The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 66, July 1962 - April, 1963

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

Jacob de Cordova, Land Merchant of Texas. By James M. Day.
Waco (Texian Press), 1962. Pp. xv+,189. Illustrations, notes,
bibliography, index. $5.o0.
Settling a wilderness inhabited by wild animals and savage
Indians calls for a promoter with foresight, imagination, courage,
and persuasiveness. Stephen F. Austin supplied that need in the
first wave of Anglo-American immigration to Texas. After Aus-
tin's day, the man who, more than any other one, attracted emi-
grants to the rugged frontier was Jacob de Cordova.
De Cordova, a Spanish Jew born in Jamaica, was no Daniel
Boone in coonskin cap. He was a scholarly man who suffered from
poor health during most of his nearly sixty years. But, reaching
Texas soon after the achievement of independence from Mexico,
he foresaw the march of empire and took a leading part in
hastening its progress.
As an importer and merchant in Galveston and Houston, De
Cordova made many contacts and became active in civic affairs.
He introduced the Odd Fellows order in Texas and later became
a prominent Mason. He served briefly in the legislature and,
with his brother, started a newspaper in Austin. But, as James
M. Day shows in his concise, scholarly biography, the main ac-
tivity of De Cordova was that of a speculator and dealer in land.
At one time he had more than a million acres under his control.
De Cordova was said to have been influential in helping Texas
obtain $1o,ooo,ooo from Washington for relinquishing land
claims. Through his pamphlets and his lectures in Eastern cities
and in England, he persuaded many to make a new start in Texas.
He attracted settlers especially to the areas of Waco, Seguin, and
Kimball's Bend.
The weakness of De Cordova as a businessman lay in his pur-
chase of too much land on credit. He kept acquiring more than
he could sell readily and, as a result, was harried by high interest
rates and frequent lawsuits. In the end, he died land poor; and
the sale of his holdings paid only a fraction on his debts.
James Day, archivist of the Texas State Library, has done an
excellent service in providing a dependable biography of De
Cordova. He has searched carefully the letters and other writings
of De Cordova and the public records of his land dealings. The

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 66, July 1962 - April, 1963. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101196/. Accessed April 27, 2015.