Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 6, Number 3, September, 1996 Page: 135
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Consider the Lily: The Ungilded History of Colorado County, Texas
Elsewhere in the county in 1850, early ranchers were quite successfully
exploring the possiblities of the cattle business. Though the typical cattle owner's main
economic interest lay elsewhere, there were already men in the county like Abraham Alley,
Leander Beeson, Ferdinand Draub, Ira Albert Harris, and John Suggs, whose primary
agricultural income came from their herds. Their profitability was impaired primarily by
the limited access they had to the markets of highly-populated areas, but also by a disastrous
fire which, in November 1850, destroyed the grasses on much of the pasture land in the
county and left their herds to weather the subsequent bitterly-cold winter, severely
Other people raised horses, hogs, or chickens. Several, including Robert
Robson and Leon de Serin, raised sheep. De Serin, who had an aristocratic family
background in France, was probably the single greatest champion of sheep-raising in the
county. He had arrived in Texas on February 20, 1842, only to discover that the law then
in force made persons eligible for land grants only if they arrived prior to January 1, 1842.
Nonetheless, the day after they arrived, he and some of his fellow passengers drafted a letter
to Sam Houston asking that they be granted special dispensations. Houston refused. De
Serin spent the next few years struggling to support himself and his wife and daughter,
fending off illness, and contemplating returning to France. In 1846, he moved to Colorado
County and began raising sheep. By December 29, 1847, he was prosperous enough to buy
some land, 320 acres on Harvey's Creek west of Columbus. He started with 32 sheep,
shearing them twice a year. He controlled predatory wolves and dogs by putting out bait
laced with strychnine for them. As he prospered, he purchased six high-quality sheep to
interbreed with his flock and improve the quality of his wool. By 1852, he had increased
his holdings to 350 sheep, despite the fact that in the preceding three years he had sold 200
head. In February that year, in a not-altogether-clear series of events, de Serin bought
another 233 acres about ten miles west of Columbus, then sold both his tracts of land in the
county for $2200 and moved onto a tract that he rented from William J. Jones. There, near
a small creek, de Serin's sixteen-year-old daughter, Mary, tended his sheep. Her many
suitors began referring to the creek as Mary's Branch, a name which it has retained.
However, all was not idyllic. As a result of his move, de Serin quickly found himself
involved in some of Jones' legal troubles. On December 8, 1852, Peter McGreal sued to
evict him on grounds that he, rather than Jones, owned the land. The case was transferred
a school at Reels Bend as early as 1846. Both were probably still active in 1850. One must suppose that there
was at least one school in Columbus. The location of the other three has not been determined (see Colorado
County Commissioners Court Minutes, Book A, p. 59, Book 1, p. 20).
36 Dewees, Letters from an Early Settler of Texas, pp. 299-302; Seventh Census of the United States
(1850), Schedule 4, Colorado County, Texas; Colorado Citizen, February 9, 1861; Charles William Tait to
James Asbury Tait, January 7, 1851, Tait Family Papers (Ms. 32), Archives of the Nesbitt Memorial Library,
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 6, Number 3, September, 1996, periodical, September 1996; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151398/m1/23/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed August 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.