Donation Certificate #154 for Stephen Williams, Jasper Donation #000019, Original Land Grant Collection, Archives and Records Program, Texas General Land Office, Austin.

From One War to the Next — Stephen Williams and American Revolutionaries in Mexican Texas

According to the Texas Society Sons of the American Revolution, more than 50 Patriots of the American Revolution are buried in Texas.

The General Land Office Archives houses land grant records for several of these individuals, each of whom left the newly formed United States — a nation whose independence they risked their lives to secure. They arrived in Texas — a foreign territory controlled by Spain until 1821 and then Mexico after that, and whose prospects were not readily apparent.

Fifty-two years elapsed after the end of the American Revolution, marked by the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783, before the Texas Revolution began in 1835. Because over five decades had passed, it seems improbable to think that any of the American Revolutionaries who came to Texas would answer the call-to-arms for Texas’ fight for independence from Mexico. That was not the case.

Stephen Williams, an American Revolutionary veteran who served three enlistments and also performed militia service in the War of 1812, came to Texas where he would again fight for independence — this time from Mexico. Once in Texas, Williams engaged in military service in the Siege of Bexar.

Character Certificate for Stephen Williams, SC Box 77 Folder 62, Spanish Collection, Archives and Records Program, Texas General Land Office.

Born on May 9, 1760 in North Carolina, Williams mustered into his first term of service in the Continental Army at the age of 17 or 18. During a brief break in service he returned to North Carolina to marry Delilah Rhodes Stalling in 1779, before mustering in for two more terms of service.

According to Williams’ Revolutionary War pension application, made in St. Helena Parish, Louisiana in 1825, he served five months in Captain Allen’s North Carolina Company from November 1777 to April 1778, during which time he fought at the Battle of Briar Creek in Georgia. He again enlisted in 1780 and served three months in Captain Alford’s Company, where he fought at the Battle of Camden, South Carolina. His final enlistment began in March 1781. Now an experienced soldier, he served as a sergeant in Colonel Armstrong’s North Carolina Regiment and was at the Battle of Eutaw Springs, South Carolina in 1781 before finally being discharged in April 1782.

Muster Roll of Captain Chesshire’s Company Volunteers, Archives and Records Program, Texas General Land Office, Austin.
Bounty Certificate #1211 for Stephen Williams, Jasper Bounty #000027, Original Land Grant Collection, Archives and Records Program, Texas General Land Office, Austin.
Stephen Williams Grave Marker. Texas State Cemetery, Republic Hill, Section 1 (C1) Row Q Number 10. Image courtesy of Texas State Cemetery Photographer.

After the Revolution, Williams and his wife moved to Georgia for a brief period before eventually moving to St. Helena Parish, Louisiana. During the War of 1812, Williams defended the naval yards at Madisonville, Louisiana from British attack.

By 1830, Williams arrived in Texas as a widower and settled with his five children and several grandchildren in the area of Bevil’s Settlement, in what later became Jasper County. In 1835, Williams submitted a character certificate and applied for a land title from Mexico, but the process was not completed before the suspension of land offices in Texas on November 13, 1835, during the beginning of the Texas Revolution.

On November 15, 1835, at the age of 76, Williams enlisted in Captain James Chesshire’s Company. During the Siege of Bexar in December, famous for its intense house-to-house combat, Williams fought bravely alongside four of his grandsons to help wrest control of the city from the Mexican forces under General Martín Perfecto de Cos. Williams was honorably discharged from the Army of Texas on January 2, 1836 and lived the remainder of his life in Jasper County.

For his service in the Army of Texas, Williams received a 320-acre Bounty grant for three months of service, and a 640-acre Donation grant for his service at the Siege of Bexar. Because his title from Mexico was not completed before the outbreak of the Revolution, Williams was also entitled to a headright for one league and one labor (4,605.5 acres) from the newly formed Republic of Texas. In total, this veteran of three wars was granted over 5,500 acres of land in Texas, a handsome reward for his service to his new nation.

After Williams’ death in April 1839, he was buried near his home in Jasper County. During Texas’ Centennial Celebration in 1936, the state honored Stephen Williams by reinterring him at the State Cemetery in Austin.

In 2012, under the leadership of former State Regent Joy Dabney Hagg, the Daughters of the American Revolution — Texas Chapter (TSDAR) donated $25,000 for the conservation of Stephen F. Austin’s Registro, as well as twenty-seven land documents of twenty-two different American citizens who came to Texas after service in the American Revolution. TSDAR also made a donation to fund the digitization of the Connected Map of Austin’s Colony.