A Guide to the Robertson's Colony Records, 1825-1847
Robertson's Colony is the name commonly applied to an area north of the Old San Antonio Road, between the Navasota and Colorado rivers. It was initially settled in the 1830's through the efforts of Empresario Sterling C. Robertson. Robertson succeeded to an enterprise originally conceived by a group known as the Texas Association, which was organized in Nashville in 1822 to promote a colonization venture in the newly independent nation of Mexico. Despite persistent efforts, the Association's most active agent in Mexico City, Robert Leftwich, was unable to gain the desired concession from the Mexican central government. However, authority for colonization was given to the state governments in 1825, and Leftwich was then able to obtain a colonization contract in his own name from Coahuila/Texas. Leftwich's contract called for the introduction of 800 settlers.
In August 1825, Leftwich sold this contract to the Texas Association. The group's initial efforts in 1826 and 1827 were unable to result in any viable settlement in the contracted area. With the government refusing to recognize its agents, the Association felt compelled to obtain recognition as the legitimate successors of Leftwich's contract. With Stephen F. Austin's assistance, the Association received a contract in October, 1827, which validated the transfer by Leftwich and kept in place almost all the conditions of the earlier contract, including the expiration date of April 15, 1831. Because the principals had never clearly established a name for their association, in this 1827 contract it was referred to as the "Nashville Association," and between 1827 and 1831 the enterprise was known as the "Nashville Colony." Frequent references are also found to the "Nashville Company," another name for this same Association.
Sterling C. Robertson, one of the original stockholders of the Association, received a subcontract with them and began recruiting families for the colony in the spring of 1830. Several of these arrived in Texas in October 1830. These efforts were frustrated by the Law of April 6, 1830, which, according to the interpretation given to its provisions, permitted immigration from the United States only to "established" colonies; namely, the Austin and DeWitt colonies.
Faced with the lapse of the contract in 1831, Robertson requested Stephen F. Austin to obtain an extension of the contract. According to an account written by Austin in 1837, the governor refused to consider the possibility of extending the Nashville Company contract or granting a new contract. Concerned that foreign interests were about to acquire the right to settle in this area and doubtful of their ability to settle it effectively, Austin requested and was granted, along with Samuel May Williams, a colonization contract that included most of the area in his existing contract plus the territory assigned to the Nashville Association in 1827. (Records of Austin and Williams' Colony, or the Upper Colony, as it was also known, are described in the inventory of Austin's Colony Records, Texas General Land Office). Robertson bitterly contested the award to Austin and Williams and persuaded the state legislature in 1834 that one hundred families had been introduced under the Association's contract prior to April 6, 1830, which constituted a saving of the contract. This contract was reinstated in May, 1834, and extended for four years, with Sterling C. Robertson as empresario.
William H. Steele was appointed the government's commissioner to issue land titles under Robertson's contract. However, during a period of turbulence in state government one year later, the congress of Coahuila and Texas returned the colony to Austin and Williams. Steele refused to abide by this decree, contending that the lack of a quorum rendered it null. He continued to issue titles in Robertson's Colony until November, 1835, even after the political chief of the Department of the Brazos had notified him of his suspension as commissioner. During that time, Steele issued a total of 314 titles to Robertson Colony settlers. A mass of conflicting titles resulted from the competing empresario contracts which covered the area of Robertson's Colony, and much protracted litigation was required during the ensuing years to resolve the disputed claims.
Robertson’s Colony Records include contract records, correspondence, land titles, a register of surveys made in 1826 by Felix Robertson, a register of 129 families (with names and ages of family members) admitted into the colony after 1835, a list of titles issued, two volumes of transcriptions of the titles issued by Commissioner William H. Steele, and one volume of translations of titles encompassing parts of the Colony.
Most records created by Texas state agencies are not copyrighted and may be freely used in any way. State records also include materials received by, not created by, state agencies. Copyright remains with the creator. The researcher is responsible for complying with U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17 U.S.C.).
[Short title of Document], [Date: Day-Month-Year]. Box [#], Folder [#], p. [#]. Robertson's Colony Records (AR.87.RT). Archives and Records Program, Texas General Land Office, Austin.
Materials have been digitized. See the Texas General Land Office Land Grant Database and input the surname of the individual grantee. For contract records and correspondence, enter the number into the Certificate field.
Detailed Description of the Collection