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From The Empresario by A.B.J. Hammett, 1973
Don Martín De León was born in Burgos (then known as New Santander) Mexico in the year of 1765. His parents were Don Bernando De León and Madame María Galvan. Both parents were from aristocratic and influential wealthy families of Spain. Burgos, Mexico was named for the City of Burgos, a province of Spain where Martín De León and his bride's families resided prior to their move to Burgos, Mexico in the year of 1750. Don Martín De León, as he grew to manhood was a striking, dignified man of extreme military bearing. He received a fine education to prepare him for business. He was offered further college education at Monterrey and to the disappointment of his parents he declined and elected to engage in business for himself. He stood a full six feet in height, his complexion was fair and he possessed a symmetrical well-proportioned form. Most of his life was spent in the saddle and he was a renowned and skillful horseman. He possessed an abundance of love for his family and also his religion. A more honest, courageous and determined Texan has never been recorded in Texas history.
Don Martín De León was married at Soto La Marina, Tamaulipas, Mexico in 1795. He married a very prominent young lady from a well-to-do family, Patricia de la Garza. Doña Patricia's family was also from an aristocratic Spanish family in Spain. Her father was a military man of high rank and she, like her husband Don Martín, was endowed with an everlasting faith to the end and a true love for her family, her church and all of the people of the colony. To this union were born four sons and six daughters. All of the children were born in Texas with the exception of the oldest son, Don Fernando De León who was born in Cruillas, Mexico, State of Tamaulipas, 1798.
Texas, at the time Don Martín De León arrived, belonged to Mexico and Mexico was ruled by Spain. The jurisdiction of Texas, the northernmost State in Mexico was under the control of Governor Salcedo who maintained his headquarters at San Antonio. As stated elsewhere, possibly later in the life of Don Martín De León, the old family Spanish city of Burgos, Spain with its countless numbers of magnificent cathedrals and churches inspired Don Martín to duplicate or even construct a more magnificent cathedral in his own capital city of Guadalupe Victoria. Don Martín De León began his business career with a large number of pack mules which were loaded with tools, provisions, food and supplies. He delivered such supplies to the mines located a considerable distance at Real de San Nicolas. At the age of twenty, he joined the regiment Fiels de Burgos, organized by the Viceroy of Mexico, for the purpose of fighting the Indians and repelling the frequent Indian incursions. He displayed great military qualities becoming that of a true soldier, and accordingly he gained promotions to the highest rank allowed that of captain in the Mexican military. At that time no native was ever allowed to go above the rank of captain regardless of his valor or qualifications.
Don Martín's Marriage. At.Soto La Marina, in 1795, Don Martín De León married a beautiful well educated, cultured and refined young lady, also from an aristocratic Mexican family, which had its ancestry dating back to the highest Spanish blood of Spain. She was Doña Patricia de la Garza. His attractive bride, Doña Patricia like her husband loved the beauty of the great outdoors. She loved the adventure of pioneering and shared her husband's love for fulfilling his dream to create and organize a new colony, and build a totally new community in an unconquered wilderness.
First Son. A son, Fernando De León was born to this couple at Cruillas, State of Tamaulipas, Mexico, in the year of 1798, and this first son was destined to later carry on in the fulfillment of his father's creative dream of colonization. Together with their one young son, Fernando, Don Martín and Doña Patricia loaded their carts with household goods needed for temporary living at different places and together with their servants, they came slowly overland and settled on the east bank of the Aransas River, below the road that winds its way to San Patricio in the wilds of Texas.
Children of Don Martín De León
Fernando De León married Doña María Antonio Galvan, no children were born to them, as Doña María was the first death in the colony. He later remarried and adopted two of his brother Silvestre's sons.
Candelaria De León was married to José Miguel Aldrete, who was Commissioner General to the Power & Hewetson Colony. Three children were born to them, José María, Rafael and Trinidad. Trinidad was a captain in the Texas Army in 1836.
An article in the Handbook of Texas by Hobart Huson relates:
José Miguel Aldrete, Mexican official and early Texas patriot, son of José de Jesús Aldrete, was born in Texas, probably at La Bahía. At an early age he married Candelaria De León, daughter of Martín De Leon. For a number of years he served in the ayuntamiento at Goliad and was alcalde in 1823-24 and from 1830 to 1833. For several years he was collector at the port of El Cópano. He maintained residences both at Goliad and Refugio and on occasion lived at Nuestra Señora del Refugio Mission, near his ranch. In 1830 he represented the Mexican government in the secularization of the mission. Aldrete, probably the largest landowner in the Refugio area at the time, was land commissioner of the state of Coahuila and Texas in 1835 and was functioning as such when Antonio López de Santa Anna dissolved the state government. He immediately espoused the Federalist cause and was a member of Ira Westover's Lipantitlán expedition, after which he went to San Antonio de Béxar where, according to some accounts, he was a member of the Texan army during the siege of Bexar. He was a member of Philip Dimmitt's garrison at Goliad and a signer of the Goliad Declaration of Independence. Aldrete furnished many animals and supplies to the Texas army during the Texas Revolution and was one of the few Mexicans who enjoyed the confidence and friendship of [Phillip] Dimmitt. About 1840, after living in Goliad and Victoria, Aldrete moved back to Refugio County. He, like many other family members, was a warm abettor of the Mexican Federalists. From 1841 to 1844 he was a justice of Refugio County. Upon him was conferred one of the orders of the papal nobility. In addition to their holdings in Refugio County, the Aldretes owned large ranches in the Nueces River region. Aldrete lived in Corpus Christi in 1854. About the time of the fall of Maximilian's empire, he moved to Chihuahua, Coahuila, where he died sometime before 1873. From Hobart Huson, Refugio: A Comprehensive History of Refugio County from Aboriginal Times to 1953 (2 vols., Woodsboro, Texas: Rooke Foundation, 1953, 1955).
José María Alderete was born in Goliad in 1820. After the Texas Revolution, he became very bitter towards Texans whom he felt betrayed the Texan-Mexicans that had fought bravely against Santa Anna and his troops. By the time his father died in Refugio in 1858, J.M. Alderete already resided in Mexico, was serving in the Mexican Army and had been proclaimed a hero in Camargo, Tamaulipas, for his exploits as a leader in battle. He was involved in the battle at Mier against the Texans. Documents in the Mier Archives in Tamaulipas which are under private care relate that José María was one of the officers involved in defeating the Texans in the battle of Mier of December 1842. He was involved in escort of some of the prisoners to Perote Prison in Veracruz. In later years José María fought the French when they invaded Mexico during the Presidency of Benito Juárez. He was in charge of the forces from Camargo. He was one of the leaders of the defeat of the French in the Battle of Santa Gertrudis, near Camargo. He was known for many heroic and personal acts in Mexico and died in 1862. His residence is still near Villa Nueva.
Trinidad Aldrete, who may have been at the Battle of Bexar with his father in December 1835, served the Republic of Texas in the army in the Goliad region. He was involved in the Civil War where he and brother Rafaél were appointed Captain and Lieutenant, respectively, in the Jeff Davis Home Guard. Family records indicate that Trinidad went to Refugio on 18 Jun 1874, exhumed his father José Miguel Alderete's remains, and brought them for burial at Villa Nueva de Camargo. His mother Candelaria de León is buried next to her husband at the family cemetery there. The family cemetery in Villa Nueva de Camargo is intact and many Alderete descendants still live in the area. Foregoing from Juán M. Escobar.
Silvestre De León married Rosalie de la Garza. They had two children, Martín and Francisca.
Felix De León married Salome Leal. Six children were born, Santiago, Patricia, Samuel, Silvestre, María de Jesus and Olivia de León Lozano.
Agapito De León married María Antonia Garza. They had one child, León.
María de Jesusa married Rafael Monchola, who was the Alcalde of Bahia. They had one daughter, Francisca, who married Crisoval Morales.
Refugia De León married General José María M. Carvajal, Surveyor General of the De León Colony. He also served in the cause of Texas, and later he was the Governor of Tamaulipas, Mexico. They had two children, Antonio and José María, Jr. José María, Jr. married Manuela Canales, daughter of the prominent General Canales of the Mexican Army. Their one daughter, Refugia married Manuel Quintaro, who was a captain in the Mexican Army.
Augustina De León married Placido Benavides, who was prominent in the affairs of the De León Colony and active in the war with the Texans. There were three children born to them, Pilar, Liberta and Matana.
De Leóns were Religious People. The Mission La Bahia was closest to the lands colonized by Don Martín De León and from this mission, Don Martín procured Father José Antonio Valdez to provide the Catholic services in his new capital city of Guadalupe Victoria, for his family and the new colonists, until a priest could be secured. Father Diaz of Nacogdoches, and Father Mureau of San Antonio also journeyed to Victoria, to conduct services for the Empresario, Don Martín De León. The De Leóns were devout Catholics. There was no permanent priest in the colony at first, but the Empresario arranged for a church to be built on one of the land grant sites and lots set aside for that purpose and a regular priest was secured. St. Mary's Catholic Church, was founded by Don Martín De León in 1824, and Bishop Odin appointed Father Eubaldus Estany as Pastor. Father Estany was succeeded in 1847, by the Rev. James Fitzgerald, the first Diocesan Priest to be stationed in Victoria. St. Mary's Parish is the second oldest Catholic Parish in Texas, the San Fernando Cathedral in San Antonio, being the earlier. The old St. Mary's Catholic Church established in Martín De León's Victoria, rebuilt in 1850-1853, also had in memory of the De León family a beautiful window dedicated to Don Martín De León and the De León family. This window was reported as the fourth one on the right. It is also believed that many of the gold altar pieces given to the church by Don Martín De León and after his death by his widow and other members of the De León family, are still in the possession of, and are being used today by St. Mary's Catholic Church in Victoria.
Other historical records indicate that the land upon which the St. Mary's Catholic Church was rebuilt in 1853, was the original site of Doña Patricia De León's home and this was another one of her worthy contributions to their church. Don Martín De León after establishing his colony immediately made plans for the construction of his magnificent cathedral rivaling the greatest churches in Mexico. He became a victim of the terrible disease cholera and died in the year of 1833. Had this great man lived, it is quite possible Victoria, Texas would have had a cathedral to equal the finest in Mexico. He died as he had lived, a Christian man, thinking first of his family and his colonists, for whom he was responsible. Doña Patricia De León, widow of Don Martín De León, continued to help the Church, as did her late husband, Don Martín. She gave the valuable gold altar vessels, including a golden Relicary, in which the consecrated Host is manifest for public veneration. Other lavish gifts of gold incrustments were given to the Church by Doña Patricia and other De León family members.
Respect And Honesty. The De León men had the greatest admiration and respect for each other as businessmen, they prided themselves on dealing with each other as men, not as members of a family. Martín De León was proud of his sons as businessmen and they held respected positions in the management of the colony. In an early day publication, it is recalled and reported by one of the city's oldest settlers, that Silvestre, the third child of Don Martín De León, Alcalde Silvestre De León's honored father had willfully killed his hog. When court opened Don Martín De León was summoned and the alcalde stated the case. Don Martín acknowledged killing the hog, but justified the act on the grounds that the hog had destroyed his yard. The Alcalde, Don Silvestre De León asked if he had a "lawful fence." The old gentleman making the complaint, replied "it was not the best of fence," but asked if he would give a judgment against his father? Don Silvestre replied "that in the capacity as a public official the ties that bound him as an individual were in-operative. On the bench he would perform his duty with strict impartiality, but off the bench he would again become the dutiful son of Don Martín De León. With that prelude the Alcalde announced that he would assess the damages sustained by the plaintiff, in the loss of his hog at twenty dollars ($20.00).
Don Martín promptly paid the amount with the remark, that he was proud of such a son, to the disappointment of a large crowd that had collected to see some fun between father and son. It is further stated and recollected, that when he was en route to Washington on the Brazos, John J. Linn, had left his aged father, wife and infant daughter, for their protection in the hospitable hacienda of his good friend, Don Fernando De León on the Garcitas. Mr. Linn also recalled that Don Fernando had magnificently supplied the wants and needs of the army for the Battle of San Jacinto, by donating goods. He like Mr. Linn were never paid for their goods or services---although they contributed to the cause of Texas. It was timely indeed and of incalculable value. The De Leóns were most serious in their help to the army, with their possessions and money and contributed much to the successful conclusion of the war, and the Battle of San Jacinto.
Another interesting story handed down from old history and attributed to Don Martín De León as it concerned a man, who came to the De León Ranch one day and told of his misfortune. He stated that he needed two (2) horses, but that he had no money and could not pay for them, but would pay some later date. Don Martín De León listened to the man's story of bad luck and then told him he could have the two horses. The stranger was shocked by the sudden reply granting his request and said "you would trust me for the two horses and not know anything about me, or demand any kind of security?" "Yes," answered Don Martín De León "if you do not keep your word and pay me later on, as you have agreed all I have lost is two horses---but for you my man you will have lost your reputation and your self respect."
The Cholera Epidemic. The cholera epidemic struck the lower coast of Texas and other points near the mouths of rivers and in low lying areas of the Texas coast in 1833. As stated elsewhere, Don Martín De León was the first victim of this dreaded disease or epidemic in his colony. There were many other deaths and the fear and hysteria of the situation among all the people in the colony was great. The dreaded disease, cholera, was known to all of the colonists as having existed in Asia and Europe as far back as the 15th century. A great fear of cholera was foremost in the minds of everyone especially pioneer settlers where there were no doctors or medical supplies and in those days medicine at its best was very limited in any community. Most people in those early days were superstitious of this dread disease, cholera. Their ancestors believed it to be the work of witches and other demons of destruction. There were only two things known to these people that would check the spread of the cholera disease. They were freezing weather conditions that would kill the bacteria in the ground or fire to burn the buildings, clothing and everything in the community. Where there were no freezing conditions, fire was used together with a general evacuation of the people. These people had good reason to believe many things as a result of a cholera epidemic left hardly anything alive. Rats, goats, animals and people all alike became the victims. It would strike with great swiftness and sometimes within twenty four to forty eight hours people together with livestock and animals would be wiped out. Mosquitoes, rats, clothing or anything that came in contact with a victim was a carrier of the dread disease. People as well as animals were buried in pits and remains covered with lime and other then known disinfectants as it was believed that the ground in which they were buried could even become contaminated with cholera germs and breed the disease. Many of the people were reported prepared and buried at night in un-marked and secret places to avoid panic and pandemonium of the residents. In handling victims of the cholera epidemic, those who were able to look after these people and animals were reported as heavily wrapped in clothing, masks over their faces with some type of disinfectant, gloves, etc. Their bodies were completely covered and after the victims were handled and buried, all clothing, shoes, masks, etc. were burned to destroy any germs.
The cholera epidemic of 1833 was believed brought to the shores and communities of the various settlers in Texas by small sailing cargo boats coming from Mexican coastal ports where cholera had been reported. It was also believed that the carriers from these boats were rats and clothing or other materials with which a colonist could come in contact. In later years, with a better knowledge of medicine, sanitation, personal hygiene and education together with the eradication of mosquitoes, rats and other carriers in the humid low lying areas of a country, this dread disease has almost become a thing of the past. This terrible epidemic that took the life of the Empresario, Don Martín De León and the war that soon followed indeed changed the course of history for the De León colony, the capital City of Guadalupe and for that matter, the entire area of Texas that was known as the De León colony. One can only speculate, what the future of this area would have become had it not been for the untimely demise of this great man, Don Martín De León, pioneer leader and diplomat who was the friend of kings, queens, emperors, military leaders and statesmen. Don Martín De León's body was prepared and buried in the family plot which was a graveyard at the rear of the St. Mary's Church which the Empresario and his wife had founded for the colony. Later, as reported elsewhere, his body and that of other family members was removed from the St. Mary's Church private burial yard and the remains were interred in a common grave in what was then known as Evergreen Cemetery.
The career of this great man of history, Don Martín De León was cut short in the year 1833. The people looked up to him as a great leader and a true friend. He was 68 years of age and as stated, became the first victim of this epidemic. He had lived to see his first colony established and named for his good friend the first President of Mexico, Guadalupe Victoria and then he saw his capital city take full root blooming as an evergreen and the generous soil of his colony producing the needs of his people and the tall rich grasses for his thousands of cattle, horses and mules. This tragedy terminated the career of this great man, Don Martín De León who by his social and moral qualities won for himself the esteem, confidence and respect of all who knew him. He was sober in all of his habits, hospitable to all his neighbors, charitable to the poor and as magnanimous to the vanquished as he was bold and courageous to the arrogant. How could he have been otherwise when his religion, disposition, his piety and fear of God that he immediately upon arrival in this wild, unexplored part of the world where he in his first colony created and erected his temporary chapel for divine worship. At the time of his untimely demise, Don Martín De León had already started on a project of building churches and cathedrals to compare with those of Burgos, Spain and others in Mexico. He had contracted for engineers, architects, laborers, masons, carpenters and mechanics from Mexico and Spain to start the work on these magnificently planned churches and he possessed the wealth and desire to carry out his plans. What a sad loss, this great man and his beautiful churches and cathedrals, edifices worthy of the highest ministry to which they were to be dedicated. A few years more and his capital city of Guadalupe Victoria, Texas would have possessed these magnificent churches and cathedrals rivaling the great ones of Mexico and Spain. The devoted religious wife, Doña Patricia De La Garza De León and Don Martín's sons and entire family would have probably carried out their father's plans had it not been for the war that immediately followed and then the most shameful events, reprisals and other acts against this noble family which were the very worst ever recorded in Texas history.
Since Don Fernando De León, the eldest son of Don Martín De León, worked closely with his father in the colonization work and the over-all building of the vast De León empire, it is proper to describe Don Fernando as one of the most important men of the times and of the colony. This first son of Don Martín, like his father, was a pioneer, rancher, executive, soldier and a genuine beloved citizen of the colony. He carried out a great part of the De León colonization program, that built untold riches for the De Leóns, only to become the victim of hate and prejudice, dying in his homeland with his relatives after returning from exile, humiliated, broke and in poverty. Don Fernando De León, the eldest son of Don Martín De León, was born in Cruillas, Mexico, State of Tamaulipas, in the year 1798. He was the only one of the De León children not to be born in Texas. Don Fernando's wife, the beautiful, Doña María Antonio Galvan De León, was the first death in the colony. Don Fernando later remarried. It was the desire of his father, Don Martín, to have his son help him in his dream of establishing a new colony and he was accordingly afforded an excellent education and became a very good cattleman and businessman, with most of his training in business from his father.
Don Fernando De León and his wife were the parents of one son, who died while at college in Louisiana. Later, Don Fernando adopted the two sons of his brother, Don Silvestre. He settled near his father on the east bank of the Guadalupe River, 1824, and like his father, Don Martín, he accumulated immense numbers of livestock, horses, and cattle. Don Fernando De León was highly regarded in the Colony and when Main Street was named "Calle de los Diez Amigos" or the Street of Ten Friends, Don Fernando, his brother Silvestre De León, and his brother-in-law, Placido Benavides were three of the names of the original ten. Also after the colony was formed, Don Fernando De León was one of the first commissioners of the colony. Don Fernando was a devout Catholic, like his father and mother and spent much of his time and a great deal of his treasure for the benefit of the Catholic Church. He also carried on the major affairs of the colony, after his father died in 1833. He was responsible for much of the progress in the construction of the buildings and development of Guadalupe Victoria, the city which was laid out in a four league grid section with its public squares, church squares, market squares, etc.
Don Fernando De León in the prime of his life and business career a leading citizen in the community and like all the others in his family, a solid, loyal sympathizer on the part of Texas, became a victim of the war, as did relatives and friends. His famous cattle ranch like his father's, carried an old family brand used hundreds of years earlier by the Jesuit priests of Spain and this famous brand appeared on many thousands of cattle owned by Don Fernando. The cattle brand was one of the first registered in the colony in the year of 1838: Don Fernando De León, Escondido Ranch, Guadalupe Victoria. Don Fernando's cattle ranch, the "Escondido" was located approximately seven miles north of the capital city of his colony on the banks of the beautiful Guadalupe River. It consisted of many thousands of acres and the name "Escondido" means hidden treasure. The old Spanish mission nearby in its earlier days was the victim of many hostile Indian raids and the fathers would take their gold and other valuables to an old cave which was located on part of the Don Fernando ranch property. They would bury or hide their treasure until it was safe to retrieve it and accordingly, the name of "Escondido," hidden treasure, was the one that Don Fernando selected for his ranch. During the early years, Don Fernando's ranch house due to its seclusion and location, offered protection to many of the colonists, their wives and children who fled to Don Fernando's ranch for protection from the savage Indians during the frequent raids which were taking place in those early days.
This ranch like the other De León ranches was rich with wild game, birds, and the lush tall grasses for his cattle and horses. The winding Guadalupe River which ran through his valuable property was abundant with fish and fresh clean water at all times for every use and purpose. In the year 1836, Don Fernando purchased a large quantity of goods in New Orleans, about thirty-five thousand dollars ($35,000) for the use of the Texas Volunteers. He shipped these supplies on board the "Anna Elizabeth" steamship for transportation to Linnville, which was a short distance above Lavaca. When near Matagorda, the schooner was over-run by the Mexican Revenue Cutter, "Montezuma." Part of the cargo aboard the "Anna Elizabeth" was contraband of war, material and ammunitons for the Texas Volunteers and the colonists. The steamer made a desperate attempt to escape inspection by the Mexicans. The Montezuma fired into the "Anna Elizabeth" and partially sunk her. Don Fernando and his brother-in-law, J.M.J. Carvajal, who married Don Fernando's sister, Refugia De León, were made prisoners and taken to Brazos de Santiago and there thrown in jail. They were placed under a strong guard while they were awaiting trial. Later when they were permitted to occasionally walk about the grounds accompanied by their guard, Don Fernando took advantage of an opportunity that was presented and made a successful escape. After enduring many hardships and dangers he finally succeeded in reaching Victoria. He lost the whole amount of the investment in the cargo of the "Anna Elizabeth" that was not insured. It is said that as evidence of the high esteem in which he was held by the citizens of Victoria, as soon as he made his appearance on the west bank of the Guadalupe, the citizens; men, women and children came to offer him a most affectionate and touching welcome, cheering, waving handkerchiefs and so forth. [See Fisher to Public 1836 for the account of the Hannah Elizabeth--WLM]
Don Fernando De León was well known to everyone as a patriot to the cause of the Texans. One of the highest honors at the time of the Revolution came to him on February 14, 1836 when he was appointed by the acting Governor, James W. Robinson at General Headquarters in Austin, to serve as the Governor's Aide-de-Camp, organizing the militia in the colony area for the sake of freedom.
Appointment to Aide-De-Camp and Authority to Organize the Militia to Fernando de León, Esq. General Orders. Head Quarters. Town of Austin. Feb. 14, 1836. Sir: Believing that you are willing to serve your country in any way that you can be useful, and the alarming fact that the enemy is in great force, commanded by Santa Anna in person, is about attacking our beloved country at all points; and the unorganized and deplorable state of the militia, calls for prompt organization. The accompanying letters from Col. Fannin and Major Morris show that the immediate organization of the militia, the bulwark of Freedom is absolutely necessary. I have taken the liberty of appointing you my aid-de-camp for the Municipality of Victoria. If you accept the same, which for the safety and defense of the country I prefer you to do, you will immediately proceed to organize the Militia, according to the accompanying plan and advice of the Advisory Committee, appointed to act in absence of a quorum of the General Council, whose advice, when it is approved by the executive, becomes a law. You will make all the necessary purchases of supplies, of provisions, of ammunitions, tents, pack horses, for the men on their march to Gonzalez, where you will rendezvous the men and officers and report them to the officer in command there, for further instructions and orders. Every article and clause of the accompanying advice of the Advisory Committee you will fully and carefully observe in all your proceedings and each and every ferryman of Texas, shall ferry over all description of troops, going to or returning from, the army free from any charge whatever, under the pain and penalties of laws in such case made-and you will select some one or more points, as places of deposit for arms, ammunitions, and provisions within your municipality; you will make true and perfect returns of all the arms, number of militiamen, number of pounds of powder and lead, number of wagons and horses, work oxen; you will also cause ferries, bridges, or rafts, over such streams as may need them to be made at the expense of the government. And all other things necessary for the support of the army and the protection and the defense of Texas, for She must fight, submit or fly, and I hope everyone is ready to choose the first, and that now if anyone wishes to serve Texas, let him do it now, as others did at San Antonio, when they caused the black flag to come down and the tyrant to implore for mercy. Yours Respectfully, (sig.) James W. Robinson acting governor
General Don José Urrea came to Victoria, in 1936, and one of the first ones arrested was Don Fernando. The General claimed to have information that Don Fernando was hiding in a ravine, at Dimmitt's Landing a lot of contraband, war goods. Under guard he forced Don Fernando to conduct an Officer and a detachment of Mexican soldiers to the spot. The seizure of all these goods by the Mexican commander created many vexatious lawsuits against Don Fernando from that year until his death in 1853. Don Fernando while a captive of General Urrea pleaded in vain for his release and he finally promised that if he was released, he and his brothers would expatriate themselves and leave with the retreating army to Mexico of course this was only promised in order to obtain his release, which accordingly came about, and he was discharged from custody. Almost immediately the Texas Army arrived at Victoria, and Don Fernando was again arrested upon trumped up charges, which had no foundation or fact whatsoever. Shortly after, while he was bathing in the San Antonio River under guard, he was shot by one of the villians and came very close to losing his life. Again he was finally released without trial, and together with his brothers, Placido, Felix and others in the family, he succeeded in removing the families to the port of Linnville, where they embarked for New Orleans. They took with them but a limited supply of clothing a few small items and leaving all else of their earthly possessions behind. The total value of land, furniture, money, horses, mules, cattle and personal property of all the De León families, who had to flee for their lives, probably amounted to several million dollars. They were as stated elsewhere, the richest family in Texas.
Don Fernando and his family members spent three years in near poverty circumstances in New Orleans, and finally decided to move to Mexico, the land of his birth. He with some others remained in Mexico until 1844, when it was his decision to return to Texas and his properties. This he did, but like many others found all of his lands and livestock occupied and confiscated under various vain pretensions. Old history records have it, that from 1844 until his death in 1853, he was involved in one unjust and interminable lawsuit after another. The worry and problems involved from such lawsuits cast a gloom over his declining years, and he died at his ranch "Escondido" seven miles North of Victoria, on the eastern bank of the Guadalupe River at the age of fifty-five. At the time of Don Fernando's death he was described as a dignified, portly gentlemen of kindly expression of countenance. He had also managed to gain and accumulate a few hundred head of livestock, a sad remnant of the patriarchal herds he had formerly owned, numbering many thousands in 1830. Don Fernando was a noted horseman and like his father and his brothers, who likewise were excellent horsemen and spent much time in the saddle, either on the range looking after their cattle and mustangs, or when work was finished there would frequently be a horse race, with one of the De León brothers generally declared the winner. Horse racing in those days, in the colony, was popular and there were many occasions of great interest, when horse racing was in progress by some group in the community.
Don Fernando had been the victim of a most unjust discrimination known in the history of Texas. He did not repine, he upbraided and criticized no one, and he bore the reverses of fortune with the extreme fortitude of a philosopher. He like other members of his family was never repaid for his lands, or his livestock, although he involved himself loyally on the side of Texas, by bringing munitions of war and army supplies in 1834, for use against the Mexican Armies and Centralism. He and Carvajal were the first victims of the displeasure of the cause they had served. He was ostracized from the land of his birth, because of his known Texas sympathies. He was expatriated from the land of his adoption by reasons of his supposed and unfounded Mexican sympathies. He sought refuge under an alien flag and lived in poverty while human sharks were fighting over the spoils they found in his princely estate. His vast herds of livestock melted away before the enrodes of thieves and what small amount of land that he later recovered from the laws of the rapacious sharks was at the high cost of the inflated market value. Again in commenting upon the misfortunes of the De León family and in particular those of Don Fernando De León, Victor Rose's "History of Victoria" concludes
Some of the children and relatives had been imprisoned without just cause. Some of them had even been murdered. Some of the grandchildren made great efforts to retrieve some of the former De León property, and what was recovered was mere pittance in comparison with the princely holdings that had formerly been theirs. Throughout these years of hardships and poverty, neither Madam De León nor her children complained and after a few years, she too passed away in 1849, and was buried beside her husband in the churchyard of their colony in Victoria.
[Photo: From Hammett's The Empresario] Silvestre De León was the second son of Don Martín De León. He like the other family members was loyal to the cause of Texas. He fought with the Texans and gave generously of his personal wealth and property for the cause of Texas and freedom. Silvestre De León was born in the year 1802, in Texas, near the first settlement, in 1824, called Guadalupe Victoria. He was a very well educated young man and it is reported was very studious, more interested in economics and trade, and the conditions of the business of the colony. He with his father and brothers played an important part in the development of the colony and all of its affairs. Silvestre married Rosalia de la Garza and they had two (2) children, Martín and Francisco. He was a devoted family man and extremely interested in his church, the same as his other family members. In the business transactions of the colony, he was considered excellent, fair and honest by all who knew him and held the highest respect of all the colonists and business people from Mexico to Louisiana, and with all persons whom he traded and handled business transactions. [Photo: Although cited as a photo of Sylvestre De León, son of the empresario, in places, the photo has also been cited as Sylvestre De León, son of Felix De León]
As Alcalde of the colony, it is reported he never varied from a fair and just decision. Silvestre De León and his family members like the other colonists became victims of reprisals against them after the war had ended and he experienced great suffering and losses and was considered lucky to be alive. Later on, after continued persecution and with the theft of his holdings and possessions, the story of his untimely death in 1843 was attributed to a business trip he had made to Louisiana selling horses, mules and cattle. On his return home, he was ambushed, robbed and murdered. Thereafter a cloak of secrecy surrounded all details of his death, and of course like the other instances, no one was ever accused or brought to justice for the act. Silvestre De León like his brothers and other family members and brothers-in-law was a patriot to the cause of Texas, and gave freely of his wealth and other possessions, commodities, horses, mules, cattle and provisions needed by the army. It is said that much of the military equipment and provisions used by the people from the colony, with their flag of 1824, fighting at the Alamo and later at San Jacinto, came from the gifts of Silvestre De León and his family.
In 1806, Felix De León was the third son born to Doña Patricia and Don Martín De León. He was born in what later became the Victoria area of Texas, and he died in that area in 1850. Weddings in the colony were cause for great celebration and festivities. Don Felix De León had the honor of having the second big wedding in the colony, in 1828, when he was married to Doña Salome Leal. The marriage of Don Felix De León and Doña Salome Leal was marked by many days of dancing and feasts and other social events, which were recorded in the capitals of Europe and Mexico. There were six (6) children born to Don Felix De León and Doña Salome; Santiago, Patricia, Samuel, Silvestre, María de Jesus and Olivia Lozano. From the old De León record books kept by the father, Don Martín an entry appears approximately at the time Don Felix De León married and the bookkeeping is recorded as follows:
1 matate $ 3.00
Other entries charged to Felix De León were:
When Don Martín De León was in need of a ship to carry supplies from New Orleans to his group of people in the colony, only one vessel was available. It was owned by a "pirate" Frenchman by the name of Ramon La Fou. La Fou agreed to take Don Martín De León and his cargo to Santiago, which was near Matamoras, for a substantial price. It was quite an experience traveling on a pirate ship and Don Martín was to learn that his friend Ramon La Fou made heavy demands and collateral until he was paid in full for his trip. Upon arrival at the Port of Santiago, Don Martín went ashore to transact business with the Chief Quartermaster at Padilla, Don Pedro José de la Garza, and in order to show his good faith in returning to the ship and paying all bills, Ramon La Fou, the pirate, demanded that Felix De León, who had accompanied his father, would be held aboard the ship as hostage until all payments were made in full.
Don Felix De León was also interested the same as his brothers in the affairs of the colony, and was named by his father as one of the ten (10) friends for whom Don Martín named his principal street "Calle de los Diez Amigo." Don Felix De León like his brothers became a commissioner of the colony and had much to do with the administration and affairs of his father's government in his capital city of Victoria. He was also one of the family members who traded heavily in horses, mules and cattle in New Orleans. He was a rancher of international prominence and held the respect of all business people and the colonists, who knew him. Like the rest of the De Leóns and the colonists, he was a skilled Indian fighter and a Texas patriot, serving on the side of the Texans during the Revolution. Later, during the Revolution, Don Felix, had many harrowing experiences nearly costing him his life, while on the side of the Texans. He also was instrumental through his efforts and work in obtaining the release and escape of his brother-in-law, J.M.J. Carvajal, who was captured and imprisoned by the Mexicans in Brazos de Santiago.
After reprisals had been taken against the De León family and others in the colony, Don Felix De León, together with his brother Don Fernando, and his brother-in-law, Placido Benavides and others in the family made a successful removal of their families to the Port of Linnville, where they embarked for New Orleans. They took with them just a limited supply of clothing, and a few small items and left all their other possessions and treasures behind. A portion of a letter by one of the descendants regarding the use of the De León property by others after the war and the situation which confronted the family is reprinted below:
Agapito De León was the fourth son born to Doña Patricia and Don Martín De León. He was born in Texas, near what is now Victoria, Texas, in the year of 1808. He died a very untimely and uncalled for death, at the hands of Mabry "Mustang" Gray, while defending his property in 1836. Agapito De León was married to Antonia Garza, and they had one child, León De León. At the time of the marriage of Agapito to Antonia Garza, the area was a place of great joy, festivities and dancing for many days. Agapito, like his brothers became a famous Indian fighter, a cattleman and was staunch in his support of the Texans, and the cause of Texas.
Inscription on Texas State Historical Grave Marker
Don Agapito De León (1808 - 1836)
[According to other sources including author Harbart Davenport, Agapito De León died in 1833 or 1834 of cholera, possibly the same epidemic that killed his father. The above description may be based on the De León family oral history--WLM]
SONS OF DEWITT