Green De Witt
Born in Kentucky, Green DeWitt was a prominent early Texas settler who in 1825 established a colony on the Guadalupe River adjacent to Stephen F. Austin's colony. DeWitt collaborated with other notable Texans such as Byrd Lockhart, James Kerr and José Antonio Navarro, as well as garnering financial support from his wife, Sara Seely DeWitt. Ultimately, however, the colony was unsuccessful and DeWitt's contract was not renewed in 1831. Continuing to pursue land interests, DeWitt travelled to Monclova in 1835, but he contracted a fatal illness and died on May 18.
When and Why?
- In 1821 he was inspired by Moses Austin's widely circulated success in obtaining a grant from the Spanish government to establish a colony in Texas. As early as 1822 he petitioned the Mexican authorities for his own empresario contract, but was unsuccessful. Having seen Texas and visited Austin, DeWitt journeyed in March 1825 to Saltillo, the capital of the Mexican state of Coahuila and Texas, where he petitioned the state government for a land grant. Aided by Austin and the Baron de Bastrop, he was awarded an empresario grant on April 15, 1825, to settle 400 Anglo-Americans on the Guadalupe River and was authorized to establish a colony adjacent to Stephen F. Austin's subject to the Colonization Law of 1824
Green DeWitt's Timeline
Green Dewitt's Timeline
February 12, 1787
Lincoln, KY, USA
December 15, 1808
St Louis, MO, USA
September 17, 1809
St Louis, MO, USA
May 18, 1835
Monclova, COAH, Mexico
- Because the Mexican government had not specified a boundary between DeWitt's grant and the earlier grant made to Martín De León further south on the Guadalupe River, the two empresarios had numerous disputes involving boundaries and contraband trade, resulting in irreparable damage to their relationship.
- Despite his apparent success in establishing the colony, he was unable to fulfill his contract by the time it expired on April 15, 1831, and he failed to get it renewed. He spent his last years engaging in some limited commercial investments and improving his own land on the right bank of the Guadalupe River across from the Gonzales townsite, premium land given him as empresario. For the most part, however, his colony proved neither materially nor financially rewarding for him. He had apparently invested all his family's resources in his struggling colony, and as early as 1828 its problems compelled one visitor, though impressed with the empresario, to note that "dissipation [and] neglectful indolence have destroyed his energies." Indeed, DeWitt endorsed his wife's petition in December 1830 to the ayuntamiento of San Felipe de Austin asking for a special grant of a league of land in her maiden name "to protect herself and family from poverty to which they are exposed by the misfortunes of her husband." The Mexican government complied in April 1831. DeWitt colonists in general suffered similarly. Smithwick related that "money was as scarce as bread," and pelts were used as barter. DeWitt did issue, however, what was essentially land scrip in denominations of five, ten, and twenty dollars, for his colonists to buy their lands; the handwritten currency was transferable and generally passed as a medium of exchange. Green DeWitt money is one of the earliest examples of Texas paper currency.
- In an attempt to improve his economic position and to secure premium land for settling eighty families, DeWitt journeyed in 1835 to Monclova, where he hoped to buy unlocated eleven-league grants from the governor, who was attempting to raise money for defense through land sales. But he failed to acquire any land. While in Monclova DeWitt contracted a fatal illness, probably cholera. He died on May 18, 1835, and was buried there in an unmarked grave.
Success or failure?
The Unpublished Journals of Ann Legare Bellinger, wife of Edmund Bellinger, circuit judge during the early days of the Republic of Texas and later appointed bySam Houston as Chief Justice. The Bellinger family moved to the Green DeWitt Colony in 1837, and built their home at Prairie Lea.
This collection takes us back in a very personal way to the early days on the frontier. The journals tell how life was, from the every day reports of weather, births and deaths to first-hand descriptions of historic events such as the 1840 Battle of Plum Creek between DeWitt Colony settlers and Comanche Indians.