect on the chilling contrast between your embrace and the chilling embrace of a Norther, which I had to encounter when parting from you the next moment. I think often of our dear little daughters, and my heart melts at the helplessness of our little Maggy Lea. Indeed, I do not think it extravagant when I say that more than half of my waking hours are given to meditation about you and the children.”

Margaret to Sam
March 8, 1853

“How hard it seems, that at this sweet season, I should be separated from the only being that could ever really sympathize with me in my love of nature! I have often thought dearest, that my love for you approached too near to idolatry, and it may be that the Lord takes from me the companionship, so absorbing to every thought and wish, that I may have more time to think of the immortal soul. Sam, Nannie and Maggie each hand me a violet for you. We all long to see you. Mary Willie says I must send a violet for her too.”

Thy Maggie

Sam to Margaret

“Oh my Love, you cannot have the least idea of my feelings.
I only wish that you were here, for I have many things to say to you. One is, I love you more than all created beings.”

Thy devoted & faithful Husband,
Sam Houston

EMMY Award Winning Documentary on Sam Houston

Sam Houston

Photo: Facebook/Sam Houston

The story and Sam Houston and his wife Margaret doesn’t end here. In fact, there is a recent movie dedicated to the life of Sam Houston: “Sam Houston: American Statesman, Soldier, and Pioneer,” written by Houston biographer James L. Haley and directed by Denton Florian. The movie covers Sam’s life from birth all the way through his death. It has won five EMMY awards, has played on PBS all over Texas, and has been recognized by concurrent resolutions of the Texas House and Senate and the Governor of Texas for excellence in historical education.

The biographical documentary was filmed in 31 different locations across four states and some of the events shown in the film were filmed at the very places they took place. There are expert interviews of the top Sam Houston scholars, original works of art, animated maps, and restored archival images.

The movie itself has received a review score of 9.9 out of 10 in iMDb as well as 24 5-star reviews on Amazon, and is just under three hours long.  It can be purchased from samhoustonmovie.com, and you can visit the movie’s Facebook page at Facebook/Sam Houston. When you sit down to watch “Sam Houston: American Statesman, Soldier, and Pioneer”, be sure there is plenty of popcorn on hand to get you through the film. You will not want to move from your seat…even for a second.


The information about Sam and Margaret’s love affair was graciously provided to Texas Hill Country by Director Denton Florian.