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The Republic of Texas and Beyond
Topic Started: 9 Feb 2008, 00:20 (332 Views)
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Destroyer of Worlds
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After the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, Thomas Jefferson himself claimed that the true southern limit of Louisiana was the Rio Grande. The push of Americans from Louisiana came in many guises and eventually proved overwhelming. The Spanish government was powerless to impede the steady seep of adventurers, traders, outlaws, and even a few settlers crossing the Red River. Soldiers of fortune, called filibusters, fomented intrigue with Mexican revolutionaries and devised stratagems of personal empires and kingdoms in Mexico. Spain was anxious to buttress its borders. Addressing Jefferson’s argument for the Rio Grande border, Spain and the United States signed the Adams-Onís Treaty in 1819, in which the United States ceded to Spain its claims to Texas west of the Sabine River. Spain retained possession not only of Texas, but also California and the vast region of New Mexico. At the time, these two territories included all of present-day California and New Mexico along with modern Nevada, Utah, Arizona and sections of Wyoming and Colorado.

Mexico won independence from Spain and in the summer of 1821, at Bexar, Tejanos and Anglos swore allegiance to the new nation. Mexico continued the Spanish colonization plan after its independence in 1821 by granting contracts to empresarios who would settle and supervise selected, qualified immigrants. Stephen Fuller Austin, the most successful Texas empresario, made four six-year contracts between 1823 and 1828 for a potential 1,200 families. A fifth contract issued in 1831 for 800 families was challenged by Sterling Clack Robertson, who had an expired prior claim. DeWitt's Colony, one of the major colonies in the settlement of Texas, was established by Green DeWitt and James Kerr in 1825. John Charles Beales was a big speculator in Texas lands. In an eight-month period in 1832, Beales persuaded officials of the state of Coahuila and Texas to grant him, and three different sets of partners, three empresario contracts for an estimated 55 million acres of land north of the Rio Grande. Other noted empresarios included Martín De León, James McGloin, Samuel May Williams, Haden Edwards, James Power, James Hewetson, John McMullen, and Arthur G. Wavell.

Empresario land grants were not made in the area comprising present-day Kerr County. In fact, no Spanish or Mexican land grants were issued in the area of Kerr County. This area remained in the Bexar County Land District until the formation of the county in 1856.

In 1823, Stephen F. Austin hired ten experienced frontiersmen as "rangers" for a punitive expedition against a band of Indians. In November 24, 1835, Texas lawmakers established a specialized troop known as the Texas Rangers. The outfit had a complement of fifty-six men in three companies, each commanded by a captain and two lieutenants, whose immediate superior and leader had the rank of major and was subject to the commander-in-chief of the regular army.

By 1835, Antonio López de Santa Anna had established himself as a dictator in Mexico. Among Anglo-American colonists and Tejanos alike, the call for Texas independence grew louder. In the fall of 1835, many Texans concluded that liberalism and republicanism in Mexico, as reflected in its Constitution of 1824, were dead. On March 2, 1836, a delegation at Washington-on-the-Brazos adopted the Texas Declaration of Independence, and thus was born the Republic of Texas. Santa Anna brought his army to Texas to put down the rebellion, and events followed in quick succession.

During the Texas Revolution, San Antonio was the site of several battles, including the siege of Bexar and the Battle of the Alamo, which made San Antonio one of the most fought-over cities in North America. After the evacuation of Mexican forces, the Republic of Texas organized Bexar County in December 1836. The newly formed Bexar County covered much of the western edge of settlement in Texas. During the late Mexican period, Texas had been divided into four departments, with the department of Bexar - which included the area now known as Kerr County - stretching from the Rio Grande to the Panhandle and as far west as El Paso. With the winning of Texas independence, the departments became counties, and on December 20, 1836, Bexar County was established. San Antonio was chartered in January 1837 as the county seat.

As early as the spring of 1836, settlements began expanding up the valley of the Guadalupe River. The Penataka Comanches reacted with terrifying and deadly raids on the frontier. The area around Kerr County was apparently favored by the Comanches because of the hill country canyons, streams and game.
In December 1838, Mirabeau B. Lamar succeeded to the presidency and immediately changed Sam Houston's frontier policies. At Lamar’s behest, Congress allowed him to recruit eight companies of mounted volunteers and maintain a company of fifty-six rangers, then a month later to provide for five similar companies in Central and South Texas. Over the next three years the rangers waged all-out war against the Indians, successfully participating in numerous pitched battles.

Virtually all of the Indian population in east Texas had been removed by mid-1839, either by death and destruction or by removal to what is now Oklahoma. However, the Penataka Comanches still controlled the Texas Hill Country – particularly in areas such as Kerr County – despite the campaigns of the Texas Rangers. Jack Hays commanded the Ranger station in San Antonio, “the most dangerous and important Ranger post in western Texas.” He fought the Comanche from the Pedernales to the Guadalupe to the Medina and to the Nueces.

In 1840, the Comanches came down through the Kerr County area to San Antonio for a peace parlay. Some 33 Penataka chiefs and warriors, along with another 32 other Comanches, rode the downtown streets of San Antonio to the plaza. These talks rapidly broke down and thirty Penateka Comanche leaders and warriors, as well as some five women and children of the tribe, were killed in what came to be known as the "Council House Fight". In response, more than 500 Penataka Comanches raided down through the Guadalupe River valley in the summer of 1840, burning settlements and killing settlers. In this campaign, the Comanches, commanded by Buffalo Hump, raided the towns of Linnville and Victoria. Soon after, the Texas Rangers and a volunteer army killed some 50 Comanches in the Battle of Plum Creek.

In 1841, Jack Hays again led his Texas Rangers west into the Hill Country to seek out the Lipan Apaches and Penateka Comanches. Hays and his Rangers armed with Colt Paterson five-shot revolvers and revolving rifles, changed the whole concept of mounted warfare and established the model for future cavalry. His lead scout, a Lipan Apache named Chief Flacco, later boasted that he was "… not afraid to go to hell together" because, "Captain Jack heap brave, not afraid to go to hell by himself." It was one of Hays’ lieutenants, Samuel Walker, who paid a visit to Samuel Colt at his Pennsylvania factory and suggested "improvements" in the original pistol that would give it a bigger whollop at .44 caliber, a sixth bore in the revolving cylinder, a strong trigger guard, and a much-improved configuration for reloading in the saddle. The Rangers quickly became legend as one of the most brutally efficient tracking and killing machines ever fielded.

Santa Anna again became president of Mexico in 1841 and renewed hostilities with Texas. San Antonio was seized twice in the Mexican invasions of 1842. Because of Mexico's refusal to recognize the independence of Texas after the Treaties of Velasco , the Texas republic was in constant fear of an invasion. Early in March, the Mexican army occupied Goliad, Refugio, and Victoria. On March 5, Mexican troops under Rafael Vásquez appeared in San Antonio. The Texans retreated, leaving the town to the Mexicans. Jack Hays found it impossible to gather enough men to make an immediate defense. The militia under Alexander Somervell was called out, however, and gathered at San Antonio on March 15. By that date, the Mexican forces had abandoned the town on March 9. Texan volunteers gathered in that city to launch a retaliatory raid into Mexico. The release and repatriation of the Texan Santa Fe expedition prisoners, however, was considered a gesture of peace and good will from the Mexican government, causing President Sam Houston to withdraw his sanction from the planned incursion.

On September 11, 1842, Gen. Adrián Woll, with a force of 1,200 Mexicans, recaptured San Antonio. By September 17, some 200 Texans had gathered on Cibolo Creek above Seguin and marched under Mathew Caldwell to Salado Creek six miles northeast of San Antonio. On September 18 Caldwell sent Jack Hays and a company of scouts to draw the Mexicans into a fight; the Battle of Salado Creek resulted. While the fight was going on, Capt. Nicholas M. Dawson approached from the east with a company of fifty-three men. These men were attacked a mile and a half from the scene of the battle and killed in what came to be known as the Dawson Massacre. Woll drew his men back to San Antonio and retreated to Mexico by September 20. The reinforced Texans pursued him for three days and then returned to San Antonio. By September 25 a large number of Texans had gathered at San Antonio, and plans were made for a punitive expedition, the Somervell expedition, which evolved into the Mier Expedition.

Volunteers poured into San Antonio eager to pursue the enemy and invade Mexico for glory and plunder. Numbering approximately 700 men, the expedition left San Antonio on November 25; it numbered 683 men when it reached Laredo, which was captured on December 8. Joseph L. Bennett and 185 men returned home on December 10. Somervell, with a little over 500 men, forced the capitulation of Guerrero. On December 19 Somervell, recognizing the failure of his expedition and fearing disaster, ordered his men to disband and return home by way of Gonzales. Some 308 men led by five captains and commanded by William S. Fisher continued to Mexico on the disastrous Mier Expedition.

By this time, sympathy for the Texan cause had grown in the United States. Finally in 1845, after much wrangling, annexation was at last approved. In May 1845, the United States dispatched a fleet of warships to protect the Texas coast. Hostilities with Mexico and the Indians reached a settlement. The Texas was admitted as a state on December 29, 1845. The Republic of Texas, after nine years, eleven months, and seventeen days, was no more. . Texas was annexed as a slave state rather than as a territory. She kept her public lands and paid her own public debts. She retained the power to divide herself into as many as four additional states.

After Texas entered the Union, growth became rapid, as San Antonio became a servicing and distribution center for the western movement of the United States. Pioneers began filtering up the Guadalupe River valley and land grants were issued in what is now Kerr County as early as 1846.
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The fight between the United States and Mexico in 1846-48 stemmed directly the annexation of Texas. The issue of setting the boundary at the Rio Grande was the principle objective of the United States. Mexico refused to negotiate and a frustrated President Polk, on January 13, 1846, directed Gen. Zachary Taylor's army at Corpus Christi to advance to the Rio Grande. The Mexican government viewed that troop movement as an act of war.

The first Texans to reach General Taylor's army on the Rio Grande were the two independent companies of mounted men commanded by Captains Samuel H. Walker and John T. Price. The former participated in the first two engagements, those of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma, both of which were fought in Texas. The Second and Third Regiments of Mounted Men were present at the capture of Monterey in September 1846. On September 27, 1846, seven companies of Texas Rangers, commanded by Colonel Hays and Lieutenant Colonel Walker, participated in the storming of Independence Hill, a strongly fortified and commanding position.
McCulloch's Spy Company was recruited upon the termination of the armistice and arrived at Monterey January 31, 1847, and from there proceeded to Saltillo, where he found General Taylor, and the company was mustered in for the term of six months. McCulloch and W. H. Phillips penetrated the enemy's lines and secured valuable information. In April and May 1847, the second regiment of mounted men, or Rangers, to be commanded by Colonel Jack Hays was organized at San Antonio, being mustered into the service of the United States for 12 months or duration of the war. It consisted of two battalions, five companies each. This command was attached to the army under General Winfield Scott and started on the victorious march to the City of Mexico. Hay's men remained in Mexico until peace was declared. It was in the War with Mexico that the mounted volunteers first clothed the name of Texas Rangers with its traditional glory. In fact, so ruthless and lethal were they against Mexican troops that a hostile but fearful populace called them "Los Diablos Tejanos."

"Los Diablos Tejanos! Los Diablos Tejanos!" cried the Mexicans as they crowded along the streets to get a look at the "Texas Devils". One war correspondent said they rode some standing upright, some sideways, some facing the rear, some by the reverse flank, some on horses, others on mustangs and mules; on they rode, pell-mell, wearing motley "uniforms" of almost every conceivable variety of pants and shirts, hats and caps ("caps made of the skins of the dog, the cat, the bear, the coon, the wild cat, and each cap had a tail hanging to it"). And the frightened onlookers and passers-by, not knowing whether to cheer or to run, believed the Texan to be "a sort of semi-civilized, half man, half devil, with a slight mixture of lion and the snapping turtle", and had "a more holy horror" of him than they had of "the evil saint himself."

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Kerr County is well represented by Texas Rangers with 32 buried in the cemetery at Center Point. All of the rangers buried there served in the 1800’s and many of them were early settlers in Kerr County. Texas Rangers buried in the Center Point Cemetery are: W.D.C. Burney, Captain Neal Coldwell, James A. Gibbens, Henry Hill, Felix Holloway, Richard Irving, James Lane, Samuel Lane Jr., Tarlton Lane, Robert Lange, Miles Lowrance, James McElroy, Stephen McElroy, A. Sim Moore, Captain Frank Moore, Gabriel Moore, George K. Moore, Jack Moore, M.F. Moore, Dan Nowlin, James Nowlin, Richard Nowlin, Peter Rees, Lt. N.O. Reynolds, William Rishworth, James Sellers, Andrew J. Sowell, Billy Witt, and Stephen G. Wray. The Former Texas Rangers Foundation is located in Kerrville and is planning a museum here.

By 1846, the number of settlers in the Kerr County area was growing appreciably, moving steadily up the Guadalupe River valley. In that year, Joshua D. Brown arrived at the site of what is now Kerrville. John O. Meusebach established Fredericksburg in 1846. Nicholas Zink settled Sisterdale in 1847. John Twohig had a land grant at Ingram in 1847. Fort Martin Scott was established near Fredericksburg in 1848. Dr. J. Clark Ridley built a dam and mill on Verde Creek in 1854. Information on these early settlers in the Kerr County area may be found at the Kerr County TXGenWeb Page and Kerr Regional History Center & Archives. Gloria Dozier has just published a new set of books detailing the 1837 through 1927 land records of Kerr County.

After annexation, county formation in the state of Texas began to move westward towards present-day Kerr County. In 1846, Comal County was formed, reaching west into Indian country near resent-day Welfare. Comal County included many Mexican and Republic land grants. Medina County followed in 1848 and contained several Republic land grants, most notably the Henri Castro Colony. Gillespie County was also formed in 1848 with Fredericksburg as the county seat and containing many land grants from the Republic of Texas. Uvalde County appeared in 1850 and included many Republic land grants. Burnet County was carved out of Travis County in 1852 with two Mexican land grants and many Republic of Texas land grants.

In 1855, the Second Calvary of the United States Army arrived at Fort Mason and built an outpost at Camp Verde in Kerr County. Soon after, the Army also built Camp Ives in Kerr County.

Neighboring Bandera County was created in 1856 and included many land grants issued by the Republic of Texas. James and DeMontel surveyed the site of the town of Bandera in 1853. Milstead, Odem and Saner were making shingles there on the Medina River in 1853. In 1854, some 250 Mormons settled near the town of Bandera, followed by a group of Polish settlers in 1855. By 1860, the county population stood at 399.

Kerr County was formed 25 January 1856, out of Bexar County and included portions of today’s Real and Kendall counties. When formed, Kerr County contained many land grants issued by the Republic of Texas. A great deal of the lands along the Guadalupe River had been surveyed and granted by the Republic between 1838 and 1840. There were never any Spanish or Mexican land grants in the area of this county. Comfort was founded in 1854. In 1856, Joshua D. Brown - a veteran of the battle of San Jacinto - purchased the 640-acre land grant that the Republic had awarded to Benjamin F. Cage in Kerr County. Brown surveyed the new town, which was initially called Kerrsville and later changed to Kerrville. A number of settlers moved into the area in the early 1850s, erecting sawmills on the various streams and establishing farms. Indian raids became increasingly troublesome in the early 1850s, and in response the United States Army established a post at Camp Verde in southern Kerr County on July 8, 1855. By 1860, there were 634 people living in Kerr County, with about half living at Comfort and east towards Sisterdale.
The original settlement of Kerrville, situated on a bluff north of the Guadalupe River, grew from a primitive shinglemakers' camp into a medical, recreational, professional, cultural, and educational hub for a five-to-seven county region.
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