General Thomas Jefferson Chambers' House
Washington Avenue at Cummings Street
Anahuac, Chambers County, Texas
Resource Name: CHAMBERSEA (see *Note below)
General Chambers employed a basic two level Greek revival style of architecture in designing his home, and borrowed elements reflecting a Louisiana influence which greatly contributes to the overall charm of the house.
The simple structure consists of four rooms; two rooms on each level. A double exterior gallery along the north elevation had lattice screening at both ends on the second level and only on the west end of the first level, as well as the second level west end of the south porch. It appears that not only is this lattice element decorative, but it helps to filter hot western sun on the open porches. The unique circular stair on the exterior north porch connects the two levels of the house. Exterior siding is cypress applied to the pine frame in a vertical manner as board and batten. A wood-shingled gable roof extends beyond the wall plate and wraps around the corner to form a generous overhang. Construction details indicate that this overhang, though original, was an additional feature uncommon to the standard Greek Revival patterns. Windows are typical six- over-six light double-hung sashes. Each window has a pair of operable wood shutters.
When Chambersea functioned as a self-sufficient homestead, the grounds included several outbuildings. The outbuildings no longer remain, though present archeological surveys are concluding facts about them.
The interior presently consists of one central partition dividing each floor. A paneled effect was achieved with vertical board and batten treatment, but there is some question as to whether these interior partitions are original. Moldings around windows, doors, and base indicate the owners desired a high degree of finish. Recent archeological findings have uncovered a stone foundation on the eastern end of the house, believed to be the location of the earliest fireplace.
The earliest photos show that the house has undergone a significant reduction in size. It is logical to assume that the larger version, with 3 more bays and an enclosed extension, was the original form. Horizontal siding covered the star window during the same period (c. 1890-95). At an unknown date between 1910 and 1936, the eastern section was removed; this smaller version of the house was documented by HABS in 1936. the size reduction does not alter the house's significance. Its grace and proportions are equally notable in the altered condition. Since 1935 only minor changes were made, including the enclosure of the rear lower level porch for use as restrooms. The chimney was not replaced
A qualified architect has inspected the site and made recommendations for restoration under the Texas Historical Foundation's Visiting Specialist Program. Further work will take these findings into account.
Chambersea, once the homestead of General Thomas Jefferson Chambers and his family, was constructed in 1845, an early wood frame house fashioned after Greek Revival principles of symmetry, and decorated with architectural elements often found in Louisiana Greek Revival forms. The homestead, while in operation as such from 1840-1865, was a self-sustaining plantation including the growth of fine livestock and cotton for clothing. Design and construction was authored by General Chambers who intended to manifest in the physical appearance of the house features which were significant of his "beloved Texas." This attitude is most notable in the circular window of the west eave bearing five- pointed star (the Texas emblem) and by the sitting of the house where several waterways meet a bay off of the Gulf of Mexico. The owner and his family, who originally occupied the house, are of great significance for active participation in establishing early legal land rights for colonists settling in Texas.
General Chambers, son of Thomas and Mary Gore Chambers, was born in Virginia on April 3, 1802. Sometime after his father's death in 1815, Chambers moved to Kentucky with his family where he attended an academy taught by his brother for one year. He had additional schooling by Joshua Wordly. He taught school until he was admitted to the bar in Kentucky and Alabama. Early in 1826 he went to Mexico where he studied the Spanish language and Mexican law. He was appointed Surveyor General of the State of Coahuila and Texas to accompany Juan Antonio Padilla in the establishment of a colonization system. On February 12, 1830 Chambers and Padilla received an empresario contract to introduce eight hundred families into Texas; however, the land granted to them lay in present Oklahoma and Kansas, so the contract was never fulfilled.
In February of 1834, Chambers was made State Attorney General o Coahuila and Texas and helped frame a judiciary code for the site. In June of 1834 he was appointed Judge of the Court (Superior Judicial Court) but because of side orders precipitated by the removal of the capitol from Saltillo to Monclova, it was impossible for him to organize the court and he was never able to assume the duties of the office. He received five leagues of land for service as a judge; other land granted to him totaled thirty leagues or approximately 137, 268 acres and were surveyed in present Milam, Travis, Hays, Navarro, Ellis, Galveston, Liberty, Chambers, San Jacinto and Trinity Counties.
He too active part in the events leading up to the Texas Revolution. He proposed to the government that he use his land as security to raise men and arms for the Texas cause and on January 7, 1836, the General Council commissioned him a "Major General of Reserves" and sent him to procure volunteers and munitions. He was given Bounty Certificate No. 41 for 1,280 acres as compensation for army service from January 9, 1836 to January 7, 1837. His diary, written during this time, is a complete record of his travels in connection with this commission.
In his report to Congress on June 3, 1837, Chambers stated that he had dispatched 1,915 volunteers to Texas, and had spent $23,621 and had sold bonds amounting to $9,035. Congress directed the auditor to settle the account and adopted resolution of thanks to Chambers. He later claimed rank as Commanding Major General of the Texas Army and engaged in a bitter newspaper dispute with David G. Burnet over that claim.
In 1839 he established himself at Round Point in Liberty County, now Chambers County. there were several controversies over his claims to properties in that area, namely by Charles Wilcox and William M. Logan (1838). Both men publicly warned anyone from buying land in this area from General Chambers stating their beliefs that the league was wrongfully owned by Chambers. Another man, John O'Brian, stated in 1842 his acquisition of the league purchased in public auction to specifically include the residence of General Chambers and the entire city of Anahuac.
It is thought that these land disputes led to the assassination of Chambers at his home in Anahuac (Chambersea) on March 15, 1865. He was first buried in a small cemetery near the home and later moved to Galveston by his widow.
General Chambers' destiny was hopelessly studded with legal entanglements when he died. His claims to land where the Capitol now stands had not been settled. It was 1925 before this claim was finally settled. To date, Chambers vs. State of Texas is the longest standing land dispute case in the state's history.
The house was purchased by Chambers County as park project in 1943. It was used as temporary offices for County Treasurer, and a temporary home for the county library collection. Occasional use of the house has provided a meeting place for various civic groups.
BIBLIOGRAPHY ON FILE IN THE NATIONAL REGISTER