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Columbus, Texas

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Consider the Lily:
The Ungilded History of Colorado County, Texas

by Bill Stein

(Copyright, Nesbitt Memorial Library and Bill Stein)

Part 3 : 1836-1845

When the settlers returned to the Colorado River after the Battle of San Jacinto, they had, in effect, stepped back in time. Much of the progress they had made in settling the area had been undone. Most of the buildings had been destroyed, their domestic animals had been driven off, and many of the settlers either did not or were slow to return. In addition, the turmoil of the preceding few months had forced them to forego planting and cultivating crops, and, as they had in 1823, they again faced the prospect of sustaining themselves almost exclusively through hunting. In 1836, however, game was scarce, having been diminished by thirteen years of co-existence with man and the movement of two armies through the area.1

Their hunger and grievous economic problems, however, did not prevent the newly independent Texans from acting against those who had failed to stand with them during the revolution. At least one settler had remained at his home on the Colorado during the conflict, and cooperated fully with the Mexican army. After the Mexicans were repelled from the incipient country, the army called for his arrest. But the officer who was sent to take him into custody, apparently after being personally enriched by the suspected collaborator, somehow let him escape. The officer made no pursuit, choosing instead to return to his camp, and stopping on the way to be fed by and steal two horses from William Bluford Dewees.2

Another Colorado River settler, John Byrne, fell out of favor with his fellow colonists, and with the government, by fleeing the area during the conflict specifically to avoid participating in it. Byrne had been granted a league of land on the west side of the Colorado River a few miles south of the Atascosito Crossing on April 9, 1831. He had added to his holdings by purchasing one-fourth of an adjacent league from Dewees. Shortly after the revolution, and probably because of its outcome, Byrne began to divest himself of his lands in Texas. The new constitution declared that individuals such as Byrne, who had left the country to avoid the conflict, had, by doing so, forfeited their rights of citizenship and the lands that they owned. On July 23, 1836, a few months after the Texan victory at San Jacinto, Byrne moved to sell the quarter league that he had bought from Dewees and one-fourth of his own league, agreeing to convey it to Peter G. Silvey. Some six months later, on January 14, 1837, he sold the remaining three-fourths of his league to Sumner Bacon. Silvey quickly had difficulty with his purchase. Byrne had agreed to make title to the land in three months or pay Silvey $2000. By March 24, 1837, when Silvey filed suit, he had done neither. And, Silvey alleged, Byrne was about to leave the country. The next day, Byrne signed the land over to Silvey and rendered the suit moot. Meanwhile, on February 18, 1837, Bacon had sold the land he had purchased from Byrne to Alexander C. and Thomas J. Henderson for the staggering sum of $10,000. That land was destined to become a source of controversy, and of considerable employment for attorneys, a decade later.3

In another way too, the revolution caused a return to the past. For a few months anyway, the Indians were again a problem. According to the settlers, Indians were "lurking about," and "constantly killing and maiming our cattle and hogs and stealing our horses." Shortly after the settlers began returning, Indians attacked Norman Woods, killing his horse and wounding him. Soon afterward, they attacked the family of Charles Fordtran, who lived, it seems, on the east side of the river about nine miles upriver from Columbus. The Fordtrans locked themselves up inside their house and rode out the attack without injury, though, evidently, one of their slaves was shot. Four men from Columbus, one of whom was Dewees, shortly arrived to assist the Fordtrans, but found the Indians departed. They pursued them across the river, overtaking them about a mile from the house and engaging them in combat. A running battle, which lasted for about six miles, ensued. No one was killed, though apparently at least one of the Indians was seriously wounded. On the other side, Dewees sustained a minor arrow wound in the arm.4

That September, a few of Benjamin Beeson's slaves escaped, and two of his sons, Leander and Collins Beeson, and a third man, Maxwell Steele, went after them. On September 21, 1836, just after they crossed the Guadalupe River, a number of Indians opened fire on them. Collins Beeson fell dead. Steele too was hit, and either killed or seriously wounded. Leander Beeson escaped injury, but his horse was killed. He threw his rifle into the river, leaped in after it, swam to the opposite bank, ran into a thicket, discarded his waterlogged boots, and made his way barefooted to his home on the Colorado. He had seen someone leap into the river behind him, and presumed at the time that it was an Indian, but by the time he had returned home, he had concluded that it might have been Steele. Upon hearing of the encounter, ten of his fellow settlers set out to discover what had become of Steele. On the way, they encountered a larger party of Indians, but routed them, apparently without casualties on either side, in a surprise attack. At the Guadalupe, they found the body of Collins Beeson, wrapped it in a blanket, and buried it nearby. There was however, no trace of Steele, though the settlers later heard that his severed head had been seen in an Indian camp near Gonzales.5

The same month that Maxwell Steele and Collins Beeson were killed by Indians, the citizens of Colorado County elected their first representative to the Congress of the Republic of Texas. The new constitution, which had been adopted March 17, 1836 by delegates in convention at Washington on the Brazos, had created a president, a judiciary, which included a district court and, in each county, a district clerk, and a congress to which representatives were to be elected the following September. The citizens of Colorado County sent John G. Robison off to represent them in the first congress, which convened from October 3 until December 21, 1836. Robison was distinguished, not by any action he took in the congress, but by his almost immediate subsequent death at the hands of Indians. On February 19, 1837, Robison and his considerably younger brother Walter, were killed near the family home in what was then far northwestern Colorado County. The two men had set out the previous day for the home of James Stephens, both to swear in Stephens as a justice of the peace and to retrieve some groceries that Robison had purchased in Columbia during the congress but sent to Stephens' home. Robison's son, Joel Walter Robison, who had served at San Jacinto and participated in the capture of Santa Anna, left the house the next day to visit his girl friend, Anne Alexander. From there, he headed for his home in Washington on the Brazos, but heard, when he arrived at John Breeding's house, that Indians had stolen his horses the previous evening. Fearing for his family's safety, he returned to his father's house, warned his mother that Indians were in the area, picked up a gun, and set out to find his father. Perhaps a mile from the house, he found his father's abandoned wagon, the groceries still inside. A gathering flock of buzzards helped him to locate the bodies of his father and uncle, both of which had been stripped, scalped, and otherwise mutilated. With help from neighbors, Robison buried his relatives nearby. The following month, on March 11, 1837, the president of the republic, Sam Houston, called for the citizens of Colorado County to elect a replacement for Robison. The election was to be held on Monday, April 17. On the preceding two Mondays, the county was to get its first tastes of the new court system.6

The earliest recorded district court business in Colorado County is a brief visit to the county by Judge Robert McAlpin "Three-Legged Willie" Williamson. Williamson's court probably convened on April 3, 1837. He apparently heard no cases. That spring, Williamson, like a teacher on the first day of school, seems simply to have visited each of the six counties on his circuit and made a speech asserting the authority of the just established court. In Colorado County, he probably made a speech very similar to that which he made in Washington County on the second week of his tour, a speech which was printed in the May 16, 1837 issue of the Telegraph and Texas Register. He did, however, impose fines on several men who had been called to serve on the grand jury, but who did not attend court. The county, of course, owned neither a courthouse nor any other building, so the court met in the closest thing to a public building in the area, Nicholas Dillard's old schoolhouse near the river, which had, evidently, escaped destruction during the hostilities.7

The new constitution had also created several institutions of county government, including a county court, justices of the peace, a sheriff, a coroner, and "a sufficient number of constables." On December 20, 1836, the congress passed three acts which further defined these institutions. The county court was to consist of a chief justice and two associates, the former appointed by the congress, the latter elected by the local justices of the peace from among their number. In Colorado County, it was to meet on the second Monday in January, April, July, and October. The county court was empowered to hear certain lawsuits, to order that new roads be laid out, to conscript citizens and slaves to work on the roads, and to establish ferries, grant licenses to their operators, and fix their rates. The chief justice and all of the justices of the peace were to constitute a board of commissioners that was empowered to oversee roads, bridges, and ferries in the county, to provide support for "indigent, lame, and blind persons who are unable to support themselves," and to levy taxes. In addition, the chief justice individually was to conduct probate court. To record all these proceedings, to keep track of the county's money, and to record deeds, mortgages, conveyances, and other legal instruments, the congress called for each county to elect a county clerk. On the same day, President Sam Houston nominated and the congress approved the appointment of William Menefee as the chief justice of Colorado County.8

The new county held its first local elections on February 6, 1837. On that day, Stephen Townsend was elected sheriff, Robert Brotherton county clerk, Thomas Thatcher district clerk, and James Nelson coroner. Six justices of the peace, Samuel Alexander, James Stephens, Williamson Daniels, William B. Dewees, Gail Borden, and Eli Mercer, and three constables, John Breeding, John Cheney, and Thomas Reed, were also elected. Brotherton, and presumably the others, were sworn in on February 10.9

Since the county court was not organized in time to meet on its first legally mandated day, January 9, 1837, it convened for the first time on April 10, 1837. Like Williamson's district court session a week earlier, the county court probably also met in the old schoolhouse. Nonetheless, the county clerk, Brotherton, who wrote the minutes of the meeting, referred to the building as the courthouse. Before the meeting, he or someone else stood at the door of the building and announced to the public that court was about to convene. In addition to Brotherton, the chief justice, Menefee, one of the two associate justices, Dewees, and Sheriff Townsend, were all present. Very little business was conducted. A jury was called. Six of those summoned were present; ten others were absent. Following Williamson's example, Menefee fined nine of the ten who did not attend twenty dollars each.10

By the time the court met again on July 10, the residents of the county had become more accustomed to government. This time the full court, including the second associate justice, James Stephens, was present. This time, thirteen of the fifteen summoned jurors were present. This time, the two absent jurors were excused. The court rescinded the fines it had levied against the nine men who had failed to show up in April, fined another man, Benjamin McDaniel, ten dollars for refusing to assist the sheriff when summoned to do so, then adjourned.11

The birth of the new county seat, the town of Columbus, which had been announced in December 1835 but been halted by the revolution, was delayed, naturally enough, until Dewees and the other settlers returned to the Colorado and provided themselves with housing and other necessities. That the town was still of little or no consequence despite its status as the county seat is confirmed by the location of the first post office in the new county, the Colorado Post Office, which was established at Eli Mercer's house before April 1836. Within a year, the post office, and the community around Mercer's, would acquire the name Egypt. According to persistent early reports, the name was adopted because of the unusual fertility of the land.12

The mail which crossed the Colorado River to the north of Mercer's in 1836 crossed at Beeson's, though there was no post office there. Had the mail come to Columbus, it would most assuredly have had to camp out, for the first building in town was not constructed until August 1836. Columbus grew, though slowly, from that first structure. In 1837, a visitor described it as "a small town, consisting of two public houses, two small stores, and a half a dozen shanties." The proprietors of the town, at first Dewees, Robert Brotherton, and Thomas Thatcher, then Dewees and Joseph Worthington Elliott Wallace, painted a slightly rosier picture in a series of newspaper advertisements designed to attract settlers. The first ad announced that a "general sale" of lots in Columbus would be held on July 10, 1837. The second, taken out on May 22, announced that the original partners, Dewees, Thatcher, and Brotherton, had dissolved their relationship because of "a slight misapprehension," and that the new proprietors of the town were Dewees and Wallace. The same day, Dewees sold an undivided half interest in the town, excluding certain lots, among them the few that had already been sold to others, to Wallace. The third advertisement moved the general sale up to July 2, provided a detailed description of the townsite, stated that the town contained sixteen buildings, one of which housed a school taught by Henry T. Arnold, and promised the imminent construction of a courthouse and a jail.13

The ads seem to have had little positive effect. Only two sales of lots in Columbus by the proprietors were recorded in July 1837, the month the general sale was to have occurred. In the preceding two months, when the ads ran in the newspaper, there were nine recorded sales by the proprietors. Sales remained fairly steady for the next year. A number of early purchasers, who no doubt purchased their lots as investments, conveyed them to others. On July 31, 1838, Dewees and Wallace divided their interest in the town, each taking sole ownership of about half of the many remaining lots. Two months later, they tried another newspaper advertisement. The new ad, taken out on August 24, 1838, proclaims that there were now between forty and fifty buildings in town, that the jail had been completed, that a courthouse was under construction, and that there was a school, taught by a "Revd. Mr. Harrison," in town. Again, judging by recorded purchases, sales did not take off.14

Rather than the growth that the hoped-for influx of people into Columbus would have brought, the county experienced a wrenching loss of population and territory on December 14, 1837, when Fayette County, with a county seat at La Grange, was created. The new county was given all of northwest Colorado County from just downriver of Burnam's Crossing to La Grange. The citizens of Colorado County, however, did not take such a huge loss of territory lying down. On May 10, 1838, they submitted a petition, signed by 34 men, to the congress. The petition stated that the loss of so much land and the people who lived on it had reduced the population of Colorado County to fewer than 100 "citizen male freehold inhabitants," thereby making it smaller than the constitutionally mandated size of new counties and making it impractical to raise a jury to conduct county business. The petition further stated that a similar petition had been drafted and sent to the congress before it had created Fayette County, but that, either accidentally or by the intervention of sinister agents, it had never reached the proper parties, and recommended either that the remainder of Colorado County be absorbed by the new Fayette County, or that all of the land that had been given to Fayette County, or the part of it up to and just beyond Burnam's Crossing, be returned to Colorado County. Their petition, however, was denied.15

The same day that the congress created Fayette County, it passed an act which, among other things, created boards of commissioners in every Texas county which were "authorized and required" to issue certificates of entitlement to tracts of land to people who demonstrated that they were entitled to such land by the constitution or other existing laws. The Colorado County Board of Land Commissioners met for the first time on January 18, 1838, and remained in session until January 25. At their first meeting, they granted 37 land certificates, all to settlers who demonstrated that they had resided in Texas before March 2, 1836. At their second meeting, which began just one week after the close of the first and lasted three days, the board granted twelve more certificates. Over the next two years, applicants came steadily, and the board steadily handed out certificates. The board granted its last certificate, for 640 acres to John Ryan, on November 15, 1839. Most of the certificates that had been granted by the board were unconditional, and thereby entitled their holders to immediate land grants. Many selected and patented land in other counties. Some, however, including William Bell, John Cheney, Richard Dowdy, Joseph Ehlinger, Joseph Hyland, the heirs of Roland Thompson, Willard Wadham, and George W. Wright, all of whom patented their lands in 1841, used their certificates to take title to vast quantities of land in Colorado County.16

The county court had been ordered by an act passed by the congress on December 20, 1836 to "procure" both a courthouse and a jail. By 1838, however, they did not yet have a jail. That year, four men, William B. Dewees, Stephen Townsend, Asa Townsend, and Colin De Bland, took it upon themselves to provide one. On April 16, they secured pledges from a number of local men for $355 to help pay for it. Five days later, Dewees, De Bland, and Stephen Townsend signed a contract to hire William Hudgeons and Stephen Hicks to build the jail at a cost of $875. Dewees, it seems, anxious to provide his new town with such a facility, initiated the contract and agreed to pay whatever could not be raised in the community. By August, Hudgeons, apparently without help from Hicks, had completed the jail. If it was built according to the terms of the contract, the building was a simple structure, sixteen by fourteen feet with an eight foot ceiling, one door, and three barred windows; the walls were of hewn logs, ten inches high and eight inches thick; and the door and window shutters were three inches thick and the floor was four. When it came time for Hudgeons to collect his money, however, Dewees balked. Hudgeons evidently was paid at least the $355, for when he filed suit, against Dewees individually, he asked for only $500. Dewees countered that not just he, but De Bland and Stephen Townsend also, had acted as representatives of the county when they signed the contract, and that the only money that the three men could reasonably be expected to spend on the public facility was that pledged by the public. The court did not agree. On April 26, 1841, they ordered Dewees to pay Hudgeons $350. Hudgeons, however, was not happy with the amount, and, three days later, asked for a new trial. He got it, and on November 30, 1841 was awarded $450. Dewees, citing jury misconduct, took the matter to the state supreme court, which, on March 1, 1847, nearly ten years after the dispute began, affirmed the district court's ruling against him.17

The lack of a proper jail undoubtedly contributed to what we now regard as a savage sentence that was handed down by Judge James W. Robinson, who had rotated to the circuit first ridden by Williamson. On May 17, 1838, Robinson presided over the trial of Wilson H. Bibbs. Bibbs, accused of theft, did not contest the charge, but threw himself on the mercy of the court. The court, however, had little mercy. Robinson sentenced him to thirty-nine lashes on his bare back, to be branded "in the Right hand with the letter T," and to pay the costs of the trial.18

Ironically, when the new jail did come into use, the first two prisoners were Dewees' brother-in-law, Leander Beeson, and Sheriff Townsend's brother, Spencer. Both men were locked up in July 1838, indicted for the murder of Naham Mixon. The incident occurred on December 12, 1837. At lunch that day with Dewees and Robert Brotherton, Beeson was upset because, he said, Naham Mixon had called his brother, Abel Beeson, a damned rascal. Spencer Townsend, too, was upset with Mixon because he had heard, evidently from Taylor Barns, that Mixon had called him a swindler. That afternoon, Beeson, Townsend, Barns, William B. Dean, and Moses Townsend, went to the home of Mixon's brother, Noel, which also served as a boarding house, a modest grocery store, and a saloon. There, they threatened Naham Mixon, who was present, in various ways, and Beeson offered to uphold his brother's honor by shooting it out with him at fifteen paces. When Mixon showed no interest, the men left. Less than an hour later, Beeson, Spencer Townsend, and Dean returned with three other men, Dewees, Francis Mayhar, and Henry T. Arnold. Several other men, including John B. Berry, were already there. Beeson renewed his verbal assault on Mixon, adding that he was a damned coward. Dewees, who was Beeson's brother-in-law, pulled off his coat and announced that he was man enough to subdue the man who slandered Abel Beeson. Townsend advanced on Mixon, who was sitting in a chair, threatened to beat him, and laid his hand on his shoulder. Mixon jumped up and demanded that Townsend keep his hands off him. Dean pulled a pistol, told Mixon that if he drew his own pistol he would blow his brains out, then roughly shoved him out of the building. Berry grabbed Dean and wrestled him to the floor. Townsend, pistol drawn, followed Mixon outside and fired a shot. Mixon may or may not have fired as well. The rest of the men rushed outside in time to see Mixon advancing on Townsend with his pistol aimed at him. When he got to point blank range, Townsend deflected his arm and swung his pistol at Mixon. Mixon's gun went off, and Leander Beeson, from his position in the crowd, shot him in the back. Mixon died five or six days later. A couple of days before he died, Dewees, Dean, and Spencer Townsend were ordered arrested. It was not until April 3, 1838 that Beeson's arrest was ordered. That summer, Townsend and Beeson were put in Dewees' new jail, guarded there, since one of them was the sheriff's brother, by a court-appointed officer named Wesley Hunt. Their trial opened on August 20. They were acquitted two days later. Dean, who had also been indicted, seems to have left the area and was never tried.19

James Wright, arrested for killing an Indian in Houston, was another early prisoner, and has the distinction of being involved in the first attempted jailbreak in the county. On August 16 and 17, 1838, John F. Smith and, apparently, John Lyle, plotted and attempted to implement Wright's escape. On August 22, Smith, who claimed that the entire idea was Lyle's and that he had never agreed to help, was convicted and sentenced to six months in jail and a $100 fine. Lyle, though indicted, was never tried. Curiously, Smith was sent off to Fayette County to serve his sentence, because, the court declared, there was no jail in Colorado County.20

Undoubtedly, this turn of events must have been perplexing to Smith, who after all had just been convicted of attempting to break someone out of the now officially nonexistent jail. Presumably, the jail that Hudgeons had built was, in effect, repossessed when Dewees and his partners refused to pay for it. Certainly the county got no use out of it, for just two years later, on October 13, 1840, with Hudgeons' suit dragging on, the county decided to build its own jail, and, for good measure, a courthouse. Since April 14, 1840, the county government had met and kept its records in a building they rented from Dewees, a building which, at least by 1841, also contained a pool hall. Neither the new courthouse nor the new jail, however, was built. The commissioners finally cancelled the courthouse contract on April 11, 1842. The same day, they rented two buildings on the east side of the courthouse square to use as offices and courtrooms, finally abandoning the pool hall, which must have been a temptation to even the most devoted officeholder.21

Commercial navigation of the Colorado River had been discussed since at least 1829. Efforts to navigate the river had been frustrated, however, by the presence of an imposing natural obstruction known as the "raft" a few miles from the coast. The raft was a collection of trees and other debris that had been swept down the river over the centuries by its periodic floods. On April 25, 1835, the State of Coahuila and Texas had given Benjamin Rush Milam the exclusive right to navigate the Colorado with steamboats for ten years, provided that he remove the raft and make the river navigable from the coast to Mina. Milam never completed the task. He spent much of the remainder of his soon-to-be-concluded life embroiled in revolutionary activities, activities which led to his death in San Antonio on December 7, 1835. Two years after Milam's death, certain that their economic prosperity would be assured by doing so, the settlers on the Colorado resolved to remove the raft. On December 14, 1837, the Congress of the Republic of Texas chartered the Colorado Navigation Company, charging it with making the river navigable for fifty miles from the coast, but stipulating that it must begin work within nine months and complete its task within four years. The charter and an amendment to it passed thirteen days later also allowed the company, after it had completed its project, to charge tolls, the amounts of which could only be set with approval of the government, and gave the government the right to purchase the company in the future.22

On February 1, 1838, in accordance with the provisions of its charter, and confident that their noble goals, and the value of the timber in the raft itself, would spur rapid and easy sales, the Colorado Navigation Company began selling stock. The sales were conducted at five locations: Matagorda, La Grange, Bastrop, Columbus, and the home of Eli Mercer. By March, all the stock had been sold, and a meeting to elect directors was scheduled for April 18 at Matagorda. About two weeks before the meeting, the first large boat in its history, the David Crockett, a keelboat, traversed the Colorado River from Bastrop to the head of the raft, making the trip in five days, stopping at the towns in between, including presumably at Columbus, and running only in the daytime. On April 20, the David Crockett departed for Bastrop and the intermediate settlements, laden with cargo.23

The Colorado Navigation Company made its first attempt to remove the raft in August 1838, just complying with the terms of its charter. Because the company's finances were uncertain, it could not find a contractor to take the job, and so tried to do it itself. The company's inability to complete the task quickly became evident, and it ceased its effort. Throughout the next few weeks, the company endured and attempted to suppress rumors that it had squandered its money building luxurious offices for its officers and a steam mill, and the notion, then coming to prominence, that its efforts would benefit only a small section of the country. On February 20, 1839, the company hired an engineer named W. Douglass Wallach to supervise the removal of the raft and to survey the river to determine what other steps might be needed to make it navigable. On March 9, the citizens of Matagorda held a public meeting to discuss the company's achievements and plans. At the meeting, the company announced that Wallach was even then preparing boats and machinery that could begin removing the raft, possibly within ten days, and inaugurated a new funding program. To assure potential contractors that the company would have enough money to pay them upon completion of the job, the company asked landowners to pledge to it parts of their estates, to be conveyed to the company and sold by it at auction within three months after the removal of the raft. In August 1839, William C. McKinstry traveled down the Colorado from Austin to its mouth, measuring distances and noting landmarks to create a guidebook for future boatmen on the river. McKinstry noted that most of the people living along the river had already given up hope that the Colorado would ever be made navigable by steamboats. Some had turned their attention to other possibilities. Earlier that summer, ten men had met in Richmond to discuss a proposal to construct a railroad from Houston to the Brazos River. The meeting, which was chaired by Willard Wadham, came down firmly against the railroad and on the side of making both the Brazos and Colorado Rivers navigable, the former as far as Richmond and the latter as far as Columbus, but suggested that, if any railroad were to be built, it be built from some place "high up" on the Colorado to the head of navigation on the Brazos. Despite the growing despair of the settlers, the Colorado Navigation Company secured many of the land pledges it requested, however it remained undersubscribed, and shortly failed. Its charter duly expired in December 1841.24

In the months following the first voyage of the David Crockett and the initial efforts of the Colorado Navigation Company to remove the raft, which gave them hope of getting their surplus crops to market, the farmers along the river in Colorado County, and in Fayette and Bastrop Counties, greatly expanded their fields. Prosperity seemed assured, and morale was high. However, Indians remained a problem. The country's new president, Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar, spent much of 1839 bullying the Cherokees and the several smaller tribes with which they were associated in an attempt to chase them out of Texas. These Indians, all of whom lived northeast of Colorado County, had been blamed by the settlers for the thefts of a number of horses in the county in the latter part of 1838 and the early part of 1839. The growing number of thefts had led the settlers to be wary, and, in the spring of 1839, when members of one of the associated tribes came to within a half mile of Columbus on a raid, they were detected. Several men and boys who worked at a brickyard near town had taken the precaution of staking their horses and posting guards. When two Indians attempted to steal the horses, one of the sentries spotted them and raised the alarm. For his vigilance, he was rewarded with an arrow through his hand, fired by one of the two Indians as they left to join their companions. The entire raiding party fled up the river about six miles, crossed over, and stole a number of horses from a settler there. Eleven men from Columbus and the surrounding area quickly pursued them. In hilly terrain, two of the men, William B. Dewees and Colin De Bland, who had been sent a few yards ahead of the main body, came upon two Indians, who had been left behind as a rear guard, and advanced to within a few steps of them before they were noticed. As the Indians bolted, Dewees attempted to shoot, but his gun misfired. The Indians turned to fight, only to find that the other nine colonists had arrived. One of the two Indians was killed; the other escaped to warn his companions. The settlers pursued them for another fifteen miles, then gave up. Not long afterward, the Indians returned to Colorado County, seeking, the settlers thought, revenge. About one and a half miles from Columbus, they came upon two men, one white and one black, building a cabin, and killed them both. A man working in a field nearby heard the gunfire, thought it peculiar, and casually mentioned it in town later that day. Three men went to investigate, found the mutilated bodies, returned to town, picked up six other men, and went after the raiders, alas without success. It was the last time Indians would raid Columbus.25

Certainly, such sporadic Indian activity had little to do with the slow growth of Columbus, but the town's growth was slow nonetheless. In September 1839, John Leonard Riddell, who was traveling through the republic, described Columbus as a town of "fifteen or twenty small houses," among them two "houses of entertainment." The few structures in town were apparently not very substantial. It was not until the month after Riddell's visit, more than three years after it had been named county seat, that Columbus got its first post office. In the first month of 1840, Dewees and Wallace made another concerted attempt to bring new families, or at least new land owners, into their town, securing the services of an auction house to sell "100 of the most valuable Lots" in town. The newspaper advertisements which brought the auction to public attention, almost certainly engaging in hyperbole, state that the town contained about "sixty respectable buildings, a large hotel, and about 500 inhabitants." The auction was initially scheduled for January 15, 1840, moved to January 16, extended to January 20 and 21, then postponed until January 23. The auction apparently attracted only two buyers, John Daly and John Koop, who between them on January 23, bought six lots in town. Neither is known to have become a resident of the city. By May, however, the city had evidently prospered enough that a man named Thomas Wilson felt it could support a newspaper. That month, he announced that he intended to begin publishing the Columbus Herald the following July. No issues, however, are known to have been published.26

Though they were slow, sales of lots in Columbus remained fairly steady. However, the proprietors' profits were consumed by a relentless inflation which reduced the value of the cash they had collected by perhaps as much as 90%. In the early 1840s, cash became scarce. Citizens reverted to the barter system. As early as February 17, 1840, a man named Robert Whitfield bought 140 acres of land in Colorado County, agreeing to pay either $175 for it, or to deliver a specified variety of farm implements and other hardware. William Bollaert, who traveled through Columbus in August 1843, noted that the town's merchants operated on the barter system, trading, as he said "cotton for sugar and coffee, and bacon for boots—corn for calomel quinine and whiskey—beef for brandy, etc."27

Between 1840 and 1845, Columbus continued to grow very slowly. Ellen McKinney Arnold remembered that, when she passed through town as a young girl in 1844, "there were only five or six houses there." An 1845 emigrant guide reports that Columbus had 150 inhabitants. Ferdinand Roemer, who arrived in Columbus on January 22, 1846, described the place as a town of eighteen or twenty frame houses with three stores, two saloons, and a blacksmith shop. Another German, Alwin Sörgel, who was in town three months later, said that it contained thirty to forty houses, including, presumably, commercial buildings.28

Even as Columbus got a post office, Egypt, which had maintained its own post office, secured another advantage over Columbus when, in the summer of 1839, Andrew J. Northington established a stage coach line that ran between Egypt and Houston. Meanwhile, in the outlying areas of the county, other settlements had begun to develop. By 1840, enough people had taken up residence along the Navidad and Lavaca Rivers in far southeastern Colorado County that they were given a post office. The Ives Post Office, with a postmaster named David Ives, was established on the Lavaca River on May 14, 1840. Ives' prominence in the community would shortly be superseded by that of Margaret Hallett, who is usually said to have established the community. Another Colorado County post office, called Kessler's Bluff, was commissioned on February 26, 1842. Near Skull Creek, several miles south and slightly east of Columbus, it was manned by a German postmaster named Charles Kessler.29

Unlike Kessler however, the great majority of the Germans who settled in the county settled in a rapidly growing community well north of Columbus. Isolated by language and culture, the German community had quickly developed its own identity. In 1837 and 1838, Peter Pieper sold sizable farms to Jacob Wolters, William Frels, and Johann Grunder. Though it did not deter him from selling land to Grunder, by the summer of 1838, Pieper, as well as Bernard Beimer and Friedrich Adolph Zimmerscheidt, had become aware that the titles to the leagues which they called their own were not recognized by the state. The constitution had specifically endorsed a decree of the Consultation of 1835 that effectively invalidated titles to land secured after November 13, 1835 and before the establishment of the General Land Office of the Republic of Texas. Probably, Pieper was informed by Wolters that his title was no good. Wolters had received a certificate for a league on February 4, 1836, six days before Pieper had received his title. Wolters, Pieper, and Beimer had appeared before the board of land commissioners on February 17, 1838 to apply for a labor to supplement their already-granted leagues. Probably shortly thereafter, Wolters attempted to execute the certificate for a league he had received in 1836 and was told that it had been declared invalid by the constitution. On March 16, 1838, he and Beimer were back before the board to reapply for a league of land, for which, if nothing else, the constitution made them eligible. Pieper waited until August 2, 1838, the day after he sold 200 acres to Grunder, when he, Zimmerscheidt, and Casper Simon each received certificates, the latter two for a league and a labor. Shortly thereafter, Pieper's tangled personal life took another turn which would eventually allow him to virtually double the amount of land he controlled. Elizabeth Kötter had come to Texas in 1835 in search of the father of her illegitimate daughter, to whom she expected to be married. The father, who was apparently Bernard Beimer's brother Johann Heinrich Beimer, had come to Texas, suddenly and secretly, in 1833, and by the time Kötter had followed him with their then three-year old daughter, he had died. Stranded and without support, she found herself another husband, marrying Simon on July 7, 1837. Once again, however, her luck was bad. Within a month of securing his land certificate, Simon died. Almost immediately, Pieper stepped into the breach, marrying the new widow on September 11, 1838, and taking into his family both her daughter, and the horse, four cows, and land certificate that Simon had left her.30

Pieper finally secured proper title to his league, and, while he was at it, to an adjacent labor, on June 11, 1841. There followed a bevy of sales to Germans: the labor and 180 other acres to Frels, 280 acres to Wolters, 128 to Bernard Schneider, 100 to Georg Dampkin, 200 to Renke Stoeltje, and 250 to Carl Gieseke, all by Pieper; plus 100 acres to Edward Ruhmann by Gieseke and 60 acres to Detlef Thomas Friedrich Jordt by Wolters, all before the end of the year. The same year, another German, Bernard Beimer had taken title to a labor immediately to Pieper's north. Meanwhile, Zimmerscheidt had to struggle to acquire his land. In 1838, concerned about several people who had entered claims to the league which he claimed as his own, he had hired John G. Welchmeyer to secure the title, pledging to pay him with 500 acres after the title was delivered. Welchmeyer, however, died before he could fulfill his part of the bargain. In September 1841, Zimmerscheidt turned to a local attorney, Asa M. Lewis, and sued the republic for his title. On December 3, the district court ruled that he should indeed be given title. Shortly, he too would begin selling land to German-speaking settlers. In 1842, he and Pieper found buyers in Fred Ed Mueller and Caspar Heimann.31

By the 1840s, the German settlers had begun to refer to their community, or to segments within it, by, apparently, a variety of names. The earliest, found in an 1840 conveyance of property, was Westmünster. Another contemporaneous name, apparently used as early as 1841, was Blumenthal. However, the most common name, and the one that was used to designate the post office that went in on January 24, 1842, was also the name of the principal waterway through the settlement, Cummins Creek.32

In September 1842, a number of the German settlers signed a petition to the congress decrying the lack of educational opportunities for their children and imploring them to provide a charter for an institution of higher learning to be named Hermann University. The congress honored their request, though not until January 27, 1844. The new university, which was to be located near either Mill Creek or Cummins Creek, was to have teachers who were conversant in both German and English, and was to embrace four disciplines: theology, law, medicine, and philosophy. The charter set up a board of trustees and empowered them to create other, preparatory schools. To help finance the institution, the board was given authority to collect subscriptions of either fifty dollars or fifty acres, and the university was given the right to locate a league of land. The charter also demanded that no student or employee be excluded on the basis of his religion, and that the theological faculty not be affiliated with any particular denomination, though it was suggested they be Protestant.33

That the charter mentioned religion at all is somewhat remarkable, for it was not until the late 1840s that organized religion got a firm foothold in the county. It must be assumed that prior to that, like the great majority of the citizens of the United States at the time, most of the citizens of Colorado County were completely unconcerned with religion, and that most of them had never set foot in a church. Probably, the first minister who had any success in the county was Martin Ruter, who conducted services at the home of William Jones Elliott Heard in Egypt on December 9 and 10, 1837. On the 10th, he actually conducted two services, the first for whites and the second for slaves, of whom twelve attended. Egypt, which after the revolution was augmented by the arrival of William Menefee, who was Heard's uncle, and Dr. John Sutherland, who had achieved some fame for his role at the Alamo, and whose brother was married to Menefee's sister, was, at the time, the most hospitable place in Colorado County for non-German-speaking promoters of religion. The people of Egypt (one hesitates to call them "Egyptians") were apparently led to their religious orientation by Ann Nancy Thompson Mercer, a staunch Baptist and the wife of Eli Mercer. Ruter, after his initial success, returned to Egypt in March 1838. Though he died two months later, the people of Egypt continued to practice their religion. Over the next four or five years, four weddings, featuring various Heards, Menefees, Mercers, and Sutherlands as the bride or the groom, were conducted by ministers. However, the great majority of the marriages in the county until at least 1850 were performed by civil officials. The few preachers who attempted to instill religious fervor in the locals outside Egypt, like the Cumberland Presbyterian Fenis Ewing Foster, found infertile soil for their seeds. William B. Dewees remarked that most of the people treated Sunday like every other day, and that he had been in Texas for fifteen years before he heard a sermon.34

Advocates of religion found it difficult to build a congregation even among the one segment of the population which did have a religious tradition, the Germans who lived in the north part of the county. Louis Cachand Ervendberg, who styled himself an unaffiliated Protestant minister, arrived in the area in 1840, performing his first religious service, a baptism, on February 21, 1841. Ervendberg, who had failed to make a living as a minister in Houston, found the waters in Colorado County little better. He was never able to build a church and probably did not hold regular services. In his nearly four years in the area, he baptized 42 children, performed seven marriages and four funerals, and, one day shortly after he arrived, confirmed four people. This level of activity could not sustain him, especially since he had a particularly keen interest in money, and he leaped at the offer of the Verein zum Schutz deutscher Einwanderer in Texas (also known as the Adelsverein) to minister to the colony they hoped to establish in the state. His last activity before going off to Comal County, a series of baptisms, came on November 18, 1844.35

Though the Protestants, with Ervendberg in the lead, had trouble building a congregation among the Germans, the Catholics had better luck. When the priest and future bishop Jean Marie Odin passed through the area in April 1841, though he did baptize one child, the son of Joseph Ehlinger, there was certainly not even a semblance of a congregation then present. More than two years later, in November 1843, the German-speaking priest Jean Pierre Ogé, baptized several more Colorado County area Germans. However, by May 1844, enough Catholics were in the area that they had begun building a church. Apparently a crude structure near Cummins Creek, this first church in Colorado County was named after St. John the Baptist.36

On January 19, 1841, the legislature passed an act which created a new county, Ward County, out of lands that had until then been part of Colorado and Matagorda Counties and which included the community of Egypt. After, on February 4, 1841, they scheduled district court sessions for it, the new county differed from the two counties from which it was created in only one regard: the residents of Ward County remained in the same congressional districts they had been in before Ward County was created. The legislature appointed Virgil A. Stewart as the county's first chief justice, and Stewart set about organizing elections. On February 24, 1841, a district clerk, county clerk, county surveyor, six justices of the peace, and two constables were elected, and a county seat, at the proposed town of Fulton, was approved. Two candidates for sheriff tied, forcing a runoff. The winner of the runoff refused to accept the job, so a third election was held, on May 15, 1841, and Robert H. Kuykendall, the son of the former militia captain, was elected.37

Kuykendall's election as sheriff gave him a second reason to celebrate the creation of Ward County. The first came when the location of the county seat was decided upon, for Fulton was to be on property he had inherited from his father on the east side of the Colorado River. To ensure that the citizens of Ward County would select the site, he had promised certain concessions to the county. On June 11, 1841, he hired Stewart, who in addition to being chief justice was a surveyor, to lay off the town. In return for his work as surveyor, for assistance in writing title bonds, and for some cash, Stewart was to receive two full blocks and one other lot in Fulton. In September, Kuykendall made good on the promises he had made, signing over ten blocks in the town to three trustees, James S. Montgomery, John C. Clark, and William J. E. Heard, to be sold to raise money to build a courthouse and jail. He also designated a block that was 333.3 square feet as a community market place, another of the same size for a courthouse square, and, quite remarkably, reserved blocks that were half as big for each of the Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches.38

The very existence of Ward County, however, soon came under attack. One of the trustees, Montgomery, and one of the men who had been elected justice of the peace, Benjamin Franklin Stockton, initiated a lawsuit, on what grounds it is unknown, that challenged the constitutionality of the law which created it. The legislature, apparently in response to the lawsuit, passed a joint resolution on December 10, 1841 which declared the elections that had been held in Ward County legal and valid "as if no doubt had ever existed as to the legality of the same." However, on January 19, 1842, the supreme court took up the case. Montgomery apparently filed the suit, claiming that since he had to vote in local elections in Ward County, yet with the residents of Colorado County in congressional elections, he was in one way or another restrained from voting with his peers. The court agreed with him. Noting that the constitution stated that "each county shall be entitled to at least one representative" in congress, on February 4, 1842, they declared Ward County unconstitutional, at the same time upholding all legal matters and business conducted in and by the county. Egypt, and the rest of the lost territory, which included the incipient Fulton, reverted to Colorado County. There were still to be a few sales of lots in Fulton, but, with its county stripped away from it, it apparently never developed beyond a planning stage.39

By the time the lawsuit was heard by the supreme court, the relationship between Montgomery and Stockton, who had married sisters and whose plantations were adjacent to each other, had deteriorated from close kinship to hostility. The Montgomerys would later say that the hostility stemmed from a clumsy attempt by Stockton, whose wife had died, to enlist a young widow as his mistress. In the spring of 1841, within a week of her husband's death, the relevant widow had received a letter from Stockton which offered her a home and, apparently, quite explicitly stated what she was expected to provide in return. By no means wealthy and with no means of support, she had turned to Montgomery for assistance, and he had agreed to house her. According to his son and son-in-law, Montgomery's hospitality had thwarted Stockton's plans, and thereafter Stockton bore a grudge. That summer, on July 3, Stockton had encountered Montgomery's son, Samuel Stephen, and accused him of consorting with one of his female slaves. Sam Montgomery angrily denied the charge, and was dismayed the following March or April, when he returned from serving in the army, to find that Stockton had spread the story around. He immediately resolved to confront Stockton about it. Knowing that Stockton was on his way to attend an auction, Montgomery decided to follow him. John Hodges, who had recently been hired by Montgomery's father to work on the plantation, and George Washington Thatcher, who had married Montgomery's sister, went with him. They intended to cross the river near the home of Montgomery's uncle, Thomas H. Duggan, however, when they reached the river, it was too deep to ford. They tied their horses to trees, went across in a canoe, and dined with Duggan. At Thatcher's suggestion, they abandoned their attempt to find Stockton, and the next day they again crossed the river, retrieved their horses, and returned to their homes.40

Stockton quickly heard about this innocuous expedition, though by the time it came to him, it had been transmogrified into something quite sinister. The way he heard it, Montgomery had set out with two of his army buddies to ambush and kill him. Aggrieved, and determined to press matters to a confrontation on his own terms, he began visiting the Montgomery plantation armed with his shotgun and asking the slaves questions about Sam Montgomery, apparently in an attempt to confront him alone. On the morning of April 20, 1842, Montgomery, because he was ill, asked Hodges to supervise the slaves. In the field, Hodges saw Stockton, carrying his shotgun, talking to the slaves. As he approached, Stockton turned and walked toward his plantation. When he got to the fence, he turned, recognized Hodges, with whom he had become friendly, and waited for him to join him. Leaning on the fence together, Stockton told Hodges that he had heard that Montgomery and two of his army buddies were out to kill him, and Hodges, quite surprised, confessed that he had been one of the two men with Montgomery, and that there was no such plot.41

Meanwhile, Thatcher had come to visit Montgomery, and together, the two, both armed with shotguns, had wandered out to the fields to see how work was progressing. As they approached the fence, Stockton grew apprehensive. Hodges encouraged him to wait, then jumped off the fence and walked up to meet Thatcher and Montgomery. He persuaded Montgomery to discuss his differences with Stockton. As Montgomery and Stockton sat on the rail fence, ironing out their dispute, Thatcher stood some twenty yards away. Stockton's shotgun was leaning against the fence, but both Montgomery and Thatcher were holding theirs. When Stockton related what he had heard about Montgomery's two friends, Thatcher inserted himself into the conversation. He and Stockton exchanged a few angry words, with Stockton finally calling Thatcher a liar. What happened next is not precisely clear. Probably Thatcher raised his shotgun. Stockton certainly swung his right leg over the fence, evidently intending to get his own shotgun. Thatcher fired, grievously wounding Stockton in the left leg. Stockton fell to the ground, snatched up his gun, aimed at Thatcher, and pulled the trigger. The gun, however, failed to fire. Almost simultaneously, Thatcher unleashed his second barrel. This time, however, Stockton was protected by the fence, and if he sustained any wound at all, it was an insignificant one to his hand. Montgomery leveled his gun at Stockton, who was, for him, an easy target, but seeing that Stockton had given up, did not fire. Stockton's leg had been shattered. He asked Hodges and Montgomery to carry him home. Hodges hoisted him on his back while Montgomery ordered one of his slaves to help. The slave picked up the shotgun and followed Hodges to Stockton's home. Five days later, Stockton died. On his deathbed, he had reconciled with Montgomery, though he vowed vengeance on Thatcher. On June 10, 1842, Thatcher voluntarily surrendered to the authorities. He was not tried until nearly two years later. Then, on March 6, 1844, he was acquitted.42

Stockton's murder, involving as it did, men of wealth and position, certainly drew the rapt attention of the public, but it was far from unique. In the years since the murder of Naham Mixon, several other murders and assaults had come to trial in Colorado County, many involving prominent citizens. On September 10, 1838, Colin De Bland and William B. Dewees had an altercation at John Toliver's home in Columbus. Each man attacked the other with fists, then with chairs. De Bland drew a pistol, but did not use it. On October 1, 1839, in separate incidents, the apparently excitable De Bland fired a shot at James H. L. Brashear and Isam Tooke beat up Robert H. Tobin. A month later, Tooke inflicted a similar beating on John Swartz. And, on November 10, 1839, Mason B. Foley shot Jasper Sargent in the head, killing him, apparently instantly. By 1841, even the Germans had gotten involved in the violence. That October, Bernard Beimer was accused of beating up a man identified as Otto Hentios, and Carl Gieseke accused of hitting Heinrich Krey over the head with a large stick. Such unfortunate incidents certainly were as emblematic of the civilization that was encroaching on the county as the establishment of any government, school, or church. As they ran off the Indians and began taming the wilderness, the settlers found new enemies in each other. Their conflicts among themselves increased both in number and intensity.43

In February 1843, however, when the Colorado River again overflowed its banks, the wilderness reminded them that it had not been fully tamed. The flood killed some livestock, but apparently inflicted little damage to crops. The settlers had grown accustomed to the river's wildly varying levels, and accepted with only the mildest complaints its floods, which after all, seemed to come regularly, and only once every decade. However, they were not satisfied with the river's state as a transportation facility. Despite the failure of the Colorado Navigation Company, some of the citizens along the river remained keenly interested in opening it to commercial navigation. On June 1, 1842, men from the several counties along the river had met in Columbus and determined to raise $30,000, an amount that was far less than that the Colorado Navigation Company had raised, but which nonetheless they felt would be sufficient to remove the raft. By the summer of 1843, ten flatboats which had been recently built in or near Bastrop, were carrying freight, including cotton, hides, pecans, and lumber, between Bastrop and the raft. In addition, a keelboat continued to ply the waters of the Colorado between La Grange and the raft, aided in its journey upriver by sails. Certainly the flatboats and probably the keelboat stopped at Columbus and other points along the river to take on cargo. At the raft, the boats unloaded their cargo, which was then hauled overland to Matagorda for export. This system, however, apparently did not provide the growing number of farmers along the river with the transportation system they needed to prosper economically. Accordingly, probably in 1843, they drafted a charter for a second Colorado Navigation Company and submitted it, with a petition that it be adopted signed by 201 citizens, to the congress. On January 18, 1844, the congress complied. The new Colorado Navigation Company was charged with removing the raft within five years, and was allowed, after removing the raft, to charge tolls on all vessels, except government vessels, that traveled on the portion of the river that formerly had been obstructed by the raft. The charter also gave the company power to use, if necessary to seize for an arbitrated consideration, dirt and timber from landowners along the river, and the authority to set its own tolls for five years. The government reserved the right to buy out the company at any time over the following thirty years.44

The cause of navigation, however, suffered a severe blow in the spring of 1844, when rising water wrecked both a keelboat named the Edward Burleson and one of the flatboats. On April 20, the Edward Burleson, proceeding upriver, had gotten near Columbus when the water started to surge. Her captain had her lashed to a tree on the bank, but the cable did not hold, and she was swept downriver and broken apart. All her cargo, merchandise bound for stores in La Grange and Bastrop, was lost. The flatboat, which had been headed downriver, was wrecked in a similar manner the following day. Most of her cargo, a considerable amount of cotton, hides, and furniture from a plantation near Bastrop, was also lost. The twin disasters convinced many planters that their crops would be more safely transported to markets overland, even though the roads were poor.45

Poor as the roads were, by 1845, the county had developed the overland transportation infrastructure that would serve it for decades. When it was formed, the county had inherited two existing roads: a road running from what became Columbus to Gonzales, which was on the south side of the river, branching away from it and remaining within the bounds of Colorado County until it crossed the Lavaca River; and a road from Columbus through Egypt towards Matagorda, which crossed the Colorado on the east side of town and ran at a short distance from but roughly parallel to the river. By 1840, the county had added a road to La Grange, which crossed the Colorado on the north side of Columbus, and another road to Matagorda, this one running on the west side of the Colorado. That year, a road from Columbus to San Felipe was laid out. By 1845, many other internal roads, including a long road from Kessler's Bluff, which was on the western Matagorda road, to Margaret Hallett's settlement on the Lavaca River, which had become known as Hidesville, and roads that crossed the county to connect towns outside its bounds, including, for instance, a road from La Grange to Texana, had been constructed. Fully in keeping with the laws and customs of the time, all the roads were maintained by nearby citizens and slaves impressed by the county to do so, which perhaps accounted for their poor condition.46

The county's roads connected six major ferries on the Colorado River. The northernmost ferry, about one-fourth of a mile upriver from the mouth of Harvey's Creek, had been started by John Suggs in 1843. There were three ferries at Columbus, two on the north side and the other on the east side of town. The east ferry at Columbus had been started by William B. Dewees even before the town was established, and had been the reason the site was known as Dewees' Crossing. When Joseph Worthington Elliott Wallace became Dewees' partner in the town of Columbus, he had also assumed a partnership in the ferry. They sold the ferry to Stephen Townsend for a considerable sum of money on August 5, 1839. In 1845, it was operated by John M. Shannon, who had purchased it on July 29, 1843. The older ferry on the north side of Columbus, which was known as the upper ferry, had been started in 1838 by Dewees. In 1842, however, Armstead Carter, who had a ranch on the north side of the river near the ferry site, took it over, moving it about 100 yards, apparently so that the north landing could be on his ranch. In 1843, the county allowed a third ferry at Columbus, this one also on the north side. It was operated by William R. "Big" Turner. Well south of Columbus, but perhaps not quite halfway between Columbus and Egypt, was a ferry that was most often called Silvey's Ferry. Initiated by Charles Mason in 1840, it had been taken over by James E. Silvey in 1843. The southernmost ferry was at Egypt. It had been in existence, and licensed to John Sutherland, since at least 1843.47

In late 1844, the possibility that Texas would soon be annexed to the United States caused, naturally, great debate within Colorado County. The February 1845 offer by the United States to annex Texas fanned the debate. Texas President Anson Jones called for both a special meeting of the congress and a convention of delegates from around the state, each to be held in the summer of 1845. On April 19, 1845, the citizens of Colorado County met at Columbus to discuss the question. Though Mexico, prompted by the British, had offered to recognize Texas' independence if it declined to join the United States, support for annexation was strong. Fifteen men drafted four resolutions, all of which were subsequently adopted by the full assembly, that favored annexation and the drafting of a new constitution, that pledged that Colorado County would elect and dispatch delegates to the Annexation Convention, and that set up a five-man corresponding committee to see to the details of the election and other matters. George William Brown, who served on both committees, was elected to represent the county at the convention on June 4, 1845. Brown was something of an odd choice. He was young, 27 when he went to the convention, and unmarried. He was a practicing attorney, though the earliest discovered record of his practice in Colorado County dates from little more than a year earlier, November 1843. He apparently came to Texas in 1839. His seemingly promising career was destined to be cut short. He attended the sessions of the convention faithfully from the day they opened, July 4, 1845, until the day they closed, August 28, signed the proposed constitution that the convention had drafted, then returned to Colorado County where, less than two months later, on October 18, 1845, he married Elizabeth C. Hinch. In July 1847, obviously quite ill though not yet thirty years old, he wrote his will, leaving everything to his wife. When he died, sometime between January 12 and March 28, 1848, she, not yet twenty herself, inherited the considerable land and other property he had acquired. Brown was buried in his back yard.48

On October 13, 1845, the citizens of Colorado County voted, 168 to 0, in favor of annexation, and met in Columbus to discuss and express a preference for a nominee for governor. The assembly appointed a nine-man committee to return with a recommendation. Brown, who served on the committee, was no doubt instrumental in securing the recommendation for his fellow delegate to the Annexation Convention, James Pinckney Henderson. Two months later, on December 15, 1845, Henderson, in his successful race to become the first governor of the State of Texas, carried Colorado County, with 218 votes to James B. Miller's 25. The first state legislature, with Colorado County's John F. Miller in the senate and Samuel Joseph Redgate and William B. Perry in the house of representatives, went into session on February 16, 1846. Before it adjourned in March, it was to have a powerful effect on Colorado County.49

Continue with Part 4