Ann Raney Coleman, pioneer, was born on November 10, 1810, in Whitehaven, England, daughter of John Raney, a prosperous landowner and banker who went bankrupt and attempted to make a fresh start in Texas. In 1829 he sailed with his younger son for Austin's colony, where he became a teacher for James Briton Bailey's family near Brazoria. Ann and her mother and sister joined him in 1832, after a harrowing sea voyage during which they hid in a closet while pirates ransacked the ship off the coast of Cuba. They arrived in Texas in time for Ann to help the Texans in the battle of Velasco by making bullets and patches and carrying them fifteen miles on horseback to a hiding place in a hollow tree. After outrunning two Mexican spies on the return journey, she attended the reconciliation ball and was said to have so charmed Stephen F. Austin as a dancing partner that he granted her father an additional league of land.
Both of Ann's parents died within a few months after the family was reunited in Texas, and in February of 1833 she married John Thomas, a cotton planter. They lived first on his plantation at Caney Creek, where their son Edmond was born, and later bought the old Bailey plantation on the Brazos. They fled to Louisiana during the Runaway Scrape in 1836, losing most of their slaves and personal property in the process. Within a few months of their arrival in Louisiana, Thomas was hired to oversee the Bayou Grosse Tete plantations of Austin Woolfolk, the largest sugar planter in the state, and Ann was put in charge of allotting clothing and provisions to 100 slaves. In Louisiana she gave birth to a second son, who lived less than a year, and a daughter, Victoria; the older son died there.
After several years as tenants, the Thomases bought their own plantation at Pointe Coupee on the Mississippi. Against Ann's wishes Thomas mortgaged the land in order to raise operating capital. When he died in 1847 she was forced to accept a loan from John Coleman, a storekeeper who had been boarding with the family, to prevent the plantation from being sold. Coleman then used his advantage to pressure her into marrying him a few months later. He proved to be shiftless and abusive and allowed the estate to run into debt and be sold. They subsequently went to New Orleans, where Coleman abandoned her, and she took a job as a hotel housekeeper to support herself and her daughter.
Ann had some hope of alleviating her financial difficulties if she could make a trip to England, prove her father's bankruptcy a fraud, and claim his estate. After a journey to her homeland in the summer of 1854 failed to bring success, she yielded to Coleman's pleas to rejoin him. She lived with him in Powder Horn, Texas, for a year and supported the family by sewing. After divorcing Coleman in 1855 she moved to Matagorda, where she kept school and was soon joined by her daughter, whose husband had abandoned her. When she could get no more work in Matagorda, Ann moved in 1860 to Lavaca, where she supported her daughter and grandson by sewing and was shortly caught up in the Civil War. She fled with her family to Indianola when federal soldiers shelled Lavaca in 1862 and returned to act as a caretaker for the house of a family that had retreated inland. When the federals burned Lavaca, she saved the house by passing buckets of water to her daughter, who poured them on the roof.
Plagued by poverty, she spent the remaining years of her life moving from town to town, wherever she could get a situation as a teacher or housekeeper. She scraped out an existence keeping schools at Bolivar Point, Hamshire, Hallettsville, Victoria, and Cuero. Citing her service in the battle of Velasco, she unsuccessfully petitioned the legislature for a pension. In the 1870s and 1880s she compiled a history of her long life for her niece in North Carolina; it was published in 1970 as Victorian Lady on the Texas Frontier: The Journal of Ann Raney Coleman. She died in Cuero in March 1897.
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
C. Richard King,
“Coleman, Ann Raney,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 25, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
December 1, 1994
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: