Texas Independence Day in Nacogdoches reflects on the past and present

Texas Independence Day is celebrated by the Stone Fort Chapter of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. (Source: KTRE Staff)
Texas Independence Day is celebrated by the Stone Fort Chapter of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. (Source: KTRE Staff)
Bryan Holt Davis passed away in November. His son will follow in his footsteps as a bell ringer. (Source: KTRE Staff)
Bryan Holt Davis passed away in November. His son will follow in his footsteps as a bell ringer. (Source: KTRE Staff)
Angela Key, a Daughter of the American Revolution Regent conducted research on the Old University Building. (Source: KTRE Staff)
Angela Key, a Daughter of the American Revolution Regent conducted research on the Old University Building. (Source: KTRE Staff)

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Today is the 182nd anniversary of Texas' independence. 
    
In Nacogdoches, the Stone Fort Chapter of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas had its commemorative bell ringing. The event honors Texas.

This year, the gathering also celebrates the life of a respected Texan.

The Texas Independence Day ceremony at the Old University Building in Nacogdoches rarely goes off track from the year before. The table is beautifully set followed by the beliefs of Texans.

The crowd said the Texas pledge and sang the state song.

"God really did bless Texas," said Jim Sevey, the event's speaker.

"This volley will be in honor of the 182nd anniversary of Texas' independence. Ready. Aim. Fire," said Col. Jeff Opperman.

Then musket fire boomed.

However, this year, there is someone missing, Nacogdoches native and historian Bryan Holt Davis. The witty former county attorney and historian passed away Nov. 7.

"We will always remember him," said Pattye Greer, the president of the Stone Fort Chapter. "We know that he is with us in his spirit."

Davis was the official bell ringer on Texas Independence Day. A worthy role requiring a climb to the second floor and the strength and stamina to pull the rope for each year the state is old.

"It's a fun thing to do," Davis said on March 2, 2009. "I'm very honored to get to do it. And hopefully, I can do it as long as I can climb the stairs."

Now, Jeff Davis, the new bell ringer, is walking in his father's footsteps.

"You ready? We got 182 of them to do," Davis said to a child. "You think we can do it?"

With the help of school children, the rope is pulled. Jeff is on his own as he feels a tug of emotions on his heart.

"Alright next. You know, Texas Independence Day was always a big thing at our house, but this one stands out more than others because of what it meant to my father and his involvement in this ceremony today," Jeff said. "It's really been humbling and somewhat overwhelming."

The role is passed from one Texan to another with true Texas pride.

Bryan Holt Davis was the "go-to" fact checker on Texas and Nacogdoches trivia. 
    
This year, some new facts about the Old University bell were discovered, information Davis would have surely loved to have known.

When the rope from the rarely seen bell had to be replaced, Daughter of the American Revolution Angela Key requested photographs of the bell.

The name Henry N. Hooper indicated he cast the bell in 1859.

Key's research shows Hooper was an apprentice with Paul Revere at the Boston foundry in 1776. 
Hooper later bought the famed foundry.

"We have one of the few bells cast by Henry N. Hooper and we are not on the national registry but we are working on it because no one knows we have it because it's up in the cupola in the Old University Building."

The Old University Building itself is on the National Register of Historic Places, but the bell itself could also receive similar recognition.

Stephen F. Austin State University researchers are wanting to know how the 500-pound bronze bell was transported from Boston to Nacogdoches.

The story will continue to unfold.

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