Texas Almanac, 1992-1993 Page: 35
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CENTRAL TEXAS HISTORY 35
In late 1813, the desperate Spanish Cortes (legis-
lature) approved a plan to populate Texas with loy-
alists. Empresarios introducing settlers into Texas
would be rewarded with large land grants, but two-
thirds of the newcomers were to be Spaniards, and all
were required to be Catholics. The Cortes was dissolved
in 1814 with the defeat of Napoleon and the return of
Ferdinand VII to the throne of Spain, and the plan died.
San Antonio barely survived the year 1819. A long
drought, followed by an epidemic, followed by flood
dealt a near-death blow.
With Spain's hold on Mexico loosening, the Cortes
issued a decree in September 1820 opening all Spanish
dominions to any foreigners, the only stipulation being
that they respect the Spanish constitution and the laws
of the land. In December, Moses Austin requested per-
mission to settle Americans in Spanish Texas. A Con-
necticut native, Moses Austin had lived in Missouri in
1799 when it was part of Spanish Louisiana. He came to
San Antonio in late 1820 and received approval to settle
300 families in East Texas. He returned to Missouri,
where he died in June 1821, before fulfilling his con-
Austin's 27-year-old son, Stephen Fuller Austin, was
granted authority to carry out his father's plan and be-
came the first great empresario of Texas. In 1821, Mex-
ico declared itself finally free of Spain, and Austin
reaffirmed his empresario contract with the Mexican
government. Between 1821 and 1824, Austin recruited
300 families to settle in his colony, earning those fami-
lies the nickname of "The Old Three Hundred."
Austin's colony extended from the Gulf Coast to
Central Texas and included parts of the present-day
Central Texas counties of Bastrop, Brazos, Burleson
and Lee. Each family could obtain a sitio, or square
league (about 4,428 acres), of grazing land and a labor
(about 177 acres) of farming land. They paid surveying
and administrative fees as low as $50, payable in six
years, with no down payment required. For their ser-
vices, empresarios received five sitios and five labors
of land for each 100 families settled. The settlers also
enjoyed a 10-year tax exemption on their land. It was a
bright, shiny carrot of opportunity for land-hungry
Austin was given almost complete responsibility
for his colony, and he managed it to the letter of the
contract with Mexico. He was well aware of the mis-
trust with which many Mexican authorities regarded
American settlers. In 1825, Austin was granted the
right to bring in 900 more families, and, in partnership
with Samuel Williams, he agreed to settle 800 Mexican
and European families in a colony north and west of
his original one. The Austin and Williams grant cov-
ered a large area of Central and North Central Texas.
Second only to Austin's colony in size, the Rob-
ertson Colony originated in 1822 as the Texas Associ-
ation of Nashville, Tenn. By 1825, Robert Leftwich,
agent for the group, had obtained the right to settle 800
families in Texas. Leftwich transferred the contract to
the association with the stipulation that it be named
"Leftwich's Grant." The transfer was approved in 1827
by the Mexican government, who replaced Leftwich
with Hosea H. League as empresario and expanded the
boundaries of the colony to an area 100 miles wide and
200 miles long. Included were all or parts of 30 present
Texas counties. Those in the Central Texas area were
Bastrop, Bell, Brazos, Burleson, Burnet, Coryell, Falls,
Lampasas, Lee, McLennan, Milam, Mills, Robertson
and Williamson. Through an error, the contract used
the name "Nashville Company" instead of "Texas
In 1825, Green De Witt, a Missourian of Dutch
ancestry, was granted the right to settle 400 families on
the Guadalupe, San Marcos and Lavaca rivers. Includ-
ed were parts of present-day Caldwell, DeWitt,
Fayette, Gonzales, Guadalupe, Jackson, Lavaca and
Victoria counties. De Witt's colony, which adioined
Austin's on the west, was more exposed to Indian ha-
rassment and did not gain population as fast as
Austin's. It had about 82 residents in 1828, 531 in 1832
and more than 1,200 in 1834.
The governing body of the state of Coahuila y Tex-
as passed a generous colonization law on March 24,
1825. Each family brought in by an empresario could,
for a fee of $30, buy a sitio of land for $62.50, or $87.50
for irrigated land. Empresarios were rewarded for
their services with five leagues and five labors of land
for each 100 families. Compensation was forfeited if at
least 100 families had not been settled in each colony
by the end of the contract.
The Texas region was allowed two representatives
on the 12-member legislature of Coahuila y Texas. The
administrator for the Texas region, who lived in San
Antonio, was responsible for law enforcement, com-
mand of the militia and the administration of justice.
Ayuntamientos (town councils), elected by citizens
in each town, were responsible for collecting taxes,
taking census counts, maintaining roads and public
buildings and overseeing public health, charity, public
safety and police services. Money was scarce in the
Texas province, and the ayuntamientos allowed resi-
dents to pay two-thirds of their local taxes in goods or
livestock, with a cow and a calf equal to $10. Barter was
widely used to acquire goods.
In 1830, the Mexican government established Fort
Tenoxtitlan on the west side of the Brazos River 12
miles below the crossing of the Camino Real in pres-
ent-day Burleson County. Named in honor of the Aztec
capitol of Mexico, Fort Tenoxtitlan was used to guard
transfers of funds from Bexar to Nacogdoches until
1832. After that, Anglo settlers used the fort as a supply
center and mustering point for expeditions against
Indians. Five signers of the Texas Declaration of Inde-
pendence, an Alamo martyr and seven soldiers in the
Battle of San Jacinto once lived there. It was aban-
doned in 1841 after numerous Indian raids.
For many Anglo settlers, one of the major sticking
points in the Mexican laws governing colonization was
that slavery was prohibited. To get around the law,
some slave-owners called their slaves "indentured ser-
Much immigration into Central Texas was not
organized through empresarios. Many Anglos simply
drifted across the border into Texas and squatted on
vacant land. The growing numbers of Anglo-Ameri-
cans made Mexican officials more and more uneasy.
To the Anglos, the bright promise of cheap land was
dimmed by a government struggling to adjust to the
change from an absolutist monarchy to a federal re-
public. Taxation and trade were other Anglo concerns.
When the colonists' requests for more ports and legal
status for foreign ships were ignored, smuggling be-
Finally, the Mexican government, in the Law of
April 6, 1830, banned settlement of "citizens of foreign
countries lying adjacent to the Mexican territory,"
i.e., the United States. The ban on further legal Ameri-
can immigration alarmed and angered the Anglo-Tex-
Parts of the Nashville Company grant adjoined
Austin's colony, leading to disputes over land titles.
Then Austin and his colleague, Samuel M. Williams,
convinced the Mexican officials that the Nashville
Company had not settled enough families to fulfill its
contract and were granted the disputed territory. In
1834, Sterling Clack Robertson, then agent for the
Nashville Company, took his protest to Mexican au-
thorities, claiming that the required 100 families had
been settled before the Law of April 6, 1830. Rob-
ertson's claim was upheld. He was named empresario,
and the colony became "Robertson's Colony." Rob-
ertson established the capital of the colony, Sarahville
de Viesca, about six miles east of present-day Marlin
at the falls on the Brazos. The name honored Rob-
ertson's mother, Sara Maclin Robertson, and Agustin
Viesca, governor of the province of Coahuila y Texas.
A fort bearing the same name was established at that
site in 1834. It was renamed Fort Milam in December
1835, and a ranging company was based there to pro-
tect colonists from Indians. In May 1835, the legislature
of Coahuila y Texas decided that the requisite number
of families had not been settled in time and again
awarded the land to Austin and Williams.
The Anglo colonists had pledged to become faithful
Mexican citizens, expecting to live under the republi-
can form of government provided for in the Constitu-
tion of 1824. Such repressive measures as the Law of
April 6 went against the grain.
Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, who was to play
a leading role in the drama of Texas' fight for indepen-
dence, surfaced in Mexico. He was leading an attempt
to overthrow Gen. Bustamante, who had himself
attained the office of president in 1828 in a coup.
Appearing to espouse the republican cause, Santa Anna
won the backing of the Texans.
In their traditional Anglo-American method of
petitioning the government for redress of grievances,
the colonists met in convention at San Felipe, the
capital of Austin's colony, in October 1832. Austin
served as president of the convention. The delegates
CENTRAL TEXAS HISTORY
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Kingston, Mike. Texas Almanac, 1992-1993, book, 1991; Dallas, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth279642/m1/39/: accessed April 20, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.