he first known Europeans in Texas were the Spanish. Beginning in 1510, when they were mapping the coast, to over 300 years later, the Spanish claimed Texas. Alonso Alvarez de Piñeda was the first Spaniard to set foot on Texas. He sailed from Jamaica with a flotilla of four ships and tried to land at Vera Cruz. There he found that Hernando Cortés controlled the coast and was well on his way to controlling the area known as Mexico. Piñeda sailed north, he put in at the mouth of the Rio Grande where his ships stayed for 40 days making improvements. While his ships were being worked on, Piñeda surveyed the coast of Texas, which he called "Amichel."

A year later another expedition from Jamaica reached Texas. This expedition was led by Diego de Carmargo. He claimed the territory in the name of the Governor of Jamaica, Francisco Garay, before Cortés could get to it. Carmargo established the first settlement up river a few miles, on the river which Piñeda mapped and christened the Rio de las Palmas (between the Rio Grande and the Panuco Rivers).

Carmargo named the first settlement in Texas, Garay, after his governor. Garay himself came to Texas with a small armada of sixteen ships in 1523. He was going to set up a colony. On board the ships were seven hundred and fifty soldiers, three hundred cannon, and plenty of supplies and provisions. Garay could not find the settlement Carmargo established (the settlement was the victim of weather, disease, and Indians), he sailed instead for Mexico. In Mexico he was put under house arrest by Cortés. There he met another who was similarly detained, Pánfilo de Narváez, a representative of the Governor of Cuba. Garay told Narváez of the Rio de las Palmas.

When Narváez was able to leave, he went back to Spain. He petitioned the King that he be granted a new province from the Rio de las Palmas to the Atlantic Ocean. This the King did in 1525. The new province was called Pánuco-Victoria Garayana, and Narváez was appointed the Governor. Narváez, then, was the first official governor of the land that included Texas. Narváez left Cuba with four hundred men to begin organizing his colony. For eight years nothing was heard from these men until Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca wandered into San Miguel de Cullican in Nueva Galicia, Mexico with three other survivors of the expedition. He told a story of how the expedition disintegrated from a series of hardships, and that he and his companions wandered about the land and lived with the Indians as friends or captives until they crossed the Rio Grande River into Mexico. Nueva Galicia was named after Galicia, Spain. The name refers to the Celts of the day who inhabited that part of Spain. The principle city of Nueva Galicia was Cullican and the Governor of Neuva Galicia was Francisco Vasquez de Coronado. Acting on much of what he heard from de Vaca, Coronado led an expedition through much of the Southwest, including Texas, looking for gold.

For the better part of the next 300 years, the Spanish widened their control over Texas. Many expeditions were sent into the land, even more after it was learned the French in 1685 in the person of LaSalle, made claims in their domain. Eventually missions and settlements under Spanish control sparsely dotted the land.

During the Spanish period, Irishmen came to Texas and became a part of its history. I think you will be surprised to what degree they participated in that history. Did you know, for instance, the first governor of Texas, who was not Hispanic, was an Irishman; or that the first known history of Texas was written by an Irishman? In that history is the first accounting of how Texas got its name. Did you know the first map of the Texas interior was drawn by an Irishman? This Irishman was outspoken for an independent Texas, and he led the first armed resistance against Spanish authorities in Texas. He died in that initial skirmish and became the first hero for the cause of an independent Texas.

Are you aware the first large scale invasion of Texas to make it independent was led by an Irishman under an emerald green flag? After several victories, declaring Texas independent, and adopting a constitution, his army controlled Texas for more than a year. But for his untimely death, the history of Texas would echo his name more vibrantly. Did you know an Irishman received an empresario land grant to settle a part of Texas before Stephen F. Austin?

Would you be surprised to learn it was an Irishman who signed the document that ended the Spanish reign over Texas in 1821?

The contribution the Irish and other Celts made to Texas is little known and under appreciated. The purpose of this work is to correct that, to tell you a story deserving to be told, known and appreciated. For those of you with a Celtic heritage, it will give you a sense of pride; for those of you from a different ancestry, it will give you an aspect of Texas history not generally realized, but worth appreciating.


Though there were probably earlier Celts in Texas, unrecorded in history, we do know the first, on record, was an Irishman in Spanish service. He was a military man sent to Texas on a mission. Within months this Irishman was Governor of Texas.

He was born in Dublin in 1734, and christened Hugh O'Connor. The family was from Roscommon in Connacht and participated in uprisings there. Hugh's grandfather, Daniel O'Connor did so and left to serve in the Spanish army in 1650. Thomas O'Connor, Hugh's uncle, served in the French army as a Brigadier General. He distinguished himsef at the Battle of Fontenoy and received a promotion to Brigadier General. Hugh's father, Daniel, found it necessary to leave Roscommon for Dublin where Hugh was born. The red haired youth got into trouble of his own after participating in one of the many unsuccessful rebellions against English tyranny in Ireland. He wanted to join the Spanish army. Already in Spanish service were older first cousins, Alexander O'Reilly and his brother Dominick.

Alexander O'Reilly was an officer who had quickly moved up the ranks and was a Captain. His good fortune appeared to run out as he lay gravely wounded in one of the battles of the War of Austrian Succession. As he lay there he noticed an Austrian soldier looting the dead that were all around him. Those that weren't dead but were seriously wounded, the Austrian soldier killed and then looted their bodies. The wounded O'Reilly summoned all his strength when the Austrian came to him and told the soldier he was the son of a Spanish nobleman and the soldier would get a great reward if he were brought to the Austrian Field Marshal. O'Reilly knew the Austrian Field Marshal in command was Irishman Maximillian von Browne. When brought before Browne, O'Reilly greeted him as a fellow Irishman fighting foreign wars for foreign masters, for what gain to Ireland? Field Marshal Browne was impressed with O'Reilly's resourcefullness and had his wounds tended to by by his surgeons. O'Reilly was released back to the Spanish and continued his rise in ranks to that of Lieutenant Colonel. When his sixteen year old cousin, Hugh O'Connnor, was looking to join the Spanish army, O'Reilly obtained an appointment in 1750 for Hugh O'Connor to be commissioned a cadet in the in the Hibernia Regiment.

< Don Alejandro O"Reilly

O'Connor served under Lieutenant Colonel O'Reilly when Spain invaded Portugal, an ally of England during the Seven Years War. In the campaign, both did well. O'Reilly took O'Connor under his wing. O'Reilly was made a Field Marshal and sent to oversee the return of Cuba to Spain from England. O'Connor was promoted to Captain. O'Reilly asked for Captain O'Connor to be assigned to his staff. The unit Hugo O'Connor was assigned to, The Regiment of Volunteers of Aragon, was sent to Cuba in 1763. There the young Irishman, now known as Don Hugo Oconór (Irish names were "spanishcized" by themselves or by Spanish authorities or clerks), quickly rose in the ranks to be a Sergeant Major. The rank was the third highest in the regiment. He was later elected to the highly esteemed Knights ofCalatrava, an order of knighthood dating back to the Crusades. The Order of Calatrava was one of only three special military orders in the Spanish army. To be admitted one had to demonstrate personal achievement, a noble bloodline (the O'connors could traced back to the last King of Connacht), and be approved by the King. Hugh Oconor's admission to the Order was a rare achievement in that he was a foreigner and not Spanish

The Knights of Calatrava Regalia >

In 1765, Hugh Oconor was promoted to Major and sent to Vera Cruz, Mexico where he served in the administration of New Spain. In 1767, he was sent to Texas. Texas was, since 1718, only a part of the Province of Coahuila y Texas. In 1720, the Province of Texas was founded with its capitol at Los Adaes. Texas' eastern boundary was the Arroyo Hondo in present day Louisiana about six miles from Natchitoches, Louisiana. The capitol, Los Adaes, was located 18 miles southwest of Natchitoches, about where Robeline, Louisiana is today. It consisted of a presidio and a small settlement with a mission nearby. The capitol of Texas and the presidio, were purposely placed near the eastern edge of Texas to keep the French respectful of the Spanish border. The Gulf of Mexico and the Nueces River were Texas' southern boundary; its western boundary was somewhere short of the New Mexico settlements. The northern border was not defined, but generally agreed to be the Red River for the northeast portion. The western and northern boundaries actually settled was considerably short of the boundary claimed due to the Indians.







The Presidio at Los Adaes, Presidio Nuestra Senora Del Pilar


















Map shows principle Spanish and French settlements and Indian villages and territories during the period 1700-1800

Oconór was sent to Texas to investigate reports of wrongdoing by the Governor of Texas, Martos y Navarrete. He found the governor precipitated a political situation resulting in the destruction of one of the presidios. He also found Martos profited from selling supplies to his own men (in an eight year period the amount of profit was figured at a minimum $80,000.00). Moreover, some of these supplies may have been illegally obtained from the French. Oconór also learned the previous Governor, Barrios, participated in the illegal trade.

Within the year Oconór was made Interim Governor of Texas while Martos y Navarrete went to Mexico City to account for his activities. The trial was lengthy. Oconór spent most of his time in the capital at Los Adaes and at the biggest presidio-mission and settlement at the Villa de San Fernando de Béxar going about the business of governing the Province.

The Mission San Antonio de Valero and Presidio San Antonio de Bexar

The latter town grew up around the Mission San Antonio de Valero (its church later became known as the Alamo). The mission's presidio, the Presidio San Antonio de Béxar, was named after the Duke of Béxar, second son of King Phillip V of Spain. The settlement where the mission and presidio was located was known simultaneously by three different names in the period discussed: Béxar, San Fernando, and San Antonio.

These drawings show the mission as it was originally designed with two bell towers, but it is not known if they or even if one was ever built.

The Mission San Antonio de Valero as it was being built

The mission and its presidio were established in 1718 on the San Antonio River. The villa that grew up beside them was called the Villa de San Antonio de Béxar until 1831, when a church was built for the residents of the town. The church was named San Fernando de Béxar and the town's name was changed to Villa San Fernando de Béxar.

San Fernando Church and what was known as The Plaza

Only the aristocracy, government officials, and politicians called the town by its full name. Most people called it simply Béxar or San Antonio. San Antonio was used because that name was a part of the name of the three prominent landmarks in the area: the river, the mission and presidio. Although San Antonio was used by many before 1731, it did not become the formally accepted name for the town until after 1836. San Fernando as a name for the area had the most limited usage. In this text Béxar, is used before 1836, and San Antonio after 1836.

In March of 1766, Field Marshal Marqués de Rubi was working on his assigned mission from the King to examine and evaluate the northern frontier defenses of Nueva España. He had began his task in the Bay of California and would end his evaluation at Los Adaes. He would visit 24 presidos in all and determine just what Spain really controlled in certain areas versus what it claimed. He would then develop a plan to put in place a defensible frontier line that would not only discourage French, Russian or British incursions but also hold at bay hostile Indians. In particular, the Viceroy was concerned at defending the extensive silver mining operations of the northern frontier area.

Rubi checked the effective locations of each presidio, the quality and training of its troops, equipment and supplies. By the time he got to Los Adaes, September 19, 1767, his expedition of engineers, cartographers and other specialists had traveled more than 7, 000 miles and undergone considerable hardships. Rubi's report on Oconor was favorable stating his administration was "extremely advantageous" to the King's service.

After Rubi's departure, Oconor organized a campaign against hostile Indians that ended December 7, 1767 when Oconor led his twenty men against over 300 Indians in a running battle along the Rio Guadalupe. Oconor lost not one man while 20 Indians were killed and many wounded. After that battle, the Indians were quiet for quite a while and Oconor was respectfully called Capitan Colorado by the Indians. Colorado is red in Spanish.

In February of the new year, Oconor asked the Viceroy for a leave of absence so that at the very least he could replace his well worn wardrobe, Viceroy Croix demurred saying there was still important work for the Irishman to accomplish. Oconor turned his attention to the problem that had brought him to Texas, trade with Louisiana.

After the Seven Years War, when France gave Spain the Louisiana territory out of gratitude for its assistance during the losing cause, the problems with Louisiana trade did not stop. The Spanish in Louisiana found that they needed to maintain the French system of trade to maintain Indian alliances. This meant that Indians were getting guns from the Spanish trading posts in Louisiana and raiding in Texas causing Oconor a problem he felt could be handled by Spanish internal administration. He wrote the Viceroy and the new Spanish Governor of Louisiana, Antonio de Ulloa complaining about the practise and asked that, at the very least, trading for guns be stopped with Indians known to be raiding into Texas. Governor Ulloa responded by noting that it was only through the intervention of French traders in Spanish service that the Yatasi Indians of the Caddo Confederation did not attack Los Adaes after Conor had turned away a French gunrunner. In other words, the status quo would be maintained with respect to trade policies.

Oconor was known to be a very religious man. The two Franciscan priests at the Mission Nuestra Señora de los Ais just a quarter mile from Los Adaes, where Oconor regularly attended Mass, once wrote they thought of him more as a religious than military leader. They wrote of his zeal when talking of religious matters to the converted Indians in the mission and the way he conducted his personal life, always observing the religious tenants of his faith. It is not surprising that Oconor was at hand in May of 1768 at the dedication of the Mission San José san Miguel de Aguayo. Oconor laid the mission's cornerstone.

Since Louisiana was now Spanish and quoting Rubi's report regarding Los Adaes as an outdated presidio, Oconor convinced the Viceroy that the presidio at Los Adaes was no longer necessary, especially since the Indian threat had been checked. He suggested that he and his garrison troops withdraw to the presidio at Bexár, as the village at Bexár had been attacked several times recently by Comanches. Oconor offered to lead a campaign against the Comanches similar to the campaign he led the previous year. The Viceroy agreed and Oconor moved his troops into the presidio at San Antonio de Bexár. They were not there long. In September, 1768, Oconor lauched a campaign against the Comanche that was extended to include some Wichita Indians. The Viceroy increased Oconor's force by adding soldiers from the presidios at Bexár, San Saba and San Juan Bautista.

This time Oconor found the Indians a tougher foe. The balance of power in most struggles with the Spanish military was in the favor of the better equipped and better trained Europeans, but the guns from British, French and the Spanish traders in Louisiana had altered the balance and Oconor found the task more difficult than before. Nonetheless, Oconor was successful in his campaign and the attacks on San Antonio de Bexár abated. Oconor was pleased to learn that Louisiana was soon to recieve a new governor, his cousin, Alexander O'Reilly. He hoped O'Reilly would halt the gun trade with Indians.


O'Reilly had continued to rise in the Spanish military after successful assignments in Cuba and Puerto Rico. He returned to Spain in 1764 where he was asked to reform the Spanish Army itself and was named the Inspector General of Infantry. In the course of establishing those reforms, O'Reilly founded Spain's first military academy at Avila.

The disastrous loss of the Seven Years War, a severe inflation, bad harvests coupled with a raise in taxes created a tense situation in Madrid in March of 1766. The common people were at wits ends when Charles approved a law wanted by his unpopular Italian Secretary of War and Commerce, the Marqués de Squillace. Saying they hindered the detection of criminals, Squillace persuaded the King to outlaw the wearing of the popular broad-brimmed slouch hats and long capes in Madrid. That was the last straw and a riot ensued. On March 23rd, a mob grew in size as it swept through the streets challenging anyone of authority, hundreds of people were murdered and the King was caught unawares and in the street by the mob. O'Reilly happened to be there as well and drew his sword. He stood between the King and the crowd; the mob was diverted. The riots were over when the King agreed to negotiate on the taxes and dress code. For his part in rescuing the King, O'Reilly was brought into the inner circle of the Spanish court.

When the King heard of a rebellion in Spanish Louisiana, he dispatched O'Reilly to assert Spanish authority. The citizens of New Orleans, in October, 1768, expelled Governor Ulloa because he was an equivicating sort. They also feared restrictive economic and commercial measures from Spain that would impact the lucrative ongoing smuggling operation. Ulloa's indeciveness in the early part of the revolt contributed to its success and he was forcibly removed. The citizens of New Orleans then petitioned France to reclaim its old colony.

On his way to New Orleans, O'Reilly stopped in Havana where the Captain General, Antonio Mariá de Bucareli, an old friend, equipped him with 2,000 regular Spanish soldiers together with artillery and naval support. O'Reilly arrived in New Orleans on July 24, 1769 and immediately began an investigation. He arrested eleven ring leaders. He executed five and imprisoned five. He pardoned hundreds of others implicated in the revolt. As Acting Governor he reorganized the military, forming the Fixed Regiment of Louisiana for the regular army and then organized militia units made up of locals including blacks.

Don Alessandro O'Reilly>

O'Reilly continued some of the French legal system where it worked and where it did not he wrote an annoted summary of the Spanish legal system. He presented the new legal system as Code O'Reilly. He encouraged free trade between Havana and Louisiana, replaced the worthless local paper money with Spanish coin and sent an expedition along the Red River to evaluate the attitude of the Indian nations toward Spain as well as to learn more about that area of the Louisiana territory. The expedition was led by two Irish officers in his command, Captain Edward Nugent and Lieutenant John Kelly. When they returned with information about the Indians and settlements, O'Reilly banned trade with Indians who raided Texas but otherwise kept in place the French method of trading. He placed an Irish merchant, Oliver Pollock, in charge of trade with the Indians and Louisiana.

Note should also be made that Louisiana under O'Reilly was considerably larger than the Louisiana we know today. Under O'Reilly it encompased most of what we know as Louisiana and what we know today as the state of Missouri. O'Reilly is credited with outlining much of the governmental policy of St. Louis.

O'Reilly left Louisiana, in February of 1770, firmly in the grasp of Spanish control. The province could defend itself from attack, the local economy was healthy and the attitude of the people was in support of the Spanish possession of Louisiana. O'Reilly's willingness to keep in place certain French customs, traditions and legal codes was apparently key to the more accomodating relationship.

There is no record that the two cousins ever communicated directly while they shared the governorship of the two contiguous provinces, though it is obvious that O'Reilly was sensitive to Oconor's position on the trade with Indians question. By May of 1770, both Irishmen were no longer the Governors of Texas and Louisiana. O'Reilly was back in Spain and Oconor was in Mexico City.


Spanish records, in evaluating Oconór's administration, characterize it as one of reform. He wanted to follow's Rubi's plan and pull the frontier back behind a defensible line of presidios that could be supported properly by supplies and reserves from Mexico City and the other provinces. He also wanted to stop the contraband trade with the French as he felt it weakened security on the border and with the Indians. Oconór secured the northern border of Texas along a more realistic defensive posture. This meant closing such far flung outposts as San Sába, Los Adaes, and others. After withdrawing everyone from these areas, Oconór launched an offensive against hostile Indians. In 1770, a new Governor arrived in the person of Juan María Vicencio de Ripperdá. Don Hugo Oconór awaited the King's pleasure for his next assignment.

Painting of Don Hugo Oconor in the Joel D. Valdez Library, Pima County, Tuscon, Arizona

(This portrait was presented to the library by the Irish American Gaelic Society of Tuscon who obtained the painting from Clonalis House. Clonalis House which is situated on the outskirts of the north west of Castlerea in County Roscommon is the ancestral home of the O' Connors, the last high kings of Connaught. The home is a major repository of heritage and history, containing correspondence, heirlooms, objet d'art and portraits of the O'Connor's over the past 600 years. The Clonalis Library, containing some 7000 volumes, is widely considered to be one of the best collections in private ownership in Ireland. In the library at Clonalis can be seen the pedigree completed by Sir William Betham, the Ulster King at Arms, in 1823. This pedigree of the O'Connor's lists 11 High Kings of Ireland and 26 Kings of Connaught since the time of Christ.)

One of the officials of the period, Captain Antonio Bonilla, wrote in his Breve Compendium, a report sent to the Viceroy evaluating the administrations of the early governors of Texas:

Oconór attained the glorious distinction of

leaving an immortal name in the province.

He attested his valor, disinterested conduct,

and military policy, he preserved peace in

the land, and made himself an object of fear

to the savages, who know him by the name of

Capitán Colorado.

While in Mexico City awaiting new orders, Oconor testified at the trial of the former governor Martos. Martos was found to be guilty. Also while in the city, Oconor got to meet with old friends as the 2nd Battalion of the Ultonia Regiment was stationed there. O'Reilly was now a Lieutenant General and Oconor was a Lieutenant Colonel. In August of 1771, Oconor was given the newly created position of Commandant Inspector General of the Interior Provinces. His assignment was to implement Rubi's plan of contstructing a defensible nothern border for Nueva España. This encompassed an area from la Baja in California to La Bahía on the Texas coast, a distance of 1500 miles. His authority had precedence over the provincial governors. He alone could choose where the cordon of presidios was to be formed and what missions, presidios, and settlements were to be closed from Baja to Los Adaes. Oconor was to headquarter in Chihuahua, a central position along the northern border. A change in viceroys put the plan on hold, but the new viceroy was none other than O'Reilly's friend, Antonio Mariá de Bucareli. O'Reilly sent Bucareli a letter in which he wrote Oconor "is a kinsman of mine and I have from Croix, Cruillas and Rubi very good reports about him .. I feel him to be like my own son."

Oconor arrived in Chihuahua November 17, 1771. His first task was to implement a plan for the five presidios of Nueva Vizcaya and Coahuila. Neuva Vizcaya was the largest, wealthiest and most populous of the Interior Provinces. Oconor would select new locations, construct new forts and then equip and train the garrisons. He found the situation in Neuva Vizcaya bleak. Since 1748, Apaches had attacked villages, ranches and mining operations with impunity. Oconor estimated that more than 4,000 people had been killed. Villages, ranches and mines had been abandoned in face of the attacks.

Oconor asked Viceroy Bucareli (pictured to the left) to endorse a plan that consisted of strengthening the presido garrisons of Nueva Vizcaya and forming a separate force of "flying companies" (compañias volantes) made up of 300 men. Oconor was given the men and new muskets, carbines, swords and lances as well as new horses. By the summer of 1772, the men were trained equipped and ready. Their first success was in an engagement against the Apache just 90 miles from Chihuahua in which ten Indians were killed many more wounded and stolen animals and other property stolen from Spaniards were recovered. Squadrons of soldiers patrolled between the presidios of Chihuahua, Cerro Gordo, Guajoquilla, Julimes, San Buenaventura, El Paso and Janos. In September of 1772, Oconor was given 300 more men and a special detachment of 100 regular dragoons on orders from the King. The hand of O'Reilly is seen in influencing the Kings decisions to support Oconor who was having his problems being a foreigner with authority over Spanish Governors about matters in their provinces. Oconor was able to form an alliance with the Lipan Indians against the Apache.

Hugo Oconor is credited for the removal of the Mescalero Apache from the vast area known as the Bolson de Malpimi.


In his last days as Governor of Texas, Oconór had the Alcalde at Los Adaes, Don Antonio Gil Ibarvo, arrested for particpating in illegal trade. Oconór ordered the presidio and village dismantled and abandoned. All the villagers were to move to Béxar. Some of the residents did, indeed, move. Some went to Béxar and some moved to Natchitoches, still others stayed in Los Adaes. Its closing was not accomplished due to the change in administrations of governor. Further, in 1773, there was a change of Viceroy when Antonio María Bucareli y Ursúa arrived in Mexico City to assume the office. Other factors delaying the removal of Los Adaes were: the reluctance of the settlers to leave the lucrative trade with the French and Indians; they did not want to move closer to the bureaucracy and authority. Another factor was family. There were family and in-laws on both sides of the border due to years of intermarriages.

When Oconór left to address the situation out West, the Adaesaños went to Béxar to plead their case. They pointed out they were removed from East Texas because of the illegal trade. The Adaesaños felt it was a moot point. The French simply filled the void and were now in Spanish territory trading with the Indians. English agents were also trading with the Indians of East Texas. The Adaesaños told the new Viceroy they could regain the trade with the Indians and send the British and French outside the borders of New Spain if they would be allowed to return. They asked to found a new settlement named after the new Viceroy (Bucareli). The new settlement was still to be in East Texas. The Viceroy himself vacillated and the matter went before a board appointed by the King, who put the matter before Oconór to decide.

Oconór was busy fighting Indians and establishing a defensive perimeter from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean. He sent word for the new Governor of Texas to manage his province and to decide the matter.

In November of 1773, Oconor led a force of three companies against 500 Indians in the Davis Moutains in West Texas. Oconor suffered one man killed while the Indians lost forty.


In 1774, with most of his preparations complete, Hugo Oconór began his offensive against hostile Indians, particularly the Comanche in the Texas area and the Apache in the West. The string of presidios were roughly in a line from Texas to Baja with two principal outposts at San Antonio de Béxar and Santa Fé. These last two were reinforced with extra troops. Oconor also had new presidios built along the line as needed. One of these, the Presidio de San Agustin in what is now Arizona led to the city of Tucson. Thus a claim can be made that Oconor founded Tucson. Interconnecting patrols were run between the presidios and the outposts. Indian raids behind the defensive line were effectively halted. Oconór wrote a plan to field nine large forces totaling 2,228 men to drive the Indian from claimed Spanish territory above the line of forts. He did not get all the men he asked for, but he did, over the next four years, vigorously lead the largest Spanish campaign against the Comanche and Apache, and with great success.

< Statue of Oconor in Tucson, Arizona

The cost was high. Oconór's health began to fail. In 1777, he asked to be relieved of military duty. He was taken from the frontier but again asked to govern a province. Oconór was made a Brigadier General and then took up his new position as Governor of Yucatán. He died in Merida, Yucatan at the age of 45 on March 9, 1779. One month later Viceroy Bucareli, who had become his advocate against the bickering province governors, died in Mexico City.

Hugh O'Connor's name has not become immortal in Texas history. Like others in this book, his name deserves recognition. Hugh O'Connor cleansed Texas of a corrupt regime and provided the area with a degree of stability previously lacking, no small part of which was a respite from the constant Indian attacks. O'Connor also had the reputation of having stopped the contraband trade in East Texas. That situation was short lived. When O'Connor moved on, the smugglers moved back.

The fact that an Irishman could rise to be Governor of two different Spanish provinces and an administrative position above that of provincial governors over available Spanish candidates is a testimony to the exceptional man O'Connor was. The fact that, many of you reading this, probably, never heard or read his name in the telling of Texas history points up something about history and politics.

Soon after Oconor and Bucareli's death there was a wholesale change in the way things were done in Nueva Espana both in the provinces and Spain. The political enemies of O'Reilly, Bucareli and Oconor were in control and they downplayed their predecessors roles in history. As the old saying goes - who writes the history books, writes the history.

Hugo Oconor's signature as it appeared on official Spanish records.


The settlement of Bucareli (at what later was known as Robbin'sCrossing) eased into existence, at first unofficially, and then officially. Its official name was Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Bucareli. In 1777 it had a population of 347 people. It had to be abandoned in 1779 after assaults by Indians, fire, flooding, and an epidemic of cholera. When Bucareli was abandoned, the settlers moved to Nacogdoches, site of an abandoned mission (Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe). At Nacogdoches, they kept up the trade with the Indians (and anyone else).

The Adaesaños, who in response to Oconór's order to move to Béxar, moved instead to stay with friends at Natchitoches, remained in Natchitoches during the long bureaucratic process to re-establish a settlement in East Texas, and then the problems at Bucareli. These Adaesanõs joined those from Béxar and Bucareli to begin the new settlement at Nacogdoches. They found Irish in the Nacogdoches area that had been there for some time. Dennis Quinelty, records show, was in Nacogdoches as early as 1734. There is evidence there were others, such as Edmond Quirk.

The Adaesaños, now Nacogdochens, requested a trading house be officially established. The Viceroy agreed, wanting the peace such trade generated. He also wanted a listening post for the activities of the Indians and of points east and north. With the Indian raids, fire, and floods at Bucareli still fresh in memory, the settlers built a two story stone fort which would double as the trading post. This background is important because Nacogdoches would become the first center of Irish activity in Texas, and the two story building the property of the Irish.


The next two known Irish individuals in Texas were visitors. Don Pedro Alonso O'Crouley y O'Donnell came to Texas in 1774 as part of a scouting trip through New Spain investigating trade opportunities. His father Demetrio O'Crouley (Dermot O'Crowley) was from Limerick. His mother was also from Ireland, she was an O'Donnell from Ballymurphy in County Clare. The O'Crowley's, like so many other Irish families, had to leave Ireland to live the life of their choice. The O'Crowley family became a very successful merchant family in Cadiz, Spain, where Don Pedro was born in 1740. He was well educated. When Peter O'Crowley came to Texas at age 24, he was already wealthy and looking for new investments. When O'Crouley returned to Cadiz, he wrote a book, A Description of The Kingdom of New Spain The book featured many drawings and stories of New Spain. Peter O'Crowley (Don Pedro O'Crouley) married at age 44, an Irish woman, Maria Power, and together they had nine children. His investments proved successful. When he died in Cadiz, the family was well off. You can still see the Irish family crest over the door to what was his home on the street named for him in Cadiz.

The other Irish visitor came to Texas for his first visit in 1768, though he was in America since 1752. He was a Franciscan priest representing that order when the cornerstone was laid by Hugo Oconór at the Mission of San José in Béxar. His name was Fray Juan Agustín de Morfi (Father John Murphy according to earlier historians). The next time he came to Texas, he was serving as a chaplain to the new Inspector Commandante of the Internal Provinces of New Spain, Theodoro de Croix. On the 22nd of December, 1776, Father Morfi accompanied the Commandant General on an inspection tour of the provinces of New Spain that included Texas. The inspection party returned to their starting point in Mexico City, in June of 1781.

Father Morfi kept a journal in which he wrote his observations of crops planted, the flora, fauna, even the chiggers and cockroaches. He wrote about the Indian customs and history, what they wore, and how they appeared. The journal was also filled with his opinions and observations on Spanish officials, settlers and settlements, as well as the missions. After the trip, using his journal, Father Morfi wrote a book entitled, The History of the Province of Texas 1673-1779. His book was the standard authority for that period throughout most of the last century, and is still a must read source for the period covered. It was the first history of Texas written. In his book, which is several volumes, he relates how Texas got its name.

Originally in about the year 1634, it was felt there was an Indian tribe with a name that sounded like Téjas in the region we now know as Texas. This resulted in a classic case of poor communication. The Spanish, when attempting to learn tribal names, would identify themselves as being Spanish and then point to the Indians. The Indians would point to themselves or strike their breast and say, "téjas." Everywhere they went the Spanish kept running in to this large tribe! It was not until 1691 the Spanish knew enough about the Indian languages to realize the term meant friend or ally. The word became popular and was easier to use to describe the area than some of the other designations used, for example: El Nuevo Reyno de la Nueva Montaña de Santander y Santillana, or La Provincia de Texas o' Las Nuevas Filipanas.

Father Murphy also gave us the first generally known description of the Alamo. He points out the church at the Mission San Antonio de Valero was built like a fort. The Alamo had a well inside its walls, fortified doors, and mountings in the watch tower for swivel guns. Father Morfi returned to his order at Mexico City and became famous delivering stirring sermons. In 1782, he was elected Convento Grande de San Francisco, the highest honor his order, the Franciscans, had to give. When he died the following year, he was called the greatest man in the province (Santo Evangelio) and the best orator in the Kingdom of New Spain.


The next Irishmen on record came from the east and not from the south as the last three have. As mentioned earlier, Nacogdoches drew a number of Irishmen. We know from official Spanish records, including census data, there were many Irishmen in Nacogdoches before 1800. Antonio Conner of New Orleans was in Nacogdoches in 1778, and in La Bahía in 1795. Listed in a census for Nacogdoches in 1792 is a Morin (Moran?) family or families. The census lists Jose Gil Morin, who at 26 was a shoemaker and an agent for the Tawakoni Indians. Also listed are Melchor Morin, a 62 year old farmer, Estevan Morin, age 20, and Gil Moran, age 54. Other Celtic names listed in the 1792 census were those of Joseph Wales and John Cornegay. Irish known to be in Nacogdoches before 1800 were:

John Farrel

John Quinelty, with his wife, Annie, and four sons - 1786

Francisco Cornegy - 1794

John Cornegy

Charles and James Fin (Finn), merchants

James Conilt - 1786

Thomas Blain - 1796

Francisco Connichi {Francis McConnaghey (may be Cornegy)}

James McNulty of Munster - 1797

William Quirk - 1797

Edmond Norris -

Peter Samuel Davenport - 1793

William Barr - 1793

John Quinelty (sometimes listed as Conelti) and his family came from Louisiana. They were among the Irish settlers that were settled there by Governor Miro's plan using Irish families as explained in the Prologue.

The last two, Barr and Davenport, were granted an official license to act as Spanish Indian Agents. Barr and Davenport operated the trading post out of the old stone fort at Nacogdoches. Davenport was born in Philadelphia of Irish parents, he moved down the Natchez Trace and then into Nacogdoches after operating a trading business in Natchitoches. Barr was born in Londonderry, Ireland. His family moved to Pennsylvania in 1774. He served two years in the U.S. Army attaining the rank of Captain. When he left the army, he tried his hand at trading and met Davenport in Natchitoches. Together, with an Edward Murphy, they operated a trading business at Natchitoches. They both came to Nacogdoches in 1793. As Louisiana was then Spanish territory, they were allowed to obtain their supplies at Natchitoches and New Orleans (where they dealt with the Spanish Consul, Diego Morphi (Murphy). Their contact in Natchitoches was their former trading partner and fellow Irishman, Edward Murphy. Murphy had extensive land holdings from Natchitoches to the Arryo Hondo, and was a partner in the Texas operation at Nacogdoches. In 1795 Edward Murphy was at the trading post in Nacogdoches.