The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 89, July 1985 - April, 1986

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

Castro's Colony: Empresario Development in Texas, 1842 - 1865. By Bobby D.
Weaver. (College Station, Tex.: Texas A&M University, 1985-
Pp. xv+ 158. Preface, acknowledgments, illustrations, maps, notes,
bibliography, index. $17.50.)
The last sentence of this book reads: "This immigration [of Castro's
colonists and those of his chief competitors] increased the population,
brought much-needed skills and finances, and vastly enriched [the] cul-
tural heritage of the Lone Star State." This conclusion is undeniably
true. Yet what a contrast is this sanguine ending to the chronicle of hu-
man suffering, mismanagement, cutthroat competition, and, at times,
outright dishonesty that precedes it.
Bobby D. Weaver's account of the colony and colonists brought in by
the empresario Henri Castro in the 1840s is the first scholarly, objective
study to place the man and the enterprise within the historical perspec-
tive of Texas history. He begins with a discussion of land grants by the
Spanish, Mexican, and subsequently Texan governments as a means of
settling their frontiers and filling their treasuries. Weaver describes the
competition between Castro and other would-be empresarios to obtain
contracts giving them the right to recruit colonists in Europe for settle-
ment on large tracts of land, most of which were in the western and
southern parts of the state. Castro's endeavor originally involved sepa-
rate grants, one south and west of San Antonio (on the outer edge of
which the town of Castroville is located) and two in the Rio Grande Val-
ley. Only a small part of the first was settled and developed. The book
then moves to the problems of recruitment in Europe, the nearly insur-
mountable obstacles in the path of settling the colonists on the tract,
subsequent administrative difficulties, and always the bottomless quag-
mire of finances.
The saga of the colonists' struggling to adjust to an unfamiliar land
(much of it unsuited to agriculture), climate, and frontier devoid of im-
portant cities could, if developed, be a book in itself. The conditions
facing the immigrants would have daunted the strongest and best pro-
vided of them. But all too often those recruited were not of the desired
caliber and could not bring with them sufficient funds and provisions
to carry them over the first stark year. As Castro quickly learned,
successful and prosperous European farmers had no desire to emi-
grate. Consequently, of the over 2,000 colonists brought to Texas by
Castro, only 546 individuals actually received property. As matters
finally turned out, Castro himself secured over 50 percent of the
land granted by the state, and speculators wound up with another
25 percent.

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 89, July 1985 - April, 1986. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117151/. Accessed May 25, 2015.