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DeLeon Colony MapThe De León Colony

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Founder of Victoria, Texas
By Juan M. Escobar
(Reprinted by permission from El Mesteño, vol. 3 no. 25, pg. 16-17)

The August 1999 issue of El Mesteño provided an article on Alonzo de León y Pérez, "El Mozo". This great Spanish explorer carne from a family line, which consisted of great explorers. It is therefore imperative that one writes about one of Alonzo de León's greatgrandsons, "El Empresario" Don Martín de León y Galván. Don Martín de León was a man of great vision, and at the time of the Texas revolution, his family was one of the wealthiest families in South Texas. The De León family also became one of the most influential backers of the Texas Revolution against Mexico. Martín de León y Galván was born in Burgos, Nuevo Santander, Nueva España (now Mexico) circa 1765. His parents were Joseph Bernardo de León y García and María Antonia Galván y de Las Rivas. Martin carne from a wealthy family and at an early age was given the opportunity to obtain an education at the finest universities of México and Europe. Instead at age 18 he chose to become a rancher and a businessman. He also joined the Spanish military and rose to the rank of Captain, the highest rank a New World born was allowed to attain.

In 1795 Martín married Patricia de la Garza in Soto La Marina, Nuevo Santander, Nueva España. They had the following children: Fernando, Candelaria, Silvestre, Guadalupe, Félix, Agapito, María de Jesús, María de Refugio, Agustina, and Francisca. By 1801, Don Martín and his family arrived in Texas. By the year 1806, the De León family had settled on the banks of the Aransas River. Don Martín immediately got involved in ranching. He raised cattle, goats, mules and horses. Seeing the great profits of the business he wanted his own ranch and therefore petitioned to the Spanish Governor in San Antonio for land. Governor Salcedo in San Antonio rejected his petitions several¡ times. Don Martín de León consequently decided to move his family to a location east of the Nueces River. They settled close to present day San Patricio, Texas.

The year was 1809 and the Lipan Comanche Indians were constantly attacking the settlers, making it dangerous for the De León family. Therefore Don Martín moved again. This time he moved to Presidio La Bahía for protection. However, matters worsened for him when Mexico revolted against Spain in 1810 and the Presidio of La Bahía withdrew its military forces back to Mexico City. Without protection for his family and at the mercy of the Indians, Don Martín decided to move his family back to Burgos„ Nuevo Santander, Nueva España. Between the years 1810-1816, Don Martín spent his time between his family in Burgos and his ranching business in Texas. By 1816, he owned nearly six thousand head of cattle. Don Martín had a reputation for owning the best horses in Texas and his mules were in constant demand. He started making trips to New Orleans; Louisiana where he made huge profits selling his stock.

On one of his ventures from the Nueces River to New Orleans he discovered a location near the Guadalupe and Lavaca rivers. On April 8, 1824, Don Martín de León petitioned to the government at San, Antonio to establish forty-one families from Tamaulipas pas at a place which he named Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de Jesús. By April 13, 1824 a charter was approved and "The Great Empresario" Don Martín de León was authorized to settle and occupy any vacant land between the Guadalupe and Lavaca rivers. That location had the following boundaries: Matagorda Bay on the South, Lavaca River on the East, Mission Valley on the North and Coleto Creek on the West.

On his return trips from New Orleans Martín would return with supplies for his family, friends and hired help. It was on one of those trips that he met a French pirate named Ramon La Fou. A wanted man in Mexico, La Fou and Don Martín worked out a deal. La Fou promised to bring supplies to the mouth of the Rio Grande River at Brazos de Santiago (near present day Brownsville, Texas) and Don Martín in, return would assist in getting the Mexican government to grant him a pardon. This friendship gave Don Martín his greatest economical edge. Through this deal he obtained and transferred vast numbers of supplies quickly in and out of Texas. The De León Colony settled in present day Victoria, Texas. The town was named in honor of Jesús Guadalupe de Victoria first President of Mexico and a close personal friend of Don Martín. They developed their town around the main street, known as "La Calle de Los Diez Amigos" named after the ten most trusted citizens of Don Martín's colony.

The settlers went through much trouble with Indians and bandits. In 1836 they got involved in war against Mexico. By 1836 Don Martín de León had died. He had become the first victim of the 1833 Cholera Epidemic, which had hit the colony. The leaders of the revolt against Mexico advocated the Constitution 1824. The De León family, now led by Fernando, bought $35,000.00 worth of supplies and ammunitions to fight the war. They also supplied many of the men to fight in the war, including all the De León men and all the husbands of the De León women. After the war for Texas Independence the De León family was subjected to horrible injustices. As one historian put it "They became the victims of the most unjust discrimination ever known in Texas". The family had been robbed of their dignity and all of their lands. They did not even have monies to pay for tombstones for their dead.

The De León family suffered one tragedy after another at the hands of the Texans, who had fought Santa Anna and his cruel form of government. So ask yourself this question, was this new government any different than the old government or could it be that now the new government was in control. Mabry "Mustang" Gray, a known outlaw, who was called a cowboy, murdered Agapito. This Bandit was never brought to justice. Why? Silvestre was ambushed and robbed on a return trip to New Orleans to sell stock. The outlaws were not brought to justice either. Could it have been the same so-called "cowboys" ambushed Silvestre and his two companions? Fernando who had been appointed Aide-de-Camp during the revolution, served with honor and distinction. He would be wounded by one of the "cowboys", a man named Brantley. He too was subjected to great unjust discriminations. He died a poor man. Félix and his famity had to leave Victoria and move to Louisiana to survive from all the hatred and killings that were launched against them. Returning to Victoria, Texas he died in 1850, shortly after Texas was admitted to the United States. His descendents still live in Victoria, Texas.

María del Refugio and her husband General José María de Jesús Carbajal also moved to Louisiana. After fighting for Texas Independence he was run out of town. He returned to Soto La Marina Tamaulipas, México and fought in several wars with Mexico. He was involved in the Battle of Mier and the so much publicized one side "Black Bean" episode. He fought in the war between Mexico and France. He later became governor of the states of Tamaulipas and San Luis Potosi, Mexico. In 1865 after his terms as governor ended, he moved to Río Grande City, Texas where he lived for several years. He traveled between Río Grande City and Roma, Texas involved in business trade. Carbajal died in Soto La Marina, Tamaulipas, Mexico in 1874.

Agustina and her husband also went on to Louisiana with the rest of the family. Plácido Benavides her husband, died while in Opelousas, Louisiana in 1837. Agustina returned to México and died at Soto La Marina in 1842. Plácidos nephew, Plácido Benavides was the founder of Benavides, Texas. María de Jesús and her husband, Rafael Manchola, eventually settled in La Bahía and were instrumental in changing the name of La Bahía to Goliad, Texas. Not much more is known about this family.

Candelaria de León married José Miguel Aldrete (sometimes his last name is spelled Alderete). Born in 1810 at La Bahía, José Miguel had been mayor of that city between 1823-24. A leader in the revolution he fought in the battles of San Antonio, Goliad and San Jacinto. He was elected Refugio County Judge between 1841-1844. He died and was buried in Refugio, Texas in 1858, his remains were exhumed and transferred to Villa Nueva de Camargo, Tamaulipas, Mexico, by his son Trinidad Aldrete on June 18, 1874. Candelaria died on May 2, 1887 and was buried in Villa Nueva de Camargo. His children fought in several wars that Mexico was involved in. The most famous of his grandchildren was José María Aldrete. The Aldrete family presently lives in the Villa Nueva de Camargo and Río Grande City, Texas area. María de Rosario González y López (Rosie) the wife of this writer descends from this family.

This ends a short story of one of the most influential families in the making of Texas history, whose historical actions are improperly recorded in Texas history. Maybe one day historians that rewrite the true Texas History books have the heart to remember that it was families such as the De Leóns who were instrumental in giving us the freedom we have today.

Editor's note: Juan M. Escobar is a historian, genealogist, President of the Kingsville Independent School Board of Trustees, and a Federal Law Enforcement Officer.

© 1997-2004, Wallace L. McKeehan, All Rights Reserved