Heritage, Volume 8, Number 2, Spring 1990 Page: 28
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One of the more notable
empresarios in Texas.
The colonizer of Quihi,
Castroville, D'Hanis and
A Study of Early
Colonization in Texas
by Cornelia English Crook
The book covers Castro's
life and details the arrival
at Galveston and Port
Lavaca of the group of
settlers from France, who
faced hostile Indians, and
almost equally hostile
series of bureaucratic
problems with the new
Republic of Texas, rival
colonizers, and the
economic problems that
faced all settlers in a
strange new country.
Price: $25.00 ea.
Price to bookstores: $15.00 ea.
St. Mary's University Press
St. Mary's University
One Camino Santa Maria
San Antonio, Texas 78228
Henry Castro: A Study
of Early Colonization in
Cornelia English Crook, St. Mary's University
Press 1988. $25.00 Hardcover.
Reviewed by John Peterson
It's hard to imagine two parts of the
world more different in the 1840s than the
Texas frontier and Paris, le plus belle ville du
monde. Paris was the center of the known
universe, artistically and intellectually.
How did Henry Castro lure his wife and
children to settle the wilds of the Hill
Country? His skill as an empresario who
could persuade his own family along with
several hundred Alsatians to uproot and
resettle along the Medina River west of
San Antonio is chronicled in this short but
satisfying biography by Cornelia English
Mrs. Crook's effort is dedicated and
sincere. She deeply loves the town of
Castroville where she lived for ten years.
She has been an advocate and aficionado
of its local history, and has contributed to
the restoration of its buildings. Her story of
Henry Castro is Texas history through the
eyes of a long-time and reverent Texan.
Throughout, she evokes the spirit of
frontier life and the fulfillment of Castro's
dream of a transplanted European agricultural
village at the edge of the frontier.
Her research and explication of the
vagaries of Castro's business career is
thorough and she introduces a number of
original documents, letters and contracts.
The papers that she cites and occasionally
reproduces are a fine primary source for
examining his official life. Along with
these are tantalizing accounts that reflect
on the natural and social environment of
early Texas settlement which add to other
first-hand descriptions from the period,
such as those of Berlandier and Olmsted.
This is a missed opportunity in Crook's
conventional interpretation of environmental
and agrarian themes. Castro was
noted for his attempts to transform the Hill
Country into an agricultural clone of
Alsace. This is an intriguing aspect of his
colonization efforts which, along with
those of Prince Solms and others, marked
the European colonies of Central Texas as
greatly different from the planter and
livestock lifestyles of people who entered
Texas from the South and Appalachia.
Crook introduces these themes, and
provides the documentary clues for further
pursuit. She or another student of Castro's
biography could make a vital contribution
to Texas environmental history by
continuing that effort.
The historical context is also somewhat
spare and familiar. Crook adequately
describes Texas History with broad strokes
and writes its characters large. But
Mexicans and Indians are presented
conventionally in this account of Texas
frontier life. Santa Anna, Mexican hero
that he was, again comes across as a villain
from the perspective of Texians. From their
point of view, Castro was a selfaggrandizing
land speculator who displaced
them from their inheritance. And
judging from the records that Crook
presents of his business and legal entanglements,
there were a fair number of
his colleagues who shared that view.
Nonetheless, this is a loving account of a
city father. Henry Castro was clearly an
exceptional person who contributed to the
multi-cultural, multiethnic melange that
is Texas history.
Write for our latest catalogue
P.O. Drawer 1
Rotan, Texas 79546
28 HERITAGE * SPRING 1990
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 8, Number 2, Spring 1990, periodical, Spring 1990; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45428/m1/28/: accessed June 29, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.