Philip Nolan

In 1788, Philip Nolan (1771–1801) lived in Kentucky and served as a bookkeeper and shipping clerk. Through his work he learned about trade opportunities with Texas. He visited Texas on a trading expedition in 1791. His belongings were taken and he lived with Indians for two years. He later gained permission to export horses from Texas to Louisiana.

On his two trips to Texas, Nolan learned a lot about the land. Spanish officials were suspicious about Nolan’s loyalties. They grew even more suspicious when Nolan came back from a mapping expedition up the Missouri River with the boundary commissioner for the United States.

The next time Nolan went to Texas to get more horses, he took a load of goods to trade, even though trade between Louisiana and Texas was not allowed. When Nolan arrived in Bexar, he told them that he had permission to go to Nueva Santander to find horses. Meanwhile, the Natchez governor had written the ruler of Mexico to warn him of foreigners (like Nolan), who were preparing the Texas Indians to attack the Spanish rule. Nolan was forbidden from trade any goods.

Nolan was making plans for another trip to Texas, even though he could not obtain a passport and knew that it would be a dangerous undertaking. In October 1800, he headed to the Brazos River where he built a farm and started catching mustangs. He was killed there by troops from Nacogdoches. His men were captured and tried, and spent years in prison for their part in Nolan's final expedition.

Nolan has become recognized as the first of many filibusters that eventually helped to free Texas from Spanish and Mexican rule. He is often credited with being the first Anglo-American to map Texas, but his map has never been found.

Source: Philip Nolan
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