Heritage, Volume 9, Number 1, Winter 1991 Page: 16
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An Overview of the Robertson Colony Story
By Dr. Malcolm D. McLean
S hortly after Mexico won its
independence from Spain, a
group of seventy citizens of
Tennessee and Kentucky,
known as the "Texas Association,"
gathered in Nashville, Tennessee on
March 2, 1822 and affixed their signatures
to a parchment "Memorial" addressed
"to the Independent Government
of Mexico," and asking for permission
to settle in Texas.
Robert Leftwich took this Memorial
to Mexico City, but shortly after his arrival
there, Agustin de Iturbide proclaimed
himself Emperor of Mexico.
Then he was overthrown; a Republic
was established; a Constitution was approved;
and a National Colonization
Law was passed on August 18, 1824. But
Article 3 of that law left it to the individual
states to work out the details and
pass their own state colonization law.
During this time-1822 to 1824Leftwich
kept a detailed diary, which we
have located and published as the
Introductory Volume for the Papers. It
reveals that the Texas Association did not
send him any more money after he got to
Mexico City, so he had to borrow on his
own account from Haden Edwards, to have
enough money to live on and to make the
trip from Mexico City to Saltillo, the state
capital of Coahuila and Texas. The State
Colonization Law was passed on March 24,
1825, and under it Leftwich obtained a
colonization contract in his own name on
April 15, 1825.
There were a total of forty-one colonization
contracts signed under this law.
They are all listed in the Introductory Volume
of the Papers with the name of the
empresario, the date of the contract, the
number of families that he was authorized
to bring in, and the number of land titles
issued under each empresario.
Leftwich returned to Nashville and sold
his contract to the Texas Association for
$8,000 on August 6,1825, with the express
condition that "said Grant shall be Styled
and known by the name of Leftwich's
Grant." This area covered all or part of seventeen
present-day Texas counties as follows:
Bastrop, Bell, Brazos, Burleson, Bumet,
Comanche, Coryell, Falls, Hamilton,
Lampasas, Lee, Limestone, McLennan,
Milam, Mills, Robertson, and Williamson.
Empresario Sterling Clack Robertson.
Painting by William Henry Huddle.
On October 15, 1825 the Texas Association
split its stock, dividing each share
into eight parts, and sent Dr. Felix Robertson,
president of the association, to Texas
with a party of thirty-one "gentlemen of
respectability" to explore and survey the
grant. Dr. Robertson returned to Nashville
and made his report to the board of directors
of the Texas Association on June 8,
1826 but his cousin, Sterling Clack Robertson,
stayed on in Texas until August of
1826, visiting Velasco, Goliad-then
known as La Bahia-and San Antoniothen
known as B6xar.
On October 5, 1826 the board appointed
Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin F.
Foster to go to Leftwich's Grant and open
up an office on January 1, 1827 for the
location of script, but the Fredonian
Rebellion kept him from accomplishing
anything. Therefore Foster was replaced by
Hosea H. League on March 7, 1827, but
after League arrived in San Felipe, the
Texas Association failed to send him any
money with which to make the trip to
Saltillo, so he was forced to ask Stephen F.
Austin, who was going to Saltillo anyway,
to get the boundary of Leftwich's Grant
extended westward to the Colorado River.
Instead, Austin applied for that area for
himself; it became known as Austin's Little
Colony, and that is where the state capital
of Texas is located today. On the other
hand, he asked that the boundaries of
Leftwich's Grant be extended northwest
into the hostile Comanche territory, explaining
later that he wanted to use these
settlers as a buffer between the Indians
and his own colonists. However, in making
the application, Austin made a loose
Spanish translation referring to the
Texas Association as "the Company
from Nashville," and thus it was known
from October 15, 1827 until 1831.
Meanwhile Sterling C. Robertson had
started buying up stock in the Texas Association
and recruiting families to bring
to Texas, but when he arrived in San
Felipe, the capital of Austin's colony, he
found that Hosea H. League, the agent of
the Texas Association, had been arrested
as a witness to a murder committed by
one of Austin's colonists, and he was
being held in prison, without trial. Consequently
he could do nothing toward
settling the colony. Therefore, on October
10, 1830 Robertson obtained from League
a power of attorney authorizing him to act
as agent of the empresario of the Nashville
Also, there was another complication.
On March 6, 1830, the Mexican Government
had passed a law suspending immigration
from bordering countries for "contracts
which had not had their compliance."
Austin delayed publishing this law
in his colony until he succeeded in getting
General Manuel de Mier y Teran to interpret
that phrase as meaning the contract
had been "established"-the empresario
had brought in at least 100 families-and
to issue orders to the officials at Nacogdoches
not to admit colonists unless they
were coming to Austin's colony.
Then Austin obtained 200 sheets of
blank paper, signed his name at the bottom,
and sent them to his secretary, Samuel
May Williams, with instructions for him
to have Robert McAlpin Williamson print
certificates over his sig nature-leaving a
blank for the name of the colonist. He was
to do this at night and send them to Nacogdoches
so that they could be sold to colonists
who arrived there and learned that
they had been forbidden to immigrate to
any colony but Austin's.
Subsequently, using sworn depositions
taken in San Felipe, Robertson was able to
16 HERITAGE * WINTER 1991
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 9, Number 1, Winter 1991, periodical, Winter 1991; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45422/m1/16/: accessed August 19, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.