GIVE AND TAKE
In the early days of the Spanish claim, it would have been relatively easy for any number of people to enter Texas, unseen by Spanish eyes. For the most part the Spanish initially stayed south, close to Mexico City and away from the coast, home of the cannibalistic and ferocious Karankawa Indians.
After the military expeditions to locate them, the Spanish reaction to the intrusions of the English and French was to establish missions in Texas (see map). The intent was to cultivate the Indians into allies who would serve to warn of any encroachments and provide a buffer providing time to organize a military response. Most of the missions were protected by a fort called a presidio. To make a point to the French, the Spanish built a mission, in Spanish territory, just miles east of Natchitoches. The mission was called San Miguel de Linares de los Adaes and was built in 1716. A few years later in 1721, the mission and the village that developed around it, known as Los Adaes, was declared the capitol of Texas and a presidio was built. The presidio was called Presidio Nuestra del Pilar
Click on the button for more maps of Spanish missions in Texas >
The interaction of the Spanish missions with royal, civilian and military authority and administration is shown by the chart below using the Franciscan order as an example.
The Mission Nuestra Señora de la Luz, and the Presidio San Augustin de Ahumada on the Trinity River were both built on former French trading sites. Some of the missions were supported by a rancho or ranch which provided livestock to provide food for the inhabitants of the mission and presidio. There were also granaries and small mills sometimes built in the missions. In 1757, the Spanish opened the Los Almagres silver mine in the vicinity of the San Saba mission. They were told of the cave with the strange vein by Lipan Indians. The mission, presidio and the settlements that began to emerge around these missions were islands in a vast land sea between Mexico City and the French in Louisiana.
For defensive reasons the Spanish periodically pulled back from east Texas several times between 1720 and 1790, to either Béxar or farther south during the continued wars with France, England, and Indians. This left the area open to French influence and adventurers. Even when the missions and forts, were manned, a great deal of trade still took place between Spanish and French settlements.
Such trade was considered illegal by Mexico City. Mexico City was a long way south and there were not that many people in an official capacity in east Texas at the time. Of the few that were, some took part in the trading, or feigned ignorance about it. Needed supplies were only days away from the French, rather than weeks from the official Spanish supply houses in Mexico City. Cooperation went beyond supplies. There were intermarriages between the Spanish at Los Adaes and the French at Natchitoches. The Spanish priests of Los Adaes regularly performed marriages at Natchitoches. There was a precedence for this cooperation.
When the Bourbon King Phillp V ascended to the Spanish throne, there was a softening of relations with France and its King, Louis XIV, his grandfather and later Louis V, his uncle . Many things were acquiesced to including interaction between outposts in America particularly between the French in Mobile and Biloxi with the Spanish in Pensacola. St. Denis had personally witnessed this cooperation and brought it with him to form the Natchitoches/Los Adaes dynamic which continued after his death in 1744 and went beyond the two settlements.
Unable to live with his Spanish wife in Nuevo Espana or Tejas as a Spanish citizen developing trade between the colonies of Spain and France as he attempted to do in 1716, he moved back to Natchitoches and became the Commander at Fort St. Jean Baptiste in 1722. St. Denis and his wife promoted contact between the religious, military and merchant communities of both.
Victoria Gonzales, the daughter of the long time commander at Los Adaes, José Gonzales, married a French soldier from the fort at Natchitoches. The commander of the presidio at Los Adaes in 1737, Firmin de Ybircú, was court-martialed for undue intimacy with French women at Natchitoches and because he "kept" French women at Los Adaes.
The neighbors were hospitable to one another. In 1731, when the new Spanish Governor of Texas, Juan Antonio de Bustillo y Zevallos, arrived at Los Adaes, French officers from the French fort at Natchitoches were there to greet him and pay their respects.
These neighbors occasionally went to one another's aid during infrequent attacks by Indians from outside the area. Bustillo was able to return the compliment to the French officers when not long after his arrival at Los Adaes, Natchez Indians attacked the French fort. The French commander, who had a Spanish wife from Los Adaes, sent a runner requesting assistance from the Spanish fort. A Spanish contingent rushed to help. For twenty two days they continued to assist in the defense of the French fort. One Spanish soldier died in the combined successful defense of the French fort. Later when the Spanish closed the Los Adaes post, the special relationship was extended to the residents of Nacogdoches which was founded by Adaesaños.
The relationship between these two towns was of such a nature that there evolved a story about their names. The story goes that they were named after two Caddo Indian brothers that were sons of the chief. The chief called them together one day when they were grown and told them the time had come for them to leave his camp on the Sabine River. Each was to travel from the camp in opposite directions, one east and one west, to find a suitable place to found a camp of their own. The two brothers did just that and the two camps they founded, each about two days from the Sabine River became the towns of Nacogdoches and Natchitoches, named after the brothers. Another explanation is that the two names are the Spanish and French translations of the same Caddoan name. An old joke is they are named after the same Indian by a man who stuttered and sneezed.
WHITE? ANGLO? NO!
Population records were kept by the Spanish of even the smallest settlements. These reports tended to group all those in the settlement, mission, or presidio that were not Indian or Negro as "Whites", a term still in use today.
The term "whites" is not a good term, nor is "anglo." They both have broader meanings than are supported by their definitions and both are racist terms. The United States and Texas owe most of their early growth to European cultures, many of whose people are neither white nor Anglo. This book has as its purpose to show you the influence of the Celtic peoples whose skin color ranges from light to ruddy, and even tanned. A good many Celts have no Anglo connection. Similarly, other European peoples can make the same objection. Many Hispanic people are white skinned, as are French, German, Czech, and many more. There are other nationalities, like the Greeks and Italians, who are American and Texan, who can be light or dark and certainly not Anglo. If they can not be properly identified by their actual ancestry, Irish, German, etc.; then refer to them as Caucasian, Caucasoid, European, or European American, Irish American, Greek American; not something they are not! The EuroAmerican population past the Rio Grande before 1721, was about fifty to sixty (after the expeditions had left). When the missions went up and when they were manned, the population of EuroAmericans was estimated at around 269 in the 1740's; and that may include the mission/forts from Santa Fe to Los Adaes. The population of Natchitoches, as an example, in 1722, was recorded as: thirteen men, five women, five children, thirteen Negro slaves, eight Indian slaves, and 42 horses.
LOUISIANA AND FLORIDA
The impact that Louisiana and Florida had on early Texas has been widely overlooked. The port of New Orleans, alone, acted as an entry to Texas for any person willing to try to immigrate through the porous border area. There were plenty of reasons for people to move from Louisiana to Texas. After the French and Indian War, the French ceded Louisiana to Spain to keep it from England. The British, victorious over both France and Spain in the war, accepted the transfer but pushed for other gains. They took possession of Florida. Many Florida refugees, not wanting to live under British rule, pushed into now, Spanish Louisiana. Others moved all the way to the more established Spanish territory of Texas. This would include Irish, who for religious or political reasons, were at odds with England.
In 1779 with the British engaged in the American Revolution, Spain attacked British possessions in the southeastern part of what is now the United States. Led by the Governor of Louisiana, Bernardo de Galvez, after whom Galveston is named, the Spanish attacked the English at Manchac, Baton Rouge and Natchez in what was then British West Florida. Galvez then attacked the British at Pensacola, Mobile and the Bahama Islands. He won them all. During the campaign, men and cattle were moved through Texas and Louisiana from the many provinces of New Spain to New Orleans. At the peak of the Spanish effort, Galvez commanded 7,000 men. This provided another opportunity for an Irishman in the service of Spain to enter Texas.
France, in the person of Napoleon after he invaded Spain, regained Louisiana. Again refugees and opportunists were on the move. France then sold Louisiana to the United States providing a southern path to the Americans moving down the Natchez Trace to the West. At this point, Spain was just too weak to resist as evidenced by the ceding of Florida to the United States in 1819.
All of these changes involved a lot of military men. Many of them were Irish who found themselves no longer in the military, with an opportunity to start a family and a new life in a new country.
The Catholic colonies of Spain and France lured some Irish from British territory (and authority) that were formerly French or Spanish. The lack of authority and supervision in the vulnerable Spanish territory had to draw others. With more and more people coming through the port of New Orleans and pressure from the east to move west, it is hard to believe there were not Irish in Texas prior to 1767. There is another political consideration. New Spain (Nueva Espana), during the period 1763 to 1800, included five provinces that stretched into Texas.
The bureaucracy and military of these provinces presented another opportunity for Irish in Spanish service to have been in Texas. Similarly Irish could have been in the service of other administrations. Known Irish of note in Florida include: Arturo O'Neill who was Governor of Pensacola in 1787. Captain Antonio Patricio Walsh who owned an extensive plantation in West Feliciana. The same could be said for those in French service in Louisiana. For example, in 1763, the Commandant of the French fort at Natchitoches was Chevalier Macarti, who was almost certainly a McCarthy or McCarty. McCarthys were in Louisiana as early as 1731 when Charles McCarthy was in New Orleans in command of a French engineering detachment. McCarthy received some extensive land grants. Celeste Macarti, daughter of a wealthy Louisiana planter married Don Esteban Rodriguez Miro, the Acting Governor of Spanish Louisiana in 1780, when Governor Galvez left on the Mobile expedition. Miro was later made the Governor in 1785.
Merchant Oliver Pollock, a native of Colleraine, Ireland, married a New Orleans woman by the name of Margaret O'Brien. He was appointed by Louisiana Governor Alexander O'Reilly to control the trade in Louisiana in 1768. Later, he was the U.S. Consul in New Orleans prior to the American Revolution and during the revolution served as the U. S. Purchasing Agent in that area.
Spanish archives show an entire battalion of Irish troops from the Ultonia Regiment was stationed in Mexico City for three years beginning 18 June, 1768.
There was a time when the Spanish Governor of Texas was Hugh O'Connor and the Spanish Governor of Louisiana was his cousin, Alexander O'Reilly. O'Reilly arrived with an entourage of three thousand "Europeans." A political protege of O'Reilly's from the Natchitoches district was appointed Governor of Texas in 1779. O'Reilly went on to be Governor General of Cuba, and then the Captain General of Madrid. O'Connor moved to more responsible positions in New Spain.
The next Spanish territory south of New Spain was New Granada. Among its officials was Ambrose O'Higgins. He, too, rose in politics. His son, Bernado O'Higgins, and his compatriot, Simon Bolivar, were the liberators of South America. They had, as staff officers, men named: O'Leary, O'Connor, D'Evereaux, Murphy, Cochrane, and McKenna. In 1819, Bolivar had in his service the Irish Legion. It was composed of over 2,000 Irishmen, including the son of Daniel O'Connell, Morgan O'Connell. Another group of Irishmen, over 500 strong, known as the Hibernian Regiment, was fighting in Haiti. They helped liberate South America from Spain; but that, too, is another story.
The governor of Louisiana after O'Reilly was Esteban Miro, who had married Celest Macarti. He formulated an immigration policy based on the activities of four Irish priests: Michael Lampert, Gregory White, William Savage, and Constantine Mackenna. To assist in the project, Governor Miro sought agents. In the Spanish records of the time, the following applied to be those agents: Augustin Macarty, William Fitzgerald, Mauricio Nowland [Nolan or Knowlan(d)?], Bryan Bruin (Bruen?), James Kennedy, and William Butler. Miro's replacement, Carondelet, originally pushed for immigrants of Irish stock to settle areas of Louisiana, and many were admitted. One settlement of five hundred Irish families were to have settled on the Calcasieu River at the Gulf of Mexico. It is hard for me not to believe that an Irishman did not use this political advantage to immigrate into Texas.
SAILORS, PIRATES, AND SHIPWRECKS
It should also be pointed out that in the Gulf of Mexico sailed the ships of England, France, Spain, and pirates. Ireland, being an island, meant many an Irishman was a good sailor. These Irish sailors were recruited by one or another of these competing groups both voluntarily and involuntarily. Some of the recruits came from the Irish on the overcrowded islands of Barbados or Montserrat. These were two of the West Indies islands to which the English had "transported" many an Irishman. There were also sizeable Irish populations on Jamaica, Nevis and St. Christopher Island in the Caribbean.
For more detail on the Irish connection to Montserrat > .
One known Irish pirate was Anne Bonny. She was the illegitimate daughter of a married attorney and a maid in his house in Cork, Ireland. The maid ran off to raise her baby in the New World. When Anne grew to be a woman she eloped with a seaman, James Bonny, and lived in the Bahamas. She became involved with the pirate known as Calico Jack and became a member of his crew. In October 1720, their ship was attacked by a British sloop and captured off Jamaica. In the subsequent trial, it was learned that Bonny was one of the most ferocious defenders of the pirate ship. Though she received the death sentence she received a reprieve and was allowed to go free because she was pregnant.
Who is to say that an Irishman, or woman did not visit the shores of Texas from one of the pirate ships?
Still another area of possible early Irish entry into Texas was by shipwreck. It is known that English, French, Spanish, and pirate ships shipwrecked on the Texas coast. In 1746, fifteen French sailors passed through Nacogdoches on their way from the coast to the Red River. Another example is the wreck of some French Acadians. I mention this because there are some Irish names among Acadian names. I cannot say if these families left Ireland and lived in France when they became mixed with these peoples, or that it occurred in Nova Scotia (Latin for New Scotland) which had a high percentage of Irish. At any rate in 1769, Acadians were in Texas. They were coming from Acadia in Nova Scotia after the English took control of that island from the French. They were being provided refuge by Spanish authorities in what was then Spanish Louisiana. Their ship ran into foul weather and shipwrecked on the Texas coast at either Matagorda or St. Joseph's Island. The Indians alerted the Spanish authorities who escorted the Acadians to La Bahía. They stayed there for three to four years while the bureaucracy tried to decide what to do with them. Eventually they were escorted overland, on foot, to Louisiana. It was recorded, "But few finally reached their destination."
When British, French, and Spanish colonialism began to break up, many Irishmen who were in these colonies, officially or not, saw an opportunity. Their dream of getting back to Ireland or continuing the fight against England began to fade. A new sense of nationalism burned in these men to help "free" the lands where they spent their manhood. They now wished to become a part of these emerging countries' inaugural history.
There is then, more than enough circumstantial evidence to believe there were Irish in Texas before those found in official records. For any number of reasons their presence may not have been recorded by their choice, as they may have been in Texas illegally. On the other hand, there may have been an Irish soldier stationed in Texas, or a descendent that stayed behind when his unit moved on.
For example, I know from having done some genealogical research, there were Morans among the Wild Geese, and that several were in Spanish service. In 1562, a Moran was Mayor of Honduras. In 1589, a Moran is an administrator for the Governor of Del Neuvo Reino de León, New Spain (in Monterey, Mexico). In 1598, there were Morans with Juan de Oñates' troops in the El Paso area. A family of Morans was in Los Adaes, the capital of Texas, in 1767. Another was with an official inspection tour by officials from Mexico City of Texas in 1777.
I am not saying the first Irish person in Texas was a Moran; I am saying it is an example of an Irish name appearing early in the New World as a result of the Wild Geese. Some of the family moved as the colony expanded. There were, no doubt, many others.
All this background is important to our story when we consider the first Irishman to come to Texas. He was an Irishman that we have documented proof was in Texas in 1767. There is reason to believe however, the first Irish person was here before that. Though we do not know his or her name, he/she was probably a simple soldier in the service of England, France, or Spain; a deserter, shipwrecked sailor, a child from one of them, or a chaplain or missionary priest.
We know, for instance, there was a Franciscan priest named Father Daniels with Coronado on his trek through Texas in 1540. The odds of a Franciscan priest named Daniels, in Spanish service, in that time period (Henry VIII was in England, Martin Luther in Germany, and the King of Spain was the King of the Holy Roman Empire), not being a Celt are thin.
For the many reasons stated above, there were almost certainly Irish and other Celts in Texas who are not found in the surviving records. What follows then is only part of the story, that which is supported by records, of the Irish, and other Celts, in Texas history.
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