A Guide to the Peters Colony Records, 1841-1859
Peters Colony (also “Peters’ Colony”) was formed as a result of a contract (which was authorized by the Texas Congress on January 4, 1841) between William S. Peters and his associates, a group of English and American men, and the President of Texas, Mirabeau Lamar. It began on August 30, 1841. The first contract set the boundaries of the colony’s lands along the Red River in north Texas, and included terms for the number of emigrants required for the contract to be considered fulfilled.
The empresarios requested additional lands, as they felt that there was not enough vacant public domain included in their original boundaries. This led to the execution of a second contract, November 9, 1841, which extended the borders of the colony in exchange for increasing the required amount of settlers. The initial English investors did not provide enough funding for the venture, which led to the creation of the Texas Agricultural, Commercial and Manufacturing Company in Louisville, Kentucky on November 20, 1841. This company sent the first group of settlers to Cross Timbers in December 1841.
Persistent lack of funding and other issues led to problems maintaining the colony’s population. The company requested and was granted a time extension to fulfill their settlement numbers, as well as further modifications to the colony’s boundaries. This led to the third contract, signed July 26, 1842, which extended the boundaries further and allowed for a six month extension. In exchange, the Republic was given alternating sections of land within the colony.
On October 3, 1842, the original English investors transferred their control in the Louisville based company to a group of English and American investors. This group, which included future empresario Charles Fenton Mercer, created a messy ownership situation as one of the group, Sherman Converse, signed a fourth contract in January, 1843. This contract added an additional ten million acres of land to the colony and extended the life of the contract for an additional five years, to July 1, 1848. The rest of the Louisville group felt deceived by Converse, and reformed with additional investors as the Texas Emigration and Land Company (TELC) which, under the leadership of Willis Stewart, successfully established legal ownership of the Peters Colony. The legal battles over ownership of the colony hurt potential immigration and the colony’s population dropped to 194 families and 187 single men as of July 1, 1844.
The TELC’s problems only worsened as time went on. The company employed Henry O. Hedgcoxe as its agent. He was generally not well liked, and viewed by the colonists as a speculator. When the final contract expired on July 1, 1848, the unsettled land within the colony reverted back to vacant public domain. Additionally, many old settlers in the colony were angered by the empresarios’ practice of taking half of the settlers’ land as payment, and insisted that the legislature take action. The legislature attempted to fix the situation in January 1850, but their action angered the TELC’s stockholders, who filed suit. A compromise law was passed on February 10, 1852; however it did not satisfy the colonists, and large scale protests continued. These protests culminated in the “Hedgcoxe War”, when on July 12, 1852, a group of armed citizens stormed Hedgcoxe’s office and forced him to leave the colony. Legal action continued, and a new settlement was eventually reached, as the TELC took a more colonist-friendly stance. The process of bringing final settlement to the land titles continued for nearly twenty years, and in the end, the colony created little to no income for its investors. It did, however, bring 2,205 families to Texas, distributing to them 879,920 acres of land.
The records relating to Peter's Colony on file with the GLO mostly concern the portions of land that were given to the Texas Emigration and Land Company (TELC) in the early 1852. The bulk consists of field notes and affidavits from surveyors attesting to various boundaries of land within the Colony.
Included are original handwritten copies of the 3 colony contracts that Peters and other investors made with the Republic. There are original handwritten copies of connecting line field notes within areas of Peters Colony, field notes of 320 acre parcels that do not have Certificate numbers and were therefore not granted to the TELC, and various other legal documents relating to administration and boundary determinations of the TELC's part of Peter's Colony.
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[Short title of Document], [Date: Day-Month-Year]. Box [#], Folder [#], p. [#]. Peters Colony Records (AR.37.PC). Archives and Records Program, Texas General Land Office, Austin.
The records have been microfilmed. Original reels are stored at TSLAC records center, and duplicate reels are available at TGLO.
Detailed Description of the Collection