Until Thursday, April 21, Bee County, though 150-plus years old, has had no such marker.
Bee County Historical Commission Chair Barbara Welder agreed that a marker commemorating Barnard Elliott Bee Sr. is a long time coming.
“He contributed to the Republic of Texas through diplomatic work and service,” said Welder. “He helped negotiate boundaries.
“What really impressed me is the reason he came here,” Welder continued. “He had a comfortable life in South Carolina, but he came here to help lead the battle for independence. That’s important, because he could’ve led a charmed life. He was from a well-known family in South Carolina.”
Bee relocated to Texas in 1836, and was an instrumental part of the Texas Revolution and independent Republic of Texas, serving as secretary of war under President Sam Houston and secretary of state under President Mirabeau B. Lamar.
Margaret Moser recounts a story in her book, “The Biography of a Particular Place,” in which Bee had personally escorted Santa Anna as a prisoner during the war. Later, when Bee was minister to Mexico for the Republic of Texas, Santa Anna said that he “would be delighted to receive Colonel Bee ‘as his friend, but never as the official representative of the rebellious province of Texas.’”
Bee vehemently opposed Texas’ annexation to the United States, and when it did become the 28th state in the union, Bee went back to South Carolina.
“That troubled me at first,” said Welder. “But then I learned that it was because he had a greater, expansionist view of Texas. He wanted it to trade all the way to Canada.
“He wanted Texas to be bigger and better. He lost that battle, but it’s important that his descendants stayed here.”
Bee’s sons, Hamilton P. Bee and Barnard E. Jr,, settled down in South Texas. In fact, it was Hamilton’s idea to name Bee County after his father.
So the story goes. Just after the town was formed, Hamilton, a planter in Goliad and speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, suggested that both the county and its seat be named after his father in honor of his service to Texas.
So why has it taken more than a century to erect a marker in his honor?
“A lot of people have been asking that,” said Welder. “And I don’t know why it hasn’t been done before. What provoked us was that there’s so little information about him.
“He was such a great man, people should know about him.”
Welder said the commission wants to make sure people, especially school children, know why Beeville and Bee County are named as they are.
On Thursday, April 21, at 10:30 a.m., a Barnard E. Bee Sr. historical marker dedication ceremony will be held outside the courthouse. The program will feature guest speaker Daniel Bee, a descendant of the Bee family who lives and works as a real estate broker in San Antonio.
“To some degree, we’re stepping out of the shadows,” Bee said of his family. “The history of the Bees has been set off to the side and neglected for the past century or better.”
Bee, who grew up in Brooks County, said he first learned there was a Bee County in his seventh-grade Texas history class.
“When I asked my dad about it, he said we don’t talk about it,” said Bee. “Much later, I began to find out what had transpired over the past couple of centuries.”
Bee said his father eventually did tell him his family’s past, and he was surprised to learn their significance in history.
Thursday’s program will include many other celebrations of Bee, including a proclamation making April 21 “Barnard Bee Sr. Day” by City Manager Tom Ginter and a rendition of “Beeville is My Hometown” sung by St. Philip’s Episcopal School students.
Sarah Taylor is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 122, or sarah@mySouTex.com.