Victoria, A Mexican Colony

Soon after winning independence from Spain in 1821, Mexico began issuing empresarial grants, contracts allowing men to bring settlers into Mexico’s northernmost state of Texas. Ironically, of the forty-one empresarial grants issued between 1821 and 1832, only one went to a

Don Martin De Leon

Mexican. Don Martín De León and his wife Doña Patricia De León were wealthy descendants of aristocratic Spanish families who had immigrated to New Spain in 1750. De León received his empresarial grant in April 1824 to settle forty-one Mexican families “of good moral character” on the lower Guadalupe River. He had been in Texas since 1805, operating ranches along and south of the Nueces River and driving huge herds of cattle to market in New Orleans.

De León’s land lay southwest of Stephen F. Austin’s grant, the first and most successful of the colonies. De León named his settlement Nuestra Señora Guadalupe de Jesús Victoria, after the first president of the Republic of Mexico. The families began arriving in 1824 and received a town lot, one league (4,228 acres) of land for grazing, and a labor (177 acres) for farming. Upon completion of the colonization, the empresario received five leagues.

One of De León’s sons-in-law platted the town of Victoria, and the empresario designated the main street “La Calle de los Diez Amigos” (The Street of Ten Friends) for the ten homes of citizens who were charged with the welfare of the settlement. Three of the ten friends were his sons-in-law and two were his sons. Not all the colonists were Mexicans; sixteen families, primarily Irish immigrants, also settled in the colony.

A devout Catholic, De León brought in priests from La Bahía (present Goliad), Nacogdoches, and San Antonio until the founding in late 1824 of St. Mary’s Catholic Church. The colonists built a school and a fort, organized a militia, and started a courier service with its Austin Colony neighbor.

De León’s five-league ranch, which spread along Garcitas Creek in present southeastern Victoria County, probably included the land where the Frenchman La Salle built Fort St. Louis in 1685. Many claim DeLeón’s cattle brand, which he had

De Leon Cattle Brand

registered in 1807, was the first in Texas. It consisted of a connected E and J meaning “Espiritu de Jesús, the brand used by Jesuits for hundreds of years and adopted by the De León family in Spain.

From the beginning, De León, a wealthy and cultured man, looked with disdain at the Americans in surrounding colonies. His attitude and the preferential treatment he received as a Mexican citizen added to tensions among the neighboring settlements. The boundaries of his colony were not clearly drawn and in disputes with other colonies, the Mexican courts usually sided with De León. The ensuing squabbles led to hatred and mistrust between De León and Green DeWitt whose colony at Gonzales lay just to the north. And De León tried unsuccessfully to have the government annul the grant for an Irish colony to the south.

De León died at age 68 in the 1833 cholera epidemic, leaving his wife and ten children an estate of about a half million dollars. His sons completed the settlement, which made the De León and the Austin colonies the only two in Texas to fulfill their empresarial agreement.

The family members were strong Federalists and as troubles brewed with the Centralists government under the dictator Antonio López de Santa Anna, the De Leóns sided with the Texans who supported independence. The De Leóns took part in all the plans for the revolution; they served in the army or helped in other ways to aid the Texas cause. They contributed enough to the war that when Gen. José de Urrea occupied Victoria after the massacre at Goliad, the De Leóns were treated as traitors.

Despite their support, after Texas won independence, Anglo-Americans began coming into Texas looking for land and charging the De Leóns as Mexican sympathizers. After the murder of one son and the severe injury of another, the family, one of the wealthiest in Texas, left all behind and fled to safety in New Orleans. Three years later, the oldest son Don Fernando De León returned to Victoria and spent the remainder of his life in unsuccessful litigation for the return of the family’s property.

In 1972 a Texas historical marker was placed in Victoria’s Evergreen Cemetery honoring the De León family. Attendees at the dedication included Patricia De León, great-granddaughter of the empresario, and Dr. Ricardo Victoria, great-grandson of President Guadalupe Victoria for whom the town is named.

Advertisements

The Cattle Baron’s Daughter

img_0322-632x290An elegant 1930s Greek revival temple in Victoria, the Royston Nave Museum, has a story to tell of vast wealth, cultural challenge, creative genius, and high living as broad as the Texas landscape. In 2012, the Nave Museum held a month-long exhibit titled “The Cattle Baron’s Daughter and the Artists Who Loved Her—James Ferdinand McCan (1869-1925) and Royston Nave (1886-1931).”

Emily McFaddin McCan Nave by Royston Nave

Emily McFaddin McCan Nave by Royston Nave

The cattle baron’s daughter was Emily McFaddin, a beautiful, artistic young woman born in 1876 on a giant cattle ranch outside Victoria. The cattle baron was James Alfred McFaddin, son and brother of the Beaumont McFaddins, owners of vast stretches of ranch land, including Big Hill, the site of the giant oil discovery in 1901 known as Spindletop.

James McFaddin moved to Refugio County in 1858 and began ranching with 130 head of cattle from his father’s herd. After serving in the Civil War, James McFaddin returned to Refugio, served as a one-man bank, loaning money to his neighbors. He began buying land where the San Antonio and Guadalupe rivers converge. As his holdings increased, James McFaddin built a three-story mansion in Victoria with an art studio for Emily in the tower above the center of the home.

The first artist in this story was the lively James Ferdinand McCan from County Kerry, Ireland, who arrived in the United States at age seventeen. He settled in San Antonio and opened an art studio. An exhibition of his work caught the eye of Henrietta King, wife of the cattleman Richard King. Henrietta moved McCan to the King Ranch where he served as artist-in-residence for two years. During that time his reputation blossomed, and Al McFaddin, Emily’s brother, commissioned McCan in 1896 to paint a portrait of his and Emily’s parents, James and Margaret McFaddin. Emily and McCan married the following year and moved happily into Victoria’s social whirl, entertaining in the home her parents gave them as a wedding gift. Their son, Claude Kerry McCan, was born in 1899.

Emily and Ferdinand McCan House

Emily and Ferdinand McCan House

The second artist in the saga was Royston Nave who was born in LaGrange. His mother Lou Scott Royston, a well-known Texas painter, was Nave’s first art teacher. He studied with several New York artists, and his renown grew as his portraits were featured in many one-man exhibits.

After serving in WWI, Nave moved to Victoria to study art with James McCan. The two artists became such good friends, that Nave painted a self-portrait that he gave to McCan with the inscription, “To my friend, J.F.M.” and signed “Royston Nave.” The portrait hangs today in the front hall of the home built for Emily when she married McCan.

Emily and McCan divorced in 1916, and McCan moved to Boerne where he continued to paint the Hill Country scenes he loved until his death in 1925.

A year after her divorce, Emily and Nave were married. The couple began a whirlwind of worldwide travel with her brother Al and his wife. They finally settled for two years in New York where Nave enjoyed continued success with portraiture. In the late 1920s, they returned to Victoria. Nave painted in his studio, and they enjoyed the social and cultural life of the city until Nave died unexpectedly of a heart attack at age forty-four.

The family was devastated, and after a year of mourning, Emily commissioned the father/son architectural team of Atlee and Robert Ayers to design a fitting memorial for Royston Nave. The Greek revival temple opened in October 1932 as the Royston Nave Museum to house the work of Royston Nave and the library of the Bronte Study Club. Nave’s portraits and his landscapes hung above the stacks of books until 1976 when the city of Victoria constructed a new library.

Emily continued her cultural and community interests until her death in 1943, even hosting Eleanor Roosevelt in 1940 when the first lady visited Victoria

After Victoria built its new library, Emily’s heirs deeded the Nave Museum to the city to be used as a regional art museum, and in 2003 it became the property of the Victoria Regional Museum Association. Noted for six to eight compelling exhibits each year that range from classical to modern, the McFaddin and McCan descendants agreed to sponsor an exhibit of the works of both artists, which had never been shown under the same roof. Family and friends generously loaned their private works from both artists to create the delightful exhibit know as “The Cattle Baron’s Daughter and the Artists Who Loved Her—(James Ferdinand McCan (1869-1925) and Royston Nave (1886-1931).”

The Cattle Baron’s Daughter

An elegant 1930s Greek revival temple in Victoria, the Royston Nave Museum, has a story to tell of vast wealth, cultural challenge, creative genius,

Royston Nave Museum

Royston Nave Museum

and high living as broad as the Texas landscape. In 2012 the Nave Museum held a month-long exhibit titled “The Cattle Baron’s Daughter and the Artists Who Loved Her—James Ferdinand McCan (1869-1925) and Royston Nave (1886-1931).”

Emily McFaddin McCan Nave by Royston Nave

Emily McFaddin McCan Nave by Royston Nave

The cattle baron’s daughter was Emily McFaddin, a beautiful, artistic young woman born in 1876 on a vast cattle ranch outside Victoria. The cattle baron was James Alfred McFaddin, son and brother of the Beaumont McFaddins, owners of vast stretches of ranch land, including Big Hill, site of the world-changing oil discovery in 1901 known as Spindletop.

James McFaddin had moved to Refugio County and began ranching in 1858 with 130 head of cattle from his father’s herd. After serving in the Civil War, James McFaddin returned to Refugio, served as a one-man bank, loaning money to his neighbors, and buying land where the San Antonio and Guadalupe rivers converge. As his holdings increased, James McFaddin built a three-story mansion in Victoria with an art studio for Emily in the tower above the center of the home.

The first artist in this story was the lively James Ferdinand McCan from County Kerry, 416814_10150616754062037_1560116650_nIreland, who arrived in the United States at age seventeen. He settled in San Antonio and opened an art studio. An exhibition of his work caught the eye of Henrietta King, wife of the wealthy cattleman Richard King. Henrietta moved McCan to the King Ranch where he served as artist-in-residence for two years. During that time his reputation blossomed. Al McFaddin, Emily’s brother, commissioned McCan in 1896 to paint a portrait of his and Emily’s parents, James and Margaret McFaddin. Emily and McCan married the following year and moved happily into Victoria’s social whirl, entertaining in the home her parents gave them as a wedding gift. Their son, Claude Kerry McCan, was born in 1899.

The second artist in the saga was Royston Nave who was born in LaGrange and began his studies under his mother Lou Scott Royston, a well-known Texas painter. He studied under several

Royston Nave, WWI

Royston Nave, WWI

New York artists and became renowned with many one-man exhibits of his portraits. After serving in WWI, he movied to Victoria to study art with James McCan. The two artists became such good friends, that Nave painted a self-portrait that he gave to McCan with the inscription, “To my friend, J.F.M.” and signed “Royston Nave.” The portrait hangs today in the front hall of the home built for Emily when she married McCan.

Emily and McCan divorced in 1916, and McCan moved to Boerne where he continued to paint the Hill Country scenes he loved until his death in 1925.

McCan Hill Country scene

McCan Hill Country scene

A year after her divorce, Emily and Nave were married. The couple began a whirlwind life of worldwide travel with her brother Al and his wife. They finally settled for two years in New York where Nave enjoyed continued success with portraiture. In the late 1920s they returned to Victoria where Nave painted in his studio, and they enjoyed the social and cultural life of the city until Nave died unexpectedly of a heart attack at age forty-four.

The family was devastated, and after a year of mourning Emily commissioned the father/son architectural team of Atlee and Robert Ayers to design a fitting memorial for Royston Nave. The Greek revival temple opened in October 1932 as the Royston Nave Museum to house the work of Royston Nave and the library of the Bronte Study Club. Nave’s portraits and his landscapes hung above the stacks of books until 1976 when the city of Victoria constructed a new library.

Emily continued her cultural and community interests until her death in 1943, even hosting Eleanor Roosevelt in 1940 when the first lady visited Victoria.

After Victoria built its new library, Emily’s heirs deeded the Nave Museum to the city to be used as a regional art museum, and in 2003 it became the property of the Victoria Regional Museum Association. Noted for six to eight compelling exhibits each year that range from classical to modern, the McFaddin and McCan descendants agreed to sponsor an exhibit of the works of both artists, which had never been shown under the same roof. Family and friends generously loaned their private works from both artists to create the delightful exhibit know as “The Cattle Baron’s Daughter and the Artists Who Loved Her—James Ferdinand McCan (1869-1925) and Royston Nave (1886-1931.”

Emily by Royston Nave

Emily by Royston Nave

Book Signing Invite

9781491709542_COVER.inddTo all you lovers of Texas history who faithfully read my weekly blog, I am sending a very personal invitation to two book signings for Stein House.  If you have been on board for a few months, you already know that Stein House is historical fiction (the history is accurate) set in the thriving Texas seaport of Indianola between 1853 and 1886.

I’ve already written about how I came to tell the story of Helga Heinrich the German immigrant and her children who sail into Indianola determined to overcome the memory and haunting legacy of Max, her husband and their papa, who drowned in a drunken leap from the dock as their ship pulled away from the German port.

The family operates Stein House for boarders of all stripes whose involvement in the rigors of a town on the edge of frontier influences and molds all their lives: the cruelties of yellow fever and slavery, the wrenching choices of Civil War and Reconstruction, murder, alcoholism, and the devastation wrought by the hurricane of 1886.

If you, dear reader, are in Sweden or Australia or India or one of the iced-over states in the U.S., I know you probably can’t make it to the book signings, so here’s my offer:  The publisher of Stein House has given me some free E-book stubs. If you would like to read Stein House, just let me know, and I’ll be tickled to send you the secret code for downloading a copy to one of your electronic devices.

I have ten copies to give away. Of course, I am secretly hoping that you will like Stein House, and that you will write a gentle review, and that you will spread good words about Stein House to your many friends.  If you prefer a real, between the covers copy of Stein House, you can order it by clicking on the link on the right side of this blog.

Meantime, here’s the invite for dear readers who live in this neck of the Texas woods:

 Meet and Greet the Author at Barnes & Noble, Arboretum

10,000 Research Blvd., #158

Austin, TX 78759

Saturday, February 1, 2014

 2 to 4 pm

Meet and Greet the Author at Hastings Books

5206 N. Navarro

Victoria, TX 77901

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Noon to 4 pm

I hope to see you there. 

Don Martin De Leon, Empresario

Soon after winning independence from Spain in 1821, Mexico began issuing empresarial grants, contracts allowing men to bring settlers into Mexico’s northernmost state of Texas.  Ironically, of approximately thirty empresarial grants issued between 1821 and 1832, only one went to a Mexican.  Don Martín De León and his wife Doña Patricia De León were wealthy descendants of

Don Martin De Leon

Don Martin De Leon

aristocratic Spanish families who had immigrated to New Spain in 1750.  De León received his empresarial grant in April 1824 to settle forty-one Mexican families “of good moral character” on the lower Guadalupe River.  He had been in Texas since 1805, operating ranches along and south of the Nueces River and driving huge herds of cattle to market in New Orleans.

Map of Texas Colonies

Map of Texas Colonies

De León’s grant lay southwest of Stephen F. Austin’s, the first and most successful of the colonies.  De León named his settlement Guadalupe Victoria, after the first president of the Republic of Mexico.  The first twelve families arrived by October and the others, delayed by drought and floods in Northern Mexico, arrived the next spring.  Each family received a town lot, one league (4,228 acres) of land for grazing, and a labor (177 acres) for farming.  Upon completion of the colonization the empresario received five leagues.

One of De León’s sons-in-law platted the town and the empresario designated the main street “La Calle de los Diez Amigos” (The Street of Ten Friends) for the ten homes of citizens who were charged with the welfare of the town from 1824 to 1828.  Three of the ten friends were his sons-in-law and two were his sons.  From 1828 to 1835 alcaldes (mayors) governed the colony.  De León served as the first alcalde followed by two of his relatives.  Not all the colonists were Mexicans; sixteen families, primarily Irish immigrants, also settled in the colony.  A devout Catholic, De León brought in priests from La Bahía (present Goliad), Nacogdoches, and San Antonio until the founding in late 1824 of St. Mary’s Catholic Church.  The colonists built a school and a fort, organized a militia, and started a courier service with the neighboring Austin colony.

Victoria quickly became a cultural center as the family maintained contact with friends who were kings, emperors, and both military and political leaders in the United States.  The children and grandchildren were sent to schools in the major cities of Europe and the business of the colony was considered among the most substantial.  Cattle, horses, and mules were the primary business and the family corralled wild Longhorns and mustangs by the thousands.10friends650x335

De León’s five-league ranch, which spread along Garcitas Creek in present southeastern Victoria County, probably included the land where the Frenchman La Salle built Fort St. Louis in 1685.  Many claim DeLeón’s cattle brand, which he had registered in 1807, was the first in Texas.  It consisted of a connected E and J meaning “Espiritu de Jesús, the brand used by Jesuits for hundreds of years and adopted by the De León family in Spain.

De Leon Cattle Brand

De Leon Cattle Brand

From the beginning of his colony, De León, a wealthy and cultured man, looked with disdain at the Americans in surrounding colonies.  His attitude and the preferential treatment he received as a Mexican citizen added to tensions among the neighboring settlements.  The boundaries of his colony were not clearly drawn and in disputes with other colonies, the Mexican courts usually sided with De León.  The ensuing squabbles led to hatred and mistrust between De León and Green DeWitt whose colony at Gonzales lay just to the north.  And De León tried unsuccessfully to have the government annul the grant for an Irish colony to the south.

De León died at age 68 in the 1833 cholera epidemic, leaving his wife and ten children an estate of about a half million dollars.  His sons completed the settlement, which made the De León and the Austin colonies the only two in Texas to fulfill their empresarial agreement.

The family members were strong Federalists and as troubles brewed with the Centralists government under the Mexican Dictator Antonio López de Santa Anna, the De Leóns sided with the Texans who supported independence.  The De León’s took part in all the plans for the revolution; they served in the army or helped in other ways to aid the Texas cause.  They contributed so substantially to the war that when Gen. José de Urrea occupied Victoria after the massacre at Goliad, the De Leóns were arrested as traitors.

Despite their contributions, after Texas won independence, Anglo-Americans began coming into Texas looking for land and charging the De Leóns as Mexican sympathizers.  After the murder of one son and the severe injury of another, the family, one of the wealthiest in Texas, left all behind and fled to safety in New Orleans. Three years later, the oldest son Don Fernando De León returned to Victoria and spent the remainder of his life in unsuccessful litigation for the return of the family’s property.

In 1972 a Texas historical marker was placed in Victoria’s Evergreen Cemetery honoring the De León family.  Attendees at the dedication included Patricia De León, great-granddaughter of the empresario, and Dr. Ricardo Victoria, great-grandson of President Guadalupe Victoria for whom the town is named.

Map Legend:  De Leon’s Colony — Blue

Austin’s Colony — Yellow

DeWitt’s Colony — Orange

Irish Colonies — Green