Jane Wilkinson was born in Maryland and after her father died, her mother moved the family to Mississippi Territory. There, Jane met and married James Long, a surgeon. In 1819, he left for Texas on a military expedition and she later left to join him in Nacogdoches. She traveled with their two children and a slave woman named Kian (or Kiamatia) to the frontier outpost. One of the children died during this time. In 1821, the Long family was living at a military fort on Bolivar Peninsula (near Galveston) when James left to continue his military activities. He was captured and killed, but Jane did not know of his death for some time. After others left the fort, she, her surviving daughter, and Kian awaited his return.
The three females spent a severe winter alone on the peninsula, living under the barest of circumstances, with little food or protection. Jane, who was pregnant, gave birth in deep December. Kian, whose own birth date and family are unknown, helped Jane deliver her baby and found food for all of them, making it possible for them to survive the winter. Near starvation, the four were there to see immigrants arrive early in 1822. By summertime, Jane Long had learned that James was dead. Their baby died in 1824. In 1837, Jane and Kian moved to Fort Bend County and opened a boarding house, developed a plantation, raised cattle, bought and sold land, and grew cotton. Jane is said to have known Ben Milam, Sam Houston, and Mirabeau B. Lamar.
Kian, as a slave, was considered the Longs' property. James Long at one point mortgaged her and delivered her to a new owner with the option to purchase her. Later, the Longs rebought Kian and she stayed with the family until her death. Kian married and had four children, whose descendants were known to live in Richmond, Texas, in 1900.
Written by Nancy Baker Jones
Read by Susan Castle
Two women and two children, alone in the dead of winter. The year is 1821. The place is Bolivar Peninsula, near Galveston. The women are Jane Long, her two young daughters, and her slave, Kian.
One of 10 children, Jane Long was orphaned at 15, married at 17, and quickly began having children herself. She was among the earliest Anglo-Americans in Texas, a place both United States and Spain wanted. In 1820, to be with her husband, James, who was leading an expedition to claim Texas for the U.S., Jane, one daughter, and Kian came to a military post on the peninsula to be with him. After he left in 1821, the three stayed there to await his return, even after other families had left for safer ground. On a bitter December day, with Kian’s help, Jane gave birth to another daughter. The women and children were alone in the cold for weeks: they hunted game, fished through ice, gathered oysters, fought illness and faced starvation.
Early in 1822, Jane, Kian and the children gave up their vigil and joined other immigrants heading into Texas, where she learned that James had been killed. She was a widow at 24. Kian was later sold, but Jane redeemed her and allowed Kian to marry and have children. Jane Long became a prosperous plantation owner and never remarried. She died in 1880.
Margaret Swett Henson, "LONG, JANE HERBERT WILKINSON," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/flo11).
Elizabeth J. E. Hardin, "KIAN," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fki01).
Biography Source Information
Biographies are reprinted from the Foundation for Women’s Resources (now Women’s Resources), Dallas, Texas. They originally appeared in "From Gutsy Mavericks to Quiet Heroes: True Tales of Texas Women," video study guide, Austin: The Foundation for Women's Resources, 1997. Death dates have been added where needed.
Audio Source Information
Our project, "Texas Women's History Moments," received the 2012 National Council on Public History Outstanding Public History Award and the American Association for State and Local History Leadership in History Award. The audio clips were broadcast on KUT radio from 2011-2016 during Women’s History Month.