SONS OF DEWITT COLONY TEXAS
1997-2007, Wallace L. McKeehan, All Rights Reserved
DeWitt Colony Expansion-Index

 

THE TENNESSEE-TEXAS LAND COMPANY

by Francis W. Wilson, M.D. and Dorcas Baumgartner
Plum Creek Almanac, Vol. 7, No. 2, Fall 1989

The Mexican Legislature passed the Federal Colonization Law in 1824. This allowed the approval of certain individuals to establish colonies in Texas. This was designed to permit some degree of populating this remote (from Mexico) territory. Thus the settlements could act as a buffer from Indian attacks from the North and would discourage further incursions by the French, Spanish and the Norte Americanos. This colonization was to be by contract, and the amount of land received would be contingent upon the individual empressario's ability to comply with his contract. The first colony to be approved was that of Austin. In December of 1824, Green DeWitt traveled to Saltillo, Capital of the State of Coahuila-Texas to apply for a colonial contract. DeWitt's grant was approved April 15, 1825. He was authorized to introduce four hundred families. His reward of "premium land" was to be more than 75,000 acres. One-fourth of this "premium land" was to be obtained after the first 100 families were introduced. The remainder was to be obtained after the first 100 families were introduced. The remainder was to be obtained on a pro-rata basis until the maximum was received. [Dewitt Colony of Texas, Edward A. Lukes, Jenkins Publishing Co., Pemberton Press].

Settlement of DeWitts grant was rather slow so that by mid 1829, there were only thirty families and thirty-four single men in the colony, giving a total of 158. By 1831 the population had risen to 531. DeWitt obviously was encountering difficulty in meeting his quota of colonists in order to fulfill his contract.  In 1830, William A. Matthews, representing the DeWitt Colony, went to Bolivar, Hardeman County, Tennessee and met with a group of citizens of that city. An indenture was drawn up and signed, as follows:

This indenture made and entered into by and between William Matthews of the DeWitt Colony in The Mexican Republic of Texas of the one part and Caleb Brock, Caleb P. Alexander and Joseph and John McKean, Partners, all of the United States of North America of the other part in witnessing that the object of the contracting partners to remove and settle twenty families in DeWitt's colony in the province of Texas by or before the 15th day of April 1831 under a contract made by said William A. Matthews as Green DeWitt's principal agent, and Empressario of said colony and under its Colonization Laws of said colony. Now be it understood that the Brock, Alexander and the two McKeans doth agree and bind themselves to furnish the means necessary to remove the aforesaid families to said colony, vis C. Brock one third, C.P. Alexander one third and J.C. and J.W. McKean one third of the contract and they also bind themselves to furnish the means necessary to same and perfect titles in all such lands as can be procured in the name and by contract of the settlement of aforesaid twenty families, and the said William A. Matthews doth agree on his part if practical to collect the twenty families and take charge of them to said colony. He also agrees to give his constant attention in settling said lands and securing proper titles to the same, and it is further understood that the said C. Brock C.P. Alexander and J.C. and J.W. McKean having one party of the whole contract shall be entitled to and receive two thirds of all lands that can be saved by the removal and settling of said families as a compensation for furnishing said funds and that the said William C. Matthew shall be entitled to and receive one third of such lands as a compensation for his contract with said DeWitt and for the above mentioned services and set apart for the parties mutually concerned according to the quality of the whole allowing neither of the parties any preference over the other as to water, timber or situation or any other advantage whatsoever, therefore our hands and seals done in the United States of America the second day of December in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty. TEST: A. Gross (?)    W.A. Matthews   Thomas A. Matthews   C. Brock    C.P. Alexander    J.W. and John McKean

Several researchers have observed that no list of individuals or families coming to Texas under the Tennessee-Texas Land Company has been found [Inventory of the County Archives of Caldwell County, Dissertation by Maurine O'Banion]. The authors have carried out extensive searches of Land Records of Gonzales County and Caldwell County, County Court Records and the records of the Texas Supreme Court (including recorded appeals) in the case of M.H. Jones vs L.C. Huff, August term 1871 seeking bits and pieces pertaining to the Tennessee-Texas Land Company in an attempt to develop a mosaic picture of the subject. The final figures of the total number involved may seem to fluctuate a bit since a given entry may be for a large family as well as for a single individual. Our findings, however, are as follows:  An Appeals Court record included in the Supreme Court record of Jones vs Huff includes the following:

Plaintiff then called John C. McKean who had been sworn, who said that in 1830, William A. Matthews, a citizen of Texas, came to Tennessee and proposed to himself, his brother, and Brock and Alexander to assist him in introducing immigrants to Texas, that Matthews was to do the work and the others furnish the funds, that they made contracts with seventeen families, among them that of Spencer Morris to take them to Texas and pay all their expenses and transportation and to get them titles to a league of land, and the colonists were to recover to them all the land except 1000 acres, that Matthews and McKean faithfully carried out their part of the Contract, that Matthews came through with the emigrants and had a great deal of trouble in getting them through, that after coming to Gonzales the contracts were executed in Spanish by advice of Empressario Green DeWitt and the original contracts made in Tennessee delivered up. And afterwards they had made a new agreement with the emigrants to accept one-half their lands as a fulfillment of the contract.  That his brother, J.W. McKean, Brock and Alexander abandoned the contract, failing to perform their part of it."----the same document also states "That J.L. Wood and wife were married when they came to this country and were one of the seventeen families introduced into the colony by Matthews and McKean, that Mrs. Wood was a daughter of Spencer Morris, Sr."---(From Washington County, Texas Court records - 26 May 1837).  Plaintiff then read translated copy of contract between Matthews and McKean and Spencer Morris dated 14th July 1831. Plaintiff then read the translation of the original contract between Matthews and McKean et al and Spencer Morris and others dated 22nd February 1831 as follows---In the village of Gonzales on the 22nd of February before me, James B. Patrick, Constitutional Commissary for the precinct of Austin, Department of Bexar appears the citizens of this colony Alexander Porter, Joseph Teague, Robert Smith, James McBride, Moses Baker, James McClean, Almeron Dickinson, Spencer Morris, Matthew Caldwell, Silas Morris and John Neill, colonists introduced by authority of Manager Green DeWitt---Long and tedious voyage made by land.

Excerpts from Gonzales County, Texas Deed Book C, page 105 are as follows:

Republic of Texas, County of Nacogdoches---This indenture made the seventh day of December in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred thirty-seven, between Wilson C. Brown of the Republic and County aforesaid of the first part and John C. McKean of the other part, Witnesseth that the said Wilson C. Brown of Sabine County and William A. Matthews of the same County(?), both of the Republic aforesaid parties of the other part, Witnesseth that the said Wilson C. Brown in consideration of diverse sums of money expended by the said parties of the second part in clearing out the headright and bringing the said Brown to Texas---and for the further sum of one dollar the receipt of which is hereby acknowledged and further payment of the same forever discharged---one half of a league of land surveyed for me and located by them in DeWitt's Colony and one half of whatever Land I am still entitled to as a settler in the said colony---

Excerpts from Gonzales County Deed Book E, page 231---

This indenture made and entered into this 25th day of June in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty-five between Caleb F. Alexander of the County of Shelby and Republic of Texas of the first part and John C. McKean of the County of San Augustine and the Republic aforesaid of the second part, Witnesseth that the said Alexander, the party of the first part, for and in consideration of the sum of five thousand dollars to him in hand paid hath and of these presents, doth bargain, sell and convey unto the said John C. McKean his heirs and assigns forever the right title, claim and interest, which I now hold in and unto certain tracts or parcels of land located by which was termed or known under the name and stile(?) of the Tennessee-Texas Land Company, of which Caleb Brock, William Matthews, Joseph McKean, John C. McKean and Caleb Alexander was or constituted said company, the same having been formed in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty, as partical(?) of agreement between the parties, Said land intended to be conveyed by this instrument are situated in DeWitt Colony, County of Gonzales, and Republic aforesaid lying and being on the waters of the Guadalupe and Lebacca (Lavaca?) Rivers, and the said Alexander, the party of the first part, agrees to bind himself---. ---In witness hereunto set his hand and seal this 25th day of June A.D. 1845. Witnesses: C.P. Alexander    R.H. Alexander    I.J. Roberts

The following settlers arrived and signed contracts with the DeWitt Colony Administration 22 February 1831. The following are confirmed as being members of the Tennessee-Texas Land Company:

Name

Marital Status

# in Family

Proof

Baker, Moses M 5 Gonzales Deed, A-4
Bateman, Simon M 38 Gonzales Deed, C-597
Caldwell, Mathew M 5 Gonzales Deed, A-20
Dickinson, Almeron M 2 Gonzales Deed, A-7
A-71 (estate)
Gillen, Michael M 5 Gonzales Deed, A-10
Caldwell District Court
Harris vs. Hardeman
Henry, John M 7 Gonzales Co. Deed, A-43
Morris, Bethel S Caldwell Co., District Ct
Jones vs. Huff
Morris, John S Caldwell Co., District Ct
Jones vs. Huff
Morris, Silas M 8 Gonzales Deed, A-28
Morris, Spencer M 5 Gonzales Deed, A-18
Jones vs. Huff
Morrison, Stephen B. M 8 Gonzales Deed, A-72
Neill, John A. M 3 Gonzales Deed, A-6
Porter, Alexander M 2 Gonzales Deed, E-223
Smith, Robert M 5 Gonzales Deed, A-8
B-200, Testimony of Rebecca Happle
Jones vs. Huff
Wood, James T. M 8 Gonzales Deed, A-3
wife testimony in Jones v. Huff
Brown, Wilson C. M ? Gonzales Deed, C-105
Grogan, Sarah M ? Testimony James T. Wood
District Court Records
Guadalupe County, Nov. 1855
Texas Supreme Court Records
Nicols vs. Stewart No. M-900

In summary, in 1830 Green DeWitt realized that he had a problem in fulfilling his contract with Mexico to settle 400 families by a certain date. One of his answers to this dilemma was to send his agent, William A. Matthews to Bolivar, Hardeman County, Tennessee to contract for 20 families to move to Texas and settle in the DeWitt colony. He drew up a contract with Alexander, Brock and the McKean brothers to recruit the 20 families. Only 17 families were contracted for, and Matthews accompanied the group on their "long, hard overland trip" and saw to their needs, supplies, land procurement and proper titles to their lands. The responsibility of' the Bolivar group was to finance the move. All members of the Bolivar contractors were to receive land for their services. Joseph McKean never left Tennessee. Probably the other three accompanied the move to Texas, but John C. McKean witnessed to the appeals court that Brock, Alexander and Joseph McKean never completed their contract requirements. John C. McKean was active in the colony and added to his land holdings from time to time. The families named above have been confirmed as having been members of the Tennessee-Texas Land Company. There may have been others. For example in addition to the above named who signed contracts with the DeWitt Colony on 22 February 1831, there were others who signed contracts with the DeWitt Colony on 22 February 1831, there were others who signed on that same date. These include Daniel Davis, Zachariah Davis, John Garvin, Joseph F. Lawlor, Soloman Seal, James Shaw and Christopher S. Williams. Exhaustive searches have failed to verify their affiliation with the Tennessee-Texas Land Company.


SONS OF DEWITT COLONY TEXAS
1997-2007, Wallace L. McKeehan, All Rights Reserved