On this day in 1854, Texas hero Sam Houston joined Independence Baptist Church and was baptized in nearby Little Rocky Creek by Rufus C. Burleson. Houston joined at the urging of his wife, Margaret Moffette Lea Houston, and her mother, Nancy Moffette Lea. A deeply religious woman, Margaret Houston worked hard to restrain Houston's drinking and to lead him to a more settled and devout life. The church, located in Independence, Washington County, was organized in 1839 by Rev. Thomas Spraggins and a small group of fellow Baptists. The devout Mrs. Lea, who had moved to Independence in 1852, sold her silverware and gave the money to the church for a bell. Though the current building dates only to 1872, the pew in which Sam Houston sat has been preserved and is marked so that visitors can see it.
On this day in 1845, the first group of Mormon settlers to come to Texas, led by Lyman Wight, arrived in Grayson County. After wintering in an abandoned fort at Preston, this group of dissident Mormons pressed on to Austin in June 1846. They remained in the capital until 1847, when they established the community of Zodiac near Fredericksburg. This hamlet, where Wight implemented an idiosyncratic form of communitarianism he called the "common stock principle," became a mecca for Mormon dissenters. After a visit by missionaries Preston Thomas and William Martindale in 1848-49, Wight was excommunicated by the Mormons in Utah for his insubordination and doctrinal irregularities. Zodiac was destroyed by a flood in 1851. After living at several other sites Wight died in 1858. Thereafter, his colony dispersed.
On this day in 1979, Medal of Honor recipient Samuel M. Sampler died in Fort Myers, Florida. Sampler was born at Decatur, Texas, on January 27, 1895, the son of Francis E. and Lorenza D. Sampler. He entered military service at Altus, Oklahoma. Corporal Sampler was a member of Company H, 142d Infantry, Thirty-sixth Infantry Division, United States Army, on October 8, 1918, near St. Étienne, France. His company suffered severe losses from machine-gun fire, and its advance was stopped. Sampler detected the enemy positions on an elevation. Armed with German grenades, which he had picked up, he advanced alone until he was near the enemy nest. His third grenade killed two Germans and caused the surrender of twenty-eight more. As a result of his brave and unselfish action the company was able to advance on its objective. Sampler received the Medal of Honor from Gen. John J. Pershing on April 22, 1919. He was also awarded the French Croix de Guerre and Italian War Cross.