Map of Castro’s Colony — Bexar District
San Antonio, 1851
Henri Castro, a French-born empresario, established Castro’s Colony to settle 600 families in two south-central Texas grants. He first came to the United States as the French Consul in Providence, Rhode Island, and became an American citizen in 1827. After returning to France, he became a land agent for the failed Lafitte Company to handle the sale of Republic of Texas public lands in 1841. On February 15, 1842, he signed an empresario contract with President Sam Houston, officially launching Castro’s Colony.
On September 1, 1844, after working for two years to organize the project, Castro left San Antonio for his colony. Early settlers struggled due to a lack of significant farming experience and poor preparation, having received instructions from Castro to bring clothing, munitions, tools, and provisions to last six months. However, most colonists came from the urban centers of Europe and did not anticipate the challenges that life on the frontier would present. According to Castro, “Farmers in easy circumstance rarely emigrate.”
Families were eligible for grants of 640 acres, and single men over the age of seventeen could receive 320-acre grants. By August 15, 1847, Castro recruited 2,134 colonists from Europe and issued a total of 558 titles for a total of 277,760 acres. Despite the unrealistic expectations of early settlers, financial hardships of the government, Indigenous incursions, cholera, and poor environmental conditions and drought, the colony’s population grew slowly. By 1848, the Texas legislature formed Medina County, with Castroville as the county seat.
This manuscript map outlines Castro’s Colony with a blue border and highlights land granted to colonists. Open space indicates land that was still available for settlement. A notation under the title block reads, “Open for any locations after Oct. 1st 1856,” allowing any new settlers to Texas to settle in the geographic area, not limiting settlement to colonists. The map includes territory in Frio, Atascosa, and Medina counties, and it charts the boundaries of “McMullen’s Grant” in yellow, a reference to Irish empresario John McMullen’s unfulfilled colonization contract. A small grid represents Castroville tucked into a bend of the Medina River in the northeast part of the colony. The map identifies several roads, including the Presidio, the Old Presidio, Old Pita, Fort Merrill, and many smaller routes. A faint road from Castroville to San Antonio crosses the Medina River, linking Castro’s colony to a significant trading post.
- Weaver, B.A., M.A, Bobby. “Castro’s Colony: Empresario Colonization in Texas, 1842–1865.” Dissertation, Texas Tech University, 1983: 10, 29; Curtis Bishop, “Castro’s Colony,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 31, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/castros-colony. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
- M. Generosa Callahan, “Henri Castro and James Hamilton,” The Southwestern Historical Quarterly 69, no. 2 (1965): 176.
- Weaver, “Castro’s Colony,” 149.
- Ibid., 53, 182; Bishop, “Castro’s Colony.”
- Rachel Bluntzer Hébert and William H. Oberste, “McMullen, John,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 31, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/mcmullen-john-FMC94. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.