Anglo-American Colonization

Other men besides Austin wanted empresario contracts in Texas, and a few were in Mexico City in 1822. Because of the changing political scene and the slow passage of the colonization laws, they had to wait until 1825, after the passage of national and state colonization laws. To encourage immigration, settlers were free from national taxes for four years. Land ownership was limited to eleven leagues. Owners had to be residents of Mexico. Preference was given to native Mexicans in the selection, and the national government could use any portion of land needed for the defense and security of the nation.

Four contracts were signed within three weeks. One was for Green DeWitt to settle 400 families on the Guadalupe River. DeWitt developed the area around Gonzales and was the second most successful empresario in Texas. He settled 189 families before his contract expired in 1831. His colony suffered Indian attacks and controversy with his neighbor, Mexican native empresario Martín De León.

De León moved his family north across the Nueces River and into the province of Texas in the early 1800s. He made a living by catching mustangs and wild cattle and raising mules, then selling the animals in San Antonio or even trailing them to Louisiana. In April 1824, before the passage of the national colonization law, he received permission to establish a town for forty-one Mexican families about twenty miles northeast of La Bahía on the banks of the Guadalupe River. No boundaries were mentioned. By October, De León and twelve families had arrived at a cypress grove, the site of the town of Guadalupe Victoria (now Victoria, Texas).

Unaware of the colonization grant to De León in San Antonio, the state assigned the same area of the Guadalupe valley with specific boundaries to DeWitt in April 1825. When DeWitt's settlers arrived, trouble was inevitable. Because the colonization laws gave preference to native Mexicans, De León petitioned the state for compensation, and the authorities told DeWitt in October 1825 that he had to respect De León's prior claims, but they still failed to establish boundaries. The state named land commissioners for both De León's and DeWitt's colonies. The commissioners issued titles in 1831, the year DeWitt's six-year contract expired permanently. The boundaries remained unresolved. Eventually sixteen non-Hispanic families, some of whom were Anglo-Americans with Irish roots, received headrights in De León's otherwise Hispanic community.

Source: Anglo-American Colonization
Copyright © Texas State Historical Association

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