By Jim Forsyth
SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - The private heritage group that managed the Alamo, the site of the famed 1836 battle for Texas independence, has sued the state over what it says is an illegal attempt to take over some 38,000 rare books, letters, and artifacts it owns.
The lawsuit filed by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas (DRT), which had run the San Antonio site for more than century before being dismissed by the Texas Land Office earlier this month, claims the office "unilaterally declared" the state is the rightful owner of the valuable collection.
"The DRT, indeed all Texans, deserve better treatment," the group said in its lawsuit filed on Monday in a Bexar County court.
Land Office spokeswoman Brittany Eck said the office "does not comment on pending litigation."
The suit comes as state and city officials look to revamp the downtown plaza where the structure's famed facade has become one of the most recognizable and most visited items in the state.
The group has said it reluctantly accepted the state's decision to dismiss it from the historic site, and the state has said it is conducting a nationwide search for new managers.
The items now under dispute are stored at a library open to scholars and visitors. The lawsuit claims the Land Office has threatened to have San Antonio Police make special patrols around the Alamo to make sure the DRT does not remove the collection.
Among the defendants in the Alamo lawsuit is Land Commissioner George P. Bush, the son of Florida's former governor and possible Republican U.S. presidential candidate, Jeb Bush. He took over the office in January.
The former Catholic mission was the site of a famed battle in Texas' war for independence from Mexico. The Alamo's vastly outnumbered defenders were routed by Mexican forces in a 13-day siege, but the battle became a rallying point for the Texans, who defeated the Mexican Army a few weeks later.
The DRT is a private organization made up of women who can trace their ancestry back to when Texas was an independent nation and helped save the Alamo from possible demolition in 1908.
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Susan Heavey)