SONS OF DEWITT COLONY TEXAS
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Empresario Contracts | Coahuila y Tejas-Index
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Attempt at Settlement of Beales' and Grant's Concessions on the Rio Grande 1833-1834
(From Texas by William Kennedy, chapter VII, 1841)
[Map by Arnold Maeker, 1955 in Rister's, Comanche Bondage] In
the history of a modern colony, every advance towards the formation of a new settlement
has a claim to be recorded. Whether the attempt to colonise has been successful or
unsuccessful, it seldom fails to supply useful instruction to future adventurers. Holding
this opinion, and moreover desirous to exhibit the condition of a large and yet unsettled
portion of the Republic of Texas, as it was under Mexican rule a few years ago, I pause in
the narrative of general events, to relate the first operations of an association which
made the earliest essay to establish a foreign colony in the district lying between the
river Nueces and the Rio Grande.
Doctor John Charles Beales, whose name has been previously mentioned in
this work, concluded with the State of Coahuila and Texas a contract for colonising a
tract between those rivers, comprising three millions of acres. To this concession was
added another of five millions of acres, farther to the north. Doctor Beales, now in the
practice of the medical profession in the city of New York, is an Englishman, a native of
Aldborough, in Suffolk, and was married in the city of Mexico, in the year 1830, to Doña
María Dolores Soto, a Mexican lady, the widow of Richard Exter, an English merchant, who,
by virtue of an agreement with Stephen Julian Wilson, a naturalised citizen of the Mexican
Republic, became a partner in certain Empresario contracts. Having in partnership with
James Grant, a naturalised Mexican citizen, obtained Empresario rights for the settlement
of 800 European families, Doctor Beales, still retaining his character of Empresario, with
the approval of Mr. Grant, associated himself with a New York Company, formed of persons
of respectability, who provided the requisite funds for procuring emigrants from Ireland,
France, and Germany, and conveying them to the settlement. According to a manuscript
journal transmitted by Dr. Beales to the Directors of the Rio Grande and Texas Land
Company, with which I was favoured by the Company's secretary and legal adviser, Mr.
Charles Edwards of New York, the first body of colonists---fifty-nine in number---embarked
at New York for Aransas Bay, in Texas, in the schooner Amos Wright, on the 10th of
November, 1833. To each emigrant the Empresario was to concede one labor of land and a
house lot free of charge. The vessel sailed on the 11th of November, a very injudicious
period, as it exposed the emigrants to the discouragement and inconvenience of arriving in
Texas at the most unfavourable season of the year. On the 3rd of December land was
descried in Matagorda Bay; on the 4th, at 9 o'clock A. M., land was made, 30 miles north
of Aransaso inlet, and at 1 o'clock on the 6th, the schooner crossed the bar, with nine
feet water, and came to anchor; the wind veering northeast and northwest. Head winds and
strong tides delayed the vessel two days, but at 10 o'clock A.M. on the 8th they commenced
warping up the bay. On the 9th it blew a very strong gale from the north, which prevented
further progress at 9 o'clock A.M. on the 10th they commenced warping up the channel, with
light winds from the north. The wind becoming more favourable at noon, they proceeded as
far as Live Oak Point, where they anchored. At 8 o'clock, A.M., on the 11th, they weighed
anchor and steered for Copano, distant about six miles to the westward, when the vessel
ran.aground, and they were unable to anchor until about 2 o'clock, P.M. On account of the
superior freshness of the language, I shall borrow from the journal itself those passages
which tend to illustrate the character of the expedition, and the social and physical
aspect of the country.
On the 11th of December, the master of the schooner (Mr. Munroe) went
ashore, and brought off the captain of the Mexican coast-guard and all his force,
consisting, of a corporal and two soldiers.
"Had at supper the pleasure of the officer's company who went
ashore at 7 o'clock, completely intoxicated. On coming aboard the military wished to give
us a salute, but, unfortunately, only one pistol would go off. We had the mortification of
learning, first, that we could not clear the vessel without going to Goliad (La Bahia), a
village, about 15 leagues distant; and secondly, that nothing could be done until the
Collector of the Customs should pay us a visit, and it would be necessary to send an
express to him. It was some comfort, however, that the captain of the coast-guard very
coolly allowed us to disembark everything without the formality of either entering the
vessel or receiving a custom-house officer.
Dec. 12th.---Went on shore to select a proper place for pitching our
tents, which we arranged to have immediately on the shore, having an oyster-shell beach,
and protected by a few bushes. At this time we had a plentiful supply of water in the
ponds on the prairie, but it must be observed that, in the dry season, there is no water
near this place, and it would be necessary to send a boat for it to Live Oak Point. There
was a small half-finished frame-house on the beach, usually uninhabited, but occupied,
when there was any vessel in the bay, by the captain of the coast-guard. A party set to
work clearing and levelling the ground, for the purpose of pitching the tents. This
business was not completed for two or three days, and while the majority lived in the
tents, a great man built small houses, so that our camp at the end of a week presented a
very comfortable appearance. The business of disembarking went on very slowly, as the
vessel could not approach within four hundred yards of the beach. At last we hit upon a
plan which succeeded perfectly; we ran waggon into the water as far as it could
conveniently go and loaded it from the boat; and then by the aid of long ropes hauled it
ashore. This operation lasted five or six days in the mean while, the people were divided
into six watches, and went upon guard regularly, three hours each watch.
Dec. 15th.---To-day the much-expected Collector of the Customs, Don
Jóse María Cosio, made his appearance; and as our vessel is the largest that has entered
this port, he brought with him his wife and, another lady, as well as an Indian. This
visit rather deranged us, as, from the situation he held, he might give us a great deal of
trouble, or the reverse: we therefore roused our cooks, and with some difficulty mustered
a tolerable bill of fare, of which the "civilised" part of the expedition
partook in the cabin of the schooner. Myself, being an old Mexican, was of course at home,
but the rest of the party were rather surprised at observing that the ladies were not yet
initiated into the art of cutting their own victuals; and still more so when they took out
their cigars and speedily filled the cabin with smoke! The Collector was an old officer of
the army, who had travelled through all parts of the Republic, and possessed a great deal
of information. I was highly amused, in my conversation with the Señora Administradora at
the tone of contempt in which she spoke of "the poor, out-of-the-world, ignorant
village of La Bahia. Indeed," she observed, "persons who had seen large cities
could not live happily in such a banishment;" and then, with quite an air, assured me
that she was herself "born and bred in Saltillo." The other lady, being a
Badiña, was of course struck dumb by the superior knowledge of the Saltilleña.
Fortunately, the afternoon at length passed, and our visitors were escorted on shore.
Dec. 17th.---The Collector and his family took their leave; the former
having behaved in the most obliging manner, positively refusing to have a single article
examined. This was indeed a favour, as, although we had nothing that was subject to duty
or, seizure, still an active examination would have caused us several days' hard work, in
opening and closing our trunks, chests, &c. &c. Our little attentions were thus
amply repaid. The Indian amused the people very much by his skill in shooting with the bow
and arrow: I sent him out to shoot game, and he returned in a short time with a very fine
deer, for which I paid him half a dollar.
Dec. 19th.---The two last days have been exceedingly uncomfortable,
blowing fresh from the northward, with heavy rain, so that we were unable to move out of
our tents. A servant arrived from La Bahia, with six of my mules an one horse, these being
all that remained out of fifteen left there to be taken care of.
Dec. 20th.---Mr. Power, Captain Munroe, and myself started on hired
horses for La Bahia, but after proceeding about three leagues we came to the "Lake of
the Mission, and found it so full of water that it was impossible to ford. We therefore
were obliged to turn back, and arrived at the tents a little after dark.
Dec. 21st.---The same party made a second start for La Bahia, in one of
the heavy waggons drawn by the six mules taking the horses also by way of precaution. On
account of the difficulty experienced yesterday, we took the other road and found it
execrable, the water being up to the animal's knees nearly the whole of the way. With
great difficult we made about six miles, when we stopped at a small elevation which was
dry and had a few bushes on it. We quickly kindled a fire, made a good supper, and then
went to bed, Mr. Power and myself in the waggon, and the others of the "cold
Dec. 22nd.---Made an early start, but after struggling through about
two miles, the mules could no longer drag the waggon; we were therefore obliged to send
them back while Mr. Power, self, and my servant Marcelino, proceeded on horseback. At
about 8 o'clock we arrived in La Bahia and as I had a letter of introduction to Don Miguel
Aldrete the Alcade, he was polite enough to give us the use of a smal: house during our
stay, where, through the successful foraging of Marcelino, we contrived to be tolerably
Dec. 23rd.---La Bahia, or Goliad, is a wretched village; situated on
the right bank of the San Antonio River, about 40 miles from the 'Copano.' It contains
eight hundred souls. It is most beautifully placed, having the old ruined church of the
Mission on a rising ground in front, and backed by woods on the opposite side of the
river. This, with common industry, might be made a very pretty village, as they have an
abundance of soft limestone easily worked, and the soil is very fertile; but, from the
negligence and idleness of the Mexican inhabitants, the streets are complete ravines. They
have no gardens, and the houses are built partly of logs and partly of mud. The
inhabitants are, almost without an exception, gamblers and smugglers, and gain their
subsistence by those two occupations, and the more honourable one of carting the goods
brought to the port by foreign vessels. For this purpose they nearly all possess very fine
oxen, to purchase some of which was now my chief object.
We remained in this village several days, and found the Alcalde very
polite and of considerable service to us. We succeeded in purchasing eleven yoke of oxen,
at an average price of thirty-two dollars per yoke, and had a great deal of annoyance from
the people driving the cattle out of the yard I had hired from them. Of course, as the
animals were bought of various persons, they immediately distributed themselves all over
the country, putting me to a great deal of expense and trouble to find them again. This
trick was played me twice; although I took the additional precaution of hiring men to keep
watch. On Christmas-eve a grand ball was given by the young men of the place, to which we
were invited in due form, and of course "assisted." The house only consisted of
one bedroom, unfortunately without windows. There was a very large attendance of ladies,
and we had an ample opportunity of seeing all the "beauty and fashion" of La
Bahia. One rather singular custom exists, which is, that when a country dance, for
instance, is called, the gentlemen do not at all concern themselves about partners, but
those who wish to dance go and place themselves in their proper places, and when the
ladies rise and each one ranges herself in front of the gentleman with whom she chooses to
dance. The heat being very oppressive, and no refreshment of any kind, we quickly retired.
Dec. 30th.---We took our departure from La Bahia, having hired two men
to drive the cattle, and-proceeded about twenty-eight miles to the Mission del Refugio.
This is one of the remains of the very numerous missionary establishments founded by the
Spaniards for the civilisation and conversion of the Indians. Like all the rest, it is
prettily situated, and like them also, it has gone to ruin. The constant disturbances in
this country, since the independence of Mexico, have prevented the government from taking
the necessary precautions, or giving the necessary assistance to these establishments. The
consequence has been that the savage tribes have one after another "spoiled" the
temples, and driven off the horses and cattle. The "Fathers" have died, or
retired to Spain; and the Missions have now become desolate. The present one was destroyed
by the Comanches a few years since. There are at present five or six miserable huts, built
and inhabited by as many Irish families, brought to this country by the Empresario Mr.
Power, who could not properly locate them, in consequence of his disputes with respect to
the boundaries of his lands. They obtained permission to remain where they are until Mr.
Power could place them properly and give them their titles.
They have, in consequence, been about five years in this situation, and
as they imagined their sojourn would be temporary, they made no improvements, not even
cultivating a bit of garden-ground! And now, in the true spirit of their countrymen of the
same class, they do nothing but idle about, waiting for Mr. Powers to make his appearance
with their "titles." They have, however, several cattle, pigs, and fowls, and
candidly acknowledge that they might speedily become independent if they would but exert
themselves. We passed the night here, and on the morrow, December 31st, proceeded to the
camp. Having to cross the Laguna on our route, we still found so much water in it that we
were obliged to strip ourselves and swim our horses across. This, which would have been a
formidable undertaking on this day, either in England or the United States, here was
merely an object of amusement. About five o'clock we arrived at "home" strange
as this word would seem thus applied, certainly a slight feeling of that kind was produced
when we entered our tents, and were warmly saluted by our comrades. It being my turn to be
on guard at midnight, I had the pleasure of ringing the bell at twelve o'clock, and
congratulating the whole of the disturbed camp at the entry of a New Year.
At the close of the year, I cannot avoid returning sincere and humble
thanks to Divine Providence for having protected us from all kinds of danger, and
especially disease. Ever since we entered the Bay of Aransaso it has rained almost
continually, with violent northers, so that the cold was intense; the water in the tents
freezing nearly every night. The people I may say, almost literally, were completely wet
through all the time; and yet, unaccustomed as they were to this kind of life, not a
single case of illness occurred!
The year 1834 was ushered in by a "freezing norther," which
detained Dr. Beales and his party at their encampment until the 3rd, when they made a
progress of two miles from the beach. A farther detention having taken place on the 6th,
the Empresario amused himself with grouse-shooting, and had excellent sport.
"The immense number of game on the prairie was astonishing, it
appeared like a large preserve. We had in abundance, deer, geese, ducks, grouse, quail,
curlews, rabbits, and a few hares."
On the 7th, the weather being "delightfully mild," they
resumed their route-and on the 8th, after encountering much fatigue in getting the waggons
through a flooded pass, they encamped on the west side of the Mission lake, pretty well
protected by trees and bushes. On the 9th, they had much difficulty in extricating two of
the waggons from the slough, the weather being again very cold. They
"took leave of this troublesome lake, not without some admiration
at the want of energy in the Mexicans, who are constantly exposed to this annoyance, when
they might, by a week's work and a few shillings' expense, throw a very good bridge over
the stream which supplies the lake, and which is not more than thirty feet across. Indeed
we should have ourselves adopted this method, but it would have detained us at least a
week, as the timber necessary for the purpose was at some distance."
From the 10th to the 12th, the party were detained by the illness of
Mr. Power, one of their leading members. This gentleman was so much relieved on the 12th,
that they were enabled to proceed by placing his bed in a pleasure waggon. They reached
the encampment at the Mission, where fresh meat, milk, and eggs were obtained for the
people. The weather, which had been bitter cold, changed to "a beautiful spring
temperature." After halting to bring up fractured waggons and stragglers, the
Empresario resumed his march and arrived at La Bahia with his party at 12 o'clock on the
"It being a very fine day, I persuaded the Mexican carters to
assist us in passing the San Antonio river, although their contracts were merely to La
Bahia. After about four hours' hard work, all the train was safely encamped on the
opposite bank of the river. The water was much deeper than usual in the pass where we
entered the waggons, and a few yards on either side too deep for the animals to ford. I
had obtained an important advantage in encamping where I was at present, as the people
were in some degree separated from the town; and although they could, and constantly did,
ford the river during our whole stay, still a great deal was accomplished. Our old friend,
the Collector of the Customs, behaved very handsomely, again refusing to examine anything,
and assisted me materially in hiring carts, &c. Some of the foreigners in the town,
the lowest class of the Americans, behaved exceedingly ill, endeavouring, by all the means
in their power, to seduce away my families. Finding they could not succeed, they changed
their attack, by telling them the most dreadful stories of the Indians, and assuring them
that we should most decidedly be killed and eaten. These representations were not without
their effect, and forced me to be doubly wary and even obliged me to relax a little in my
discipline, lest any trifling thing should be made an excuse for open desertion.
Jan. 17th, 18th, and 19th.---Remained encamped in the same place,
occupied in arrangements for proceeding on to Bexar, engaging carts in place of those who
had here concluded their contracts, &c. We were unfortunate in the absence of D.
Miguel Aldrete, who had undertaken to engage all the carts I might require. As he was
absent on business, the owners wanted to raise the price, and threw fifty other obstacles
in the way; but by perseverance and firmness these were all overcome and everything
promised well for the morrow.
The persuasions, &c., of the blackguards I before mentioned, had
the effect of making one of our party stay behind. I have been joined, however, by John
Quinn, my old mayordomo, and a Mexican family, consisting of a man, his wife, and four
children. On the Sunday evening (the 19th) the Collector's lady stood godmother to a young
Caranchuhua Indian, who was baptized. She gave a grand ball upon the occasion, to which we
were invited. Although not very much inclined to undergo this second infliction, we could
not decently refuse.
Jan. 20th.---After several vexations, we began our march about 2
o'clock P.M. with a train of eighteen carts and waggons. After proceeding about five miles
we encamped, by the road side, in the midst of a very beautiful country. The weather then
again changed to severe cold.
Jan. 21st.---In consequence of the severe weather, it was almost
impossible to induce the Mexicans to start; and when we did so we were speedily compelled
to encamp again, which we did in a wood close by the side of the road.
Jan. 22nd and 23rd.---We could not move either of these days, owing to
the inclemency of the weather; but early on the 24th we made a start, being obliged to
leave two of the Mexican carts behind, which had lost their cattle. We proceeded in very
good order, and encamped about thirteen miles from our starting-place, at a cluster of
trees and some pools of water. The country we were now travelling through was very
beautiful, and appeared fertile. The river St. Antonio ran a little way to the left of the
road, with its banks thickly covered with fine timber.
Jan. 25th.---We.were not able to move till about 10 o'clock, as several
of the cattle had strayed to a great distance in the night. The weather appeared inclined
to clear up, although it still rained a little; the roads, however, were better. We
travelled about fourteen miles, and encamped on the banks of a very pretty brook, with
steep banks, called "El Cleto." We saw here a great many remains of an Indian
encampment. We were met by a regular American backwoodsman, who had come thus far from
Bexar to meet us, for the purpose of engaging himself as a hunter to the party. I engaged
him, upon condition that, if I liked his conduct as far as Bexar, he was to go all the way
Jan. 26th.---We commenced crossing the stream about nine o'clock, and
got all over without accident. We travelled to-day about ten miles, and, as it was a fine
afternoon, encamped on a little plain, where we had a delightful prospect: The country is
getting rather more hilly as we proceed. Our hunter shot two deer to-day.
Jan. 27th.---Our usual luck with the weather attended us; the
flattering appearances of last night passed away, and about three o'clock A.M. a most
violent norther arose, accompanied by snow and rain. As we were on a plain we had no
protection from the storm; in consequence, our tents were speedily wet through, and the
cold was so intense that nearly all the people deserted the camp and ran into the woods,
where they made large fires, and sheltered themselves as well as possible. It was with the
greatest difficulty I could keep even enough to sit the regular watch. [Wind N. W. Rain
and snow. Thermometer 26°.] The weather increased in severity towards night.
Jan. 28th.---As the weather somewhat moderated, we were enabled to
commence our journey about mid-day. The roads had now become execrable, and the poor oxen
were every moment lying down from fatigue. We to-day travelled only about five miles..
Jan. 29th.---We started at an early hour this morning, and met the post
from Bexar, who informed us that we should find the roads in a dreadful state. The hunter
every day killed one or two deer, and to-day he added a turkey to our bill of fare. We
proceeded about eight miles, when we reached a place called Marcelino, where we encamped
for the night. We were obliged to make these very short journeys, as half the cattle were
knocked up; so that when we arrived at the stopping-place we were obliged to send back the
good cattle to bring up the stragglers.
Jan. 30th.---We to-day only made six miles, and encamped at the Canada
de Encinos; we were obliged to leave behind a waggon and a cart, as we had no oxen capable
of going back for them.
Jan. 31st.---Made an early start, and at twelve o'clock arrived at the
Rancho of Don Erasmo Seguin, distant six miles from our starting-place. [Rancho, and
Rancheria, are used in Spanish America to signify a labourer's house, or a collection of
peasant's huts, from one and upwards. Be the number great or small, if there be not a
church, the aggregate is called a Rancheria. A church is necessary to constitute a Pueblo
(town or village), some of which only contain the church and the curate's house] We
arrived here with about one-half of the cattle going loose, and several had been left
behind on the road, and abandoned from their inability to proceed even alone.
The whole of this month has been extraordinarily inclement; and
although the natives all agree that such a winter had not been experienced for thirty
years, still it shows that no good farmer should neglect the providing of places of
shelter and good winter fodder for his cattle. We have been constantly wet,
notwithstanding which we have not suffered in our healths, with the exception of a few
Feb. 1st and 2nd.---We encamped close by the side of a small canal,
made for irrigation. This, although a very inconvenient place, being without wood or
pasture, was the best we could obtain.
The Rancho of Don Erasmo Seguin is admirably situated on a rising
ground, about 200 paces from the river San Antonio, and well surrounded by woods. They
have made a species of fortification as a precaution against the Indians: It consists of a
square, palisadoed round, with the houses of the families residing there forming the sides
of the square. They have also three pieces of brass cannon, but not yet mounted. This may
be made a beautiful place, but it is as yet in its infancy, having been planted only two
years. It consists of two sitios of very fertile land. They have begun to sow cotton,
which thrives very well: I procured a small quantity as a specimen.
Feb. 3rd.---I hired five yoke of oxen from the Rancho, to assist us as
far as Bexar. We started early, and passed through some fine woods. We were obliged, in
some places, to make the road afresh, but generally we found it excellent, as the weather
was delightful, and we appeared at length to have got into the climate of Mexico. We
to-day passed a beautiful stream called Las Calaberas, which is really a most romantic
spot, with high banks covered with magnificent timber. The carts all got over without
trouble, so that we bad no annoyances to interfere with our admiration of the scene;
immediately after passing through the wood, on the western side, we encamped, having
travelled about thirteen miles.
Feb. 4th.---We made an early start this morning, and proceeded to a
brook called the "Salado," where we encamped, having made about 12 miles. We
formed our camp with great precaution,.as this place is famous for the murders committed
by the "Tahuacanos," being one of their usual resting places. The night passed
without any alarm.
Feb. 5th.---I went forward to Bexar, with four men well armed, in order
to obtain permission from the Alcade to encamp. The train started about ten o'clock, and
arrived at Bexar about half-past twelve o'clock, and encamped at the entrance of the lake.
Feb. 6th.---We discharged the carts and waggons, and in the afternoon
were visited by nearly all the women in Bexar, so that the camp had the appearance of a
The approach to Bexar is very pretty, as you have the vale of the river
with the town of Bexar on the opposite or western bank. Behind, the land rises, so as to
form an agreeable background, while two churches of some ruined Mission, a short distance
from each other, contribute to give a civilised and interesting appearance to the
prospect. Bexar itself is a small town, now containing about 2,500 souls. It is most
advantageously situated, the land around it exceedingly fertile, with canals already made
for the purpose of irrigation. The river San Antonio is a beautiful stream, and would work
machinery to almost any extent; yet all these natural advantages are neglected, and Bexar
is one of the poorest, most miserable places in this country. The Indians steal all their
horses, rob their Ranchos, and, nearly every week, murder some one or two of the
inhabitants. From want of union arid energy, they tamely submit to this scourge, which all
admit is inflicted by a few Tahuacanos.
A German man and woman of our expedition were here married. They had
arranged everything with the priest before speaking to myself, otherwise I should have had
it delayed till we arrived upon our own territory.
Feb. 16th and 17th.---Anxious but unable to proceed, for want of
sufficient means of transport.
Feb. 18th.---We, to our great satisfaction, bade farewell to Bexar
about one P.M. with fifteen carts and waggons. After travelling about eight miles, we
encamped on a small brook called E Leon.
Feb. 19th.---We started about eight o'clock, and passed through a very
fine country, consisting of a black loam, with an abundance of flint pebbles; it is much
more hilly, affording beautiful prospects, but it appears to be rather deficient in water.
At five o'clock we encamped on the right bank of the Medina, a very beautiful stream,
which empties itself into the San Antonio. We this day marched about fifteen miles.
Feb. 20th.---Began our march about eight o'clock, and at mid-day got to
the Charcon, a very fine pool of water, where I had all the cattle taken out. After about
an hour's rest, we again started, and proceeded to Francisco Perez, where we only found
one small hole, with muddy water, barely enough for the people. To-day we travelled about
eighteen miles, through a very hilly country, covered with scrubby trees and small brush.
Feb. 21st.---We commenced our march this morning very early, as we were
anxious to reach water for our cattle. About two o'clock we arrived at Arroyo Hondo, which
was entirely dry. We proceeded on to the Tahuacano, about fifteen miles from our
starting-place; but, to our great dismay, found no water. All this day we had been without
water, either for the people or the cattle; we were therefore obliged to proceed about
eight miles further, when, about nine o'clock in the evening, we came to a small pool at a
place called Tierras Blancas. This water was so dreadfully bad that I could not touch it;
however, such as it was, it was a great relief; as, although the Rio Frio was only distant
about seven miles, the cattle could not have reached it.
Feb. 22nd. We started about nine o'clock, and .passed the Rio Frio at
one o'clock without much difficulty. We encamped on the right bank, in a very good
situation, except that there was but little pasture. In the evening nearly all hands
turned out to shoot wild turkeys, and were fortunate enough to bring in twenty-three very
fine ones. There was an immense quantity of fish in the river. We attempted to haul the
seine, but, from there being a great quantity of stones and logs, we met with no success.
Several of the people caught some with lines and hooks.
Feb. 23rd.---We remained to-day on the Rio Frio, in order to rest our
cattle; while at breakfast two Shawnee Indians arrived at the camp. They had, been hunting
on the Rio Grande, and were now returning to Natchitoches with beaverskins. I bought three
beaver-traps of them. In the evening, fourteen turkeys were obtained.
Feb. 24th.---About two A.M. a most violent squall of wind, accompanied
by thunder, hail, and rain, came on suddenly. Our tent was carried away, and in a moment,
we were completely deluged. The ground on which we were encamped, being level, was
immediately flooded, and all the fires, extinguished; the consequence was a scene of
confusion such as we had seldom witnessed. Fortunately the storm passed away in a few
minutes, and we then gradually began to get on dry clothes, light our fires, &c. This
was a very cold windy day, but, being dry, we determined to remain in our encampment to
air our tents, &c.
Feb. 25th.---There being no water, we were obliged to go as far as La
Leona. It is incorrect to say there is no water, as about two leagues from Rio Frio there
is a small brook, where water can generally be found, distant 18 miles from our
starting-place. We arrived just at dark, and had a great deal of difficulty in crossing.
There is a bridge of branches over the stream, and Mr. Egerton (the surveyor) and myself
went forward to repair it; notwithstanding which we upset two carts into the water, owing
to the darkness and carelessness of the drivers. We at length kindled large fires on each
side of the bridge, and tied ropes to the horns of the leading cattle, by which
precautions all the remainder were passed over without accident. This stream is small, but
very beautiful, well timbered, and surrounded by rich fertile lands. The water is
permanent; it empties itself into the Nueces.
Feb. 26th.---We started at nine o'clock, and proceeded through a
fertile country which only wants inhabitants. We fell upon a trail of some nine or ten
Indians, apparently about two or three days old. Soon after we met the Mexican post from
Rio Grande; they saw some of us at a distance, and, taking us to be Indians, galloped off
into the woods, and it was some little time before they rectified their mistake. We
proceeded to Buena Vista, a distance of about 10 miles from La Leona, and there encamped.
Feb. 27th.---Started about nine o'clock, sent on a party to the Nueces
to repair the bridge, hoping to be able to cross before night, but owing to the long
journey, and one of the Mexican carts breaking its axle-tree, we did not arrive on the
bank until dark. We accordingly encamped, after travelling about 20 miles. There is a
stopping-place, called the Tortugas, about three leagues before you reach the river.
Feb. 28th.---We crossed the Nueces without accident, as we took a great
deal of trouble. The banks are very steep, and still remained so in spite of all that had
been done by the party yesterday. I, therefore, thought it necessary to take out the oxen,
lower the carts by ropes on the bridge, drag them across, and then draw them up the
opposite bank by the oxen.
As we this day entered into the Rio Grande Grant, the gentlemen and
people made me pass the last; they then placed me in a light cart, and all hands drew me
over the bridge, with the English and Mexican flags flying, and all the people cheering
most enthusiastically. We afterwards cut out a tablet on the side of a large tree, and Mr.
Little with a knife carved the following words: "Los Primeros Colonos de la Villa de
Dolores pasaron el 28 de Febrero, 1834."
We proceeded about a league through very rich land to "La
Espantosa," which is a pool of water about fifty yards wide and four or five miles
long: it is full of fish, but from the quantity of bushes and dead wood, we could do
nothing with the seine.
March 1st.---We started about nine o'clock, and proceeded through a
most dreary sandy waste, where the wheels sank in as far as the axles, to a place called
La Pina, a fine pool of water, which filters through a large bed of stone; it is full of
perch, and we managed to take a few, although the net was not deep enough to reach the
bottom. We travelled this day about 12 miles. We were here no less than four different
March 2nd.---Mr. Egerton started early this morning, with one servant,
for the Presidio del Rio Grande, in order to bring carts; it being my wish to leave the
road and go to the Moras at once, without going across the river. We were unable to
proceed to-day, as some of the Mexicans had lost their cattle.
March 3rd.---At midnight Mr. Egerton returned with the news that the
water in the Rio Grande was very low, and that he had discovered a good road on the
opposite side of the river to a pass opposite our lands; I therefore thought it better to
proceed by that route. We accordingly started about nine o'clock. In the beginning we had
to pass through the same kind of sandy tract we had experienced the day before yesterday;
but, after travelling about a league we entered on a very fine plain, with very rich lands
covered with excellent pasture; but unfortunately completely naked of timber, and very
deficient in water. We proceeded about six leagues to a place called San Ambrosio, but
found the bed about a league farther, where there are several pools of muddy water.
March 4th.---Started about nine o'clock. Mr. Egerton went forward to
the Presidio del Rio Grande, to purchase some small stores. The train, after advancing
through the same kind. of country as yesterday for about ten miles, arrived at one o'clock
on the banks of the Rio Grande, which is here a fine stream about three hundred yards
wide. The people were all delighted at the appearance of the river, no one supposing it to
be so large. We sent across to ascertain its depth, and found it to be about three feet
the whole distance. We encamped on the left bank, and spent the afternoon in preparing the
loads for the passage in such a manner as not to wet the articles.
March 5th.---After repairing the banks, we passed the river without
much trouble, and encamped upon the south bank.
March 6th.---We proceeded as far as the Mission of San Bernardo, about
five miles from the river, and close to the Presidio of Rio Grande. This last is a small
village with about seven hundred inhabitants. There are some large houses in it, and
several gardens. The people were very civil-to us: altogether, I liked it much better than
either Bexar or La Bahia. I here bought two cows, with their calves; besides some animals
to kill. In the afternoon we, as usual, were visited by nearly all the inhabitants of the
March 7th.---We began after breakfast to make preparations for
starting, but the cattle had strayed a great distance, and we were consequently obliged to
remain during the day.
March 8th.---We started very late from the Presidio, being obliged to
leave our yoke of oxen behind, they having strayed away. We continued travelling till
eight o'clock, when we arrived at a brook called San Domingo. We made to-day about twenty
miles. I bought in the Presidio two cows and calves, and two fat heifers.
March 9th.---Started at half-past eight. About seven miles from the
starting-place, we came to a very fine pool of water called San Nicholas. We saw a great
number of wild horses. After travelling about fifteen miles, we encamped on the Rio
Escondido, a very pretty stream of beautiful water, with high banks: there is also very
excellent pasture here. We were obliged to make the road for about three hundred yards
down the side of a steep hill, and through very thick underwood and bush.
March 10th.---Mr. Egerton started this morning for San Fernando. We
proceeded up the same bank of the river to look for a pass, as the water was too deep and
the banks too high for us to advance on the road. After proceeding about a league, we came
to the pass which had been discovered by the guide. It turned out to be a very good one;
but, in passing down to the "bottom," we unfortunately upset one of our carts.
We crossed the stream without farther accident, and on the opposite bank we found five
Shawnee Indians encamped, hunting beaver. One or two of them spoke English perfectly. They
had caught about forty beavers, and expressed their intention of following us to the lands
and spending some time there in hunting. About a mile farther on, we entered on a very
fine low plain, with very rich land, forming a kind of extensive bottom to the Rio Grande.
After proceeding some distance across this plain, the cattle began to give up, and we were
obliged to encamp about three o'clock, although we had no water. We travelled to-day ten
March 11th.---I started very early to discover a good pass across the
river. We proceeded for some distance to what is called the Paso de la Navaja, but found
that it would be impossible to cross here without working for several days; I accordingly
returned to the train, and sent Mr. Paulson and the guide farther up the river. They met
us about mid-day, with the information that we could cross at an upper pass. We proceeded,
and there encamped on the edge of the descent into the bottom; having travelled about ten
miles. Soon after our encamping we were joined by our Shawnee friends:---the hunter killed
a very fine she bear, and brought three young cubs to the train.
March 12th.---All hands went to work with great industry, making the
road to the pass; a very arduous task, as we had about half a league to go before we
arrived at the water, over very uneven ground, and through thick willow swamps. We had
likewise to pass, for about a quarter of a mile, obliquely across the river, in order to
take advantage of the shallow places; but still the water in some parts three feet and a
half deep. After a very hard day's work, I had the pleasure of once more encamping on
"our" side of the river. Mr. Egerton about sunset arrived from San Fernando. The
Shawnees once more encamped along-side of us; we were also joined by an American hunter,
with his wife and children. The Mexican carts all quitted us here, leaving us entirely to
our own resources.
March 13th.---We remained in our encampment all to-day, arranging what
things we could take with us, being obliged to leave the greater part of them behind,
under a guard of men. I agreed with the Shawnees that they should hunt for me for some
time, and they started to try their fortune on the Moras river; I 'likewise engaged the
American who joined us last night as a hunter.
March 14th.---We started very early, with all the party excepting Mr.
Addicks and two Mexicans, who remained behind to take care of the things. We passed across
some most beautiful plains of rich black loam, but entirely destitute of timber, and with
no water for irrigation. The plains are bounded by low limestone hills: on the top of one
we discovered a small spring; in fact I have no doubt that water might be obtained in any
part of the plains, by digging a few feet. After travelling about fifteen miles, we halted
at "El Saucillo," a deep brook, the banks of a most curious formation.
March 15th.---Started about nine o'clock: myself and the rest of the
gentlemen left the train and rode forward to look at the proposed site of the new town. It
gave us satisfaction, and we returned down the stream, where we found the train encamped,
after having travelled about four miles.
March 16th.---The train started about nine o'clock for Las Moras; but
self and some of the gentlemen went down the stream, for the purpose of ascertaining
whether there were an eligible spot for the town nearer to the Rio Grande. In this we were
disappointed, as the stream gradually sank deeper between its banks, and according to the
reports of our Mexican guides, it occasionally dried up in very hot seasons. Although we
failed in our primary object, we had the satisfaction of discovering a most splendid fall
of about fifteen feet. The stream divides itself into two nearly equal branches, which
embrace a small island, and then fall over a strong bed into the same basin; forming one
of the finest natural mill sites that can be conceived. This being St. Patrick's eve, we
christened this spot "San Patricio." We continued travelling for about ten
miles, when, to our great joy, we encamped on the side of the future "Villa de
Dolores," and had just time to get our tents rigged before a most violent storm of
thunder, lightning, and rain came on. The stream of Las Moras is a very pretty one, about
three yards across and averages at the present time, about two feet and a half in depth;
the water is beautifully clear, and runs on a level with the surface of the
"bottoms." It has several very pretty groves of timber, consisting principally
of live and white oak, and elm. The "bottoms" below the villa, for some miles,
are very broad, and exceedingly rich; in some places, where the beavers have made dams,
the water has spread over several acres in width, offering excellent rice grounds.
The site of the Villa de Dolores, our new town, is upon the left bank
of the stream, in a small grove of live oak and thick underwood; it rises gradually from
the stream, leaving a small "bottom" of beautiful land for gardens. On the
opposite side of the stream is a small grove containing some pretty sticks of timber. The
selection of this spot does great credit to the taste and judgment of Mr. Egerton, who
chose it in his former expedition.
March 17th.---The Mexicans are employed in riding round us in circles,
that we may have timely notice of the approach of any enemy, though this does not appear
very probable, as we have clear proofs that none have been here since Mr. Egerton's visit,
his marks not having been disturbed. Besides this, we found the cover of a bed upon the
spot where he lost it! All hands are diligently employed in clearing a square space of
ground in the centre of the grove, for a fortification and temporary residence, until
houses can be built.
By the afternoon, we had a square of about fifty yards on each side,
sufficiently clear for our camp: we removed into it, having a fence of loose brush all
round us, with only one entrance for the carts and waggons. On one side we dug a well, and
found beautiful water at four feet.
March 18th.---The people employed in clearing away round our
"fort" have also begun to build themselves little huts: all were exceedingly
well satisfied with the location. I have set the carpenters to work to build me a
March 19th.---Mr. Egerton busily occupied in striking out the lines for
the streets; the people still engaged in clearing away round the "fort." The
Shawnees, who are encamped a short distance from us, brought in four turkeys and a deer.
Self engaged in drawing plans for my house and garden. (Thermometer 80°; cool, refreshing
March 20th.---(8 A.M., 65°). The equinoctial gale blowing fresh from
the N. E. gave us a painful sensation of cold, although the positive difference of
temperature by the thermometer was not nearly so great as our feelings would lead us to
believe.---Wind fresh from N. E.
Clear day; noon. The people employed as yesterday. This is my thirtieth
birthday. We had intended to have celebrated it, and at the same time to have laid the
foundation-stone of the church, but we delayed on account of the absence of some of the
In the evening, Fortunato Soto returned from Monclova, with his
appointment to the office of Commissioner to the Colony. He also brought an official
letter from the Governor to myself, assuring me of the interest felt by the government in
our colony; and promised that he would apply to the Federal Government for a detachment of
troops. To our great dismay, Fortunato had not been able to cash any of my drafts on New
Orleans, and as we had previously ascertained that no money could be obtained in Bexar, we
found ourselves reduced to the absolute necessity of sending to Matamoras, as the colony
had not pecuniary means sufficient to obtain the necessary supplies. After long and
serious consideration, it was unanimously determined that no one could ensure the
requisite funds but myself; thus obliging me to quit the colony before hardly anything
could be regulated!
March 21st.---The people employed some in clearing, and others in
building themselves huts; self occupied in arranging different affairs preparatory to my
March 22nd.---Every person employed the same as yesterday.
March 23rd.---This morning, Messrs. Power, Paulson, Soto, and myself,
with the Mexican guard, made an excursion to the head of the stream. We passed over most
beautiful lands for about eight miles, when we arrived at the springs. These form large
pools of very clear water, in the midst of a large grove of very fine timber, consisting
principally of live and white oak, elm, pecan, and hickory. (Thermometer, 99° in the
tent.) This timber continues on both sides of the stream all the way down to the Villa.
The springs are full of fish, and are crossed in various directions by beaver-dams. The
magnolia and other beautiful shrubs were in full blossom; altogether forming one of the
prettiest spots I have seen anywhere. After resting a short time in the shade, we
proceeded on to a hill which rises from the middle of the plain, to the height of about
six hundred feet. We mounted to the top of it, and beheld the country spread out before us
like a map. We could distinctly see the hills which give origin to the Nueces and Rio
Frio, to the E. N. E. of us; the Moras, our own stream, running nearly due south and west
of us, the Piedras Pintas and Sequete. The hill is composed of a very compact dark
granite, and a fine species of soft limestone. It is situated about four miles from the
head waters of Las Moras, and twelve from our Villa. After making our observations, we
returned to the Villa highly gratified with our excursion. We found two new Shawnees, who
had brought us three deer and two turkeys.
March 24th.---People still employed in clearing, self in arranging
affairs for my departure, and the rest of the gentlemen in laying out the streets, &c.
(Thermometer 96°) In the evening a chief of the Shawnees, with three of his tribe,
arrived. The chief is a very fine man, about six feet and a half in height.
March 25th.---To-day was perhaps the most interesting we have passed
since our leaving New York.
Immediately after breakfast, every thing being previously prepared, we
marched in procession to the site of the church. The Commissioner and myself, with the
Mexican flag, leading the way; next to us were two master masons, one carrying a stone and
the other a portion of mortar. On arriving at the place, we found that a small part of the
foundation of the church had been dug; one of the masons prepared the bed, and I then laid
the first stone of the Villa de Dolores: a bumper of wine all round was then tossed off to
the prosperity of the new town, amidst cheers and repeated firing of guns. We now
proceeded to swear allegiance to the Mexican Republic, which was done first by myself, and
then by all the rest of the colonists. We next proceeded to the election of magistrates,
when the following officers were declared duly elected:
..J. C. BEALES
..W. H. EGERTON
These names were received by cheering, &c.; a bumper of rum was
drunk to my health, this being the celebration of my birthday. We now sat down to dinner,
which I commemorate, as we dined off turkey and "Pate de foies gras aux
truffles," from Paris, while our wines were Madeira and Champagne! After dinner, the
Chief and other Shawnees came to the tent, and danced, and sang their war-song. I should
have stated that the day began by a religious ceremony, which, to say the least of it, was
equally interesting with the remainder. One of the families named Page had a little girl
aged six months, which they wished me to christen, as there was no clergyman near the
place. I accordingly did so; my little daughter, Anita, being its godmother, and through
Mr. Egerton, bestowing her name upon it. The day was beautifully fine, and everything
passed off with the greatest order and good humour.
March 26th.---Everybody employed in laying out the streets and clearing
them-the day exceedingly hot. (Thermometer 90°)
March 27th.---The Shawnees left us; the chief having given me the name
of his "friend," while I gave him a pipe. All hands employed as yesterday.
March 28th.---Got a plough to work, and a blacksmith's shop employed
repairing another plough; most of the people writing letters; self very busy in placing
all my goods in my new storehouse, which is completed, with the exception of the
March 29th.---This morning most of the people idle, or writing letters;
self concluding my affairs, and taking a farewell stroll "about the town." About
one o'clock, every thing being ready, I had the pleasure of seeing the first stone of my
house laid. After dinner, the animals were brought out, and a farewell address was made to
me, and I left the "Villa" accompanied by Messrs. Egerton, Paulson and Addicks.
We went as far as the "Sauz," where we passed the night. Although. I had been so
short a time in the. place, it was like leaving home, and would have caused me real
regret, had it not, been that I was returning to my family.
March 30th.---Mr. Egerton returned to the Villa, and the rest of us
continued our journey; but we soon turned off from the road, as I understood there were
some veins of coal among the hills. We passed over some beautiful land, and saw several
large pools of fine water. After a long search, we were fortunate enough to meet with the
coal; I took several specimens of it, and then made for the river, which we found with
much less difficulty than when we last saw it. We crossed at the Paso de las Adjuntas del
Rio Escondido, and I took leave of my lands for this trip.
The settlement at Dolores did not prosper, owing to a variety of
causes; of which the principal apparently was the absence of proper qualifications in the
colonists themselves. Mr. Power, who accompanied the Empresario, disapproved of the site
of Dolores, on the various grounds that the stream Las Moras was insignificant; the
settlement too remote from the nearest town, San Fernando, which was seventy miles
distant; and the soil, though of the best quality, not productive without irrigation,
which was troublesome and expensive. Mr. Power preferred the lands on the Rio Grande; the
flats being a deep rich loam, containing sufficient moisture to produce any crop without
irrigation, and the highest bank of the river (there being three) afforded the very finest
pasture. The settlers, unacquainted with the agriculture of the country were disappointed
in their first crop, which failed for want of irrigation. They became discontented with
their location, and, with the exception of eight persons, determined to leave it on the
17th of June. They withdrew accordingly, and Mr. Power and the remainder removed, for
safety, to San Fernando, to await, the arrival of another expedition. Political
occurrences in succeeding years interrupted colonization in the district of the Rio
Grande; and although Dolores obtained a place on the map, it had no pretensions to the
name of a successful settlement supplying farther evidence of the superiority of the
Anglo-Americans in forming colonies. The North Americans are the only people who, in
defiance of all obstacles, have struck the roots of civilization deep into the soil of
Texas. Even as I trace these lines, I reflect upon their progress with renewed wonder and
admiration. They are, indeed, the organised conquerors of the wild, uniting in themselves
the threefold attributes of husbandmen, lawgivers, and soldiers.
According to the Handbook of Texas: Beales brought at least one
other band of colonists to Dolores, and the settlement grew in spite of marauding Indians
and drought. But the colony was doomed to failure. Blighted crops and poor prospects
caused general disappointment, and the settlers left in ones and twos for the Mexican town
of San Fernando or elsewhere. The outbreak of the Texas Revolution and Antonio López de
Santa Anna's invasion [in 1836] with a large army to drive Americans out of Texas caused a
general exodus. One large wagon train was attacked by Comanche Indians on the Matamoros
road, and all the settlers were massacred except two women and their small children, who
were taken captive.
From 1836 until his death Beales sporadically fought in the courts and the legislative
halls of the United States and Texas to validate his claims to lands in Texas and
adjoining states. For the most part, neither judges nor legislators looked favorably on
his petitions or his suits. His heirs were able to salvage only a fraction of the millions
of acres to which he once had laid claim. After his death their titles to the
eleven-league purchases in Southwest Texas were upheld by the courts.
Beales's dreams of gaining great wealth from his land grants were not fulfilled. In the
absence of his journals and financial records, it is impossible to estimate how much he
received from the transfer of his interests to the land companies. The total must have
been considerable, if, as reported, the Rio Grande and Texas Land Company paid him as much
as $100,000 for a portion of his interests in several grants.
He resumed medical practice in New York City in 1835 in partnership with Dr. William
Barrow. For many years thereafter he was a medical examiner for the Eagle and Albion Life
Insurance companies. He continued the practice of medicine until the 1870s.
Beales was admitted to membership in the Royal College of Surgeons of England in 1839.
In 1835 he had become a life member of St. George's Society in New York City and later
served as its president. In 1847 he became a fellow of the New York Academy of Medicine.
Described by a contemporary as one of the most handsome men he had ever seen, Beales, who
stood about five feet eleven inches and weighed about 170 pounds, was described as a
"tall, well-built specimen of an Englishman, fond of society, a giant in energy, and
a Demosthenes in speech." He became a United States citizen on May 29, 1850, and died
in New York City on July 25, 1878. His wife had died in 1873.
The book by Carl Coke Rister, Comanche Bondage (University of
Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NB, 1989), summarizes the story of the attempt at
settlement and annotates the narrative of Sarah Horn describing her capture and life with
the Comanches, her ransom and return to civilization.
Coahuila y Tejas-Index
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