De León's Colony
De León's Colony was established by Martín De León in 1824, and was the only predominantly Mexican colony in Texas in the United States. Victoria was the center of the colony, which was part of an effort by the Mexican government to settle what would become known as Texas. De León was one of several empresarios in Texas who were granted colonization contracts under the Mexican government. Others were Stephen F. Austin, Green DeWitt, Haden Edwards, David G. Burnet, Lorenzo de Zavala and Sterling C. Robertson. Of these, only De León and Austin successfully completed the colonizations. Upon De León's death in 1833, the colony's value was estimated at $1 million.
Petitions to the Spanish government
In 1799, Martín De León and his wife Patricia de la Garza De León established a cattle ranch in the vicinity of San Patricio County, Texas. In both 1807 and 1809 Martín De León petitioned the Spanish government for permission to colonize in the area. Both petitions were denied.
Petition to Mexican government
After Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821, colonization possibilities looked more favorable. On April 13, 1824, prior to the 1824 Constitution of Mexico enactment on October 4, the provisional Mexican government approved a contract allowing Martín De León to settle forty-one Mexican families on the lower Guadalupe and Lavaca rivers, in the vicinity of Coleto, Garcitas, Arenosa, and Zorillo (Placido) creeks. It was the only predominantly Mexican colony in Texas. Under the contract, each settler received a town lot, plus one league (4,228 acres) of grazing land and one labor (177 acres) of arable land. De León was to receive five leagues (22,140-acre) upon the settlement of the forty-one families. The site of the Martín De León ranch would be located on Garcitas Creek.
Establishing the colony
Patricia De León's contribution to the colony was her inheritance of $9,800, plus another $300 valuation of cows, horses, and mules. Coahuila y Tejas appointed Fernando De León the first commissioner and colonization manager of De León's Colony. Plácido Benavides became Fernando's secretary. The settlement made provisions for priests and a school. Benavides built a house fortress with first-floor gun slits and reinforced door, that became known alternately as "Plácido's Round House" and the "Round Top House".
The settlement of Victoria was originally named in honor of Guadalupe Victoria who had just become the first president of Mexico. Martín De León became the settlement's first alcalde. Plácido Benavides would become the second alcalde, and Silvestre De León was the third. When José María Jesús Carbajal platted the town, De León named the main street Calle de los Diez Amigos (Street of Ten Friends), after the ten leading citizens entrusted with the community. The ten friends were:
Conflict with Green DeWitt
A conflict arose when the Coahuila y Tejas government granted an empresario contract to Green DeWitt on April 15, 1825. The new government had not yet received notification of where De León had established his grant's settlement of Guadalupe Victoria, and included the area in DeWitt's contract. On October 6, 1825, the Coahuila y Tejas government settled the dispute in favor of De León. Antagonist conflicts, however, continued between De León and Dewitt, with an October 26, 1826 incident that resulted in De León and his son-in-law Rafael Manchola arresting DeWitt. Resolution required the intervention of Stephen F. Austin.
De León was authorized by the Coahuila y Tejas government in 1829 to bring an additional 150 families to the colony. DeWitt's contact expired in 1831, and the government denied him an extension. In May 1832, the government ruled in favor of De León's colonists settling on DeWitt's land.
Martín De León died of cholera in 1833. Upon his death, the estimated wealth of the colony was $1 million. The government authorized Fernando De León to assume his father's position. More than one hundred titles were given in the colony by July 1835. Other empresarios granted colonization contracts under the Mexican government were Stephen F. Austin, Green DeWitt, Haden Edwards, David G. Burnet, Lorenzo de Zavala and Sterling C. Robertson. Martín De León and Stephen F. Austin were the only empresarios who completely fulfilled their contracts.
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