Chapter Three--The Impact of the American
If one wishes to
understand the settlement practices of the Czech immigrants who came to
Texas in the 1800's, one must learn the settlement patterns of the German
immigrants who came to Texas in the 1800's because the first Czechs sought
out and settled near the Germans. In turn, if one wishes to understand the
settlement patterns of the Germans, one needs to study the settlement
patterns of the Anglo-Americans who, generally, settled in Texas, prior to
the mass migration of Germans and Czechs. This short study will attempt to
present an overview of the settlement patterns in Texas in the 1800's.
Part One pertained to
the settlement of the Austin colony by cotton planters and polite gentry.
The Colony was established under the Spanish Government and was allowed to
continue when the Mexican Government took control. Part Two pertained to the
settlement patterns of the Anglo American yeomen farmers and the German
immigrants. In this part, I hope to present an overall view of settlements
in Texas around the time of the Civil War and explore some societal issues
which profoundly affected where the German and Czech immigrants would settle
if they arrived around the time of the Civil War. In the Book
Texas: Dark Corner of the Confederacy: Contemporary Accounts of the Lone
Star State in the Civil War, B. P. Gallaway presents a concise summary
of Texas settlement immediately before the Civil War:
"The Lone Star State
was a land of paradoxes during the war years. Her diverse social and
economic structure was greatly complicated by a highly variegated
topography, and erratic climate, an unequal distribution of wealth, and a
rapidly increasing population. According to the Eighth Census of the
United States in 1860, the total population was 604,215. The figure
included 182,566 slaves, 355 free African Americans, and a 'foreign'
population of 43,422. Brazoria County was the wealthiest county in the
state and also the one containing the largest number of slaves. Only
21,878 Texans were slave holders and almost half owned three slaves or
less. Only two Texas planters claimed two hundred slaves or more, and only
one of these, D. C. Mills of Brazoria County, claimed more than three
By 1860 counties had
been organized as far west as the one hundredth meridian and along the
valley of the lower Rio Grande; the western interior was unorganized,
unsettled, and very unhealthy. Human life was especially cheap west of a
frontier line of settlement that extended roughly along the western fringe
of the Western Cross Timbers, through the Hill County west of San Antonio,
and southwest to the Rio Grande settlements. The heart of the organized
section was the southeastern cotton-producing region and extended as far
west as the Western Cross Timbers. Southwest of the German settlements and
beyond the rolling Hill County were thousands of wild mustangs and wild,
unbranded longhorn cattle (Gallaway 1)."
than five percent of the population lived in urban centers, Texas was
essentially a land of innumerable villages, frontier forts, trading posts,
sprawling ranches, and isolated farming communities. By 1860, however, the
state did possess several sizable towns. The largest population
concentrations were in San Antonio and Galveston, each claiming
populations approaching ten thousand. Houston, Austin, New Braunsfels,
Marshall, and about fourteen other settlements boasted more than one
thousand inhabitants. Almost one-third of the free population in urban
centers were foreign born, many having come directly from their homelands
to become merchants, craftsmen, teamsters, or laborers. (Gallaway 2)."
This is where
presenting the facts gets tricky for me. When Texas chose to secede from the
Union, there was a significant percentage of the population who became
polarized with the Confederate cause and in doing so began to turn on other
Texans. Gallaway again presents a concise narrative:
"The news of John
Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry and of Abraham Lincoln's election to the
presidency greatly magnified the average Texan's anxiety and sectional
hatred. By the time the state Session Convention convened in Austin early
in 1861, many Texans were nearly in a frenzy. Several destructive fires of
unknown origin in Dallas, Denton, and Waxahachie were interpreted as proof
that subversives or Kansas Jayhawks were at work in the Lone Star State.
Vigilante bands and secret organizations immediately sprang up to deal
with the unseen terror. Strangers were attacked, travelers were
threatened, and 'trouble-making' slaves and suspected Yankee sympathizers
"The state convention
passed the secession ordinance on February 1, 1861, by a vote of 171 to 6,
and this action received popular sanction three weeks later by a vote of
46,129 to 14,698. Only nineteen counties could claim slim majorities
opposing secession, largely in the rolling Hill County northwest of Austin,
where many Germans lived, and along the Red River in North Texas, which
contained clusters of free-soil immigrants from the Old Northwest (Gallaway
Can you see
where this is headed? I have not yet found a serious text which fully
explores the Anti-German/Anti-Foreigner aspect of the Civil War. If that
text does exist, I imagine would have been written recently and some will
brand it as "Rewriting History." I have; however, tidbits in various places
which clue one in to what was going on. In the book Galveston: A History
of The Island by Gary Cartwright, I found the following:
"A group of
mechanics and laborers who joined together in the aptly named Know
Nothings movement shadowed German immigrants; they were flexed for
violence and waiting for a sign that the Germans were involved in
'treason.’ The primary motive of the Know Nothings was to halt the
immigration of Germans, who were likely to be pro Union and antislavery
and, more importantly, were likely to take the jobs from native- born
Americans (Cartwright 89)."
In the book
Galveston, I also found:
"When the word
reached Galveston in January 1861 that South Carolina had seceded from the
Union, the town went crazy. A mob stormed the offices of the
German-language newspaper 'Die Union' and wrecked it. Its publisher, a
mild-mannered Ferdinand Flake, had dared criticize secession. Flake's
fellow publisher William Richardson, of the 'Galveston Daily News,' rather
than rising to his defense, urged that the mob turn its reign of terror on
the other German Americans.(Cartwright 92)."
So there we have it.
Texas must not have seemed such a good idea anymore to many German
immigrants and settlers. This anti-foreigner sentiment resulted in those
immigrants who did arrive during this period not being able to buy land in
many cases. For instance, the Hrncir family to which I am connected arrived
at the brink of the Civil War in 1861. They had capital to purchase land but
were not welcomed. Their young son was, however, almost conscripted in the
Confederate Army...only by hauling contraband cotton to Mexico did he escape
this service. It was not until after the war in 1865 that the Hrncirs
purchased their first farm land in the area of High Hill, Fayette
County...and this was, primarily, an area settled by Germans.
Before I close out
this area, I am compelled to mention the so called "Battle of The Nueces In
Kinney County, Texas" which occurred on August 10, 1862. The Handbook of
Texas describes this event as follows:
"In this battle
sixty-five German Unionists, attempting to reach Mexico and then New
Orleans to join the Union Army, were attached by a Confederate force of
ninety-six men. Nineteen were killed in the battle, and thirty-seven
escaped. The rest were captured and then executed by the Confederate force
(Handbook of Texas Online)."
A different view of
this event can be found in the book Civil War in Texas and New
Mexico Territory by Steve Cotrell:
Confederacy initiated the conscription in the spring of 1862, many
citizens objected so strongly that the situation nearly developed into a
serious rebellion in Texas. Among the most adamant Union supporters
opposed to the draft in the State were German immigrants located
primarily in the six counties along the west coast. Confederate
authorities declared the counties in a state of rebellion and sent a
dispatchment of cavalry to apprehend the ringleaders. In August a party
of sixty-one German Americans planning to flee to Mexico was overtaken
by the Texas cavalrymen on the Nueces River. The troopers opened fire on
the refugees and massacred thirty-four German men in cold blood, taking
no prisoners (Cottrell 74)."
Support for a
reality closer to that as described by Cotrell (and further from the view
presented by the Handbook of Texas) can be found in the book Lone
Star: A History of Texas and the Texans by T. R. Fehrenbach:
"In the summer of
1862, one group of Germans, who were actually neutralist in sentiment fled
this region for Mexico. They armed themselves, under the command of Major
Tegener, but their purpose was to flee the state rather than fight the
Confederacy. Tegener rode south with some 65 men and boys. When Duff
learned he had gone, he dispatched a force under Lieutenant McRae in
The refugees camped on the Nueces River,
about two hundred miles from where they started. They did not expect close
pursuit. On the night of August 9, under a full moon, Tegener and the
group held a lively discussion about the meaning of 'fatherland,'
'citizenship,' 'Civil War,' and Mexico. According to the statements of
John William Samson, who was there, most of the German farmers were deeply
confused as to what the war was all about.
down upon the camp while the Germans lay sleeping. He surrounded it and
opened fire indiscriminately. The result was a massacre. Nineteen Germans
were killed by gunfire, and six more trampled to death by McRae's cavalry.
Nine surrendered. McRae ordered them shot, and they were executed on the
spot. In his report to Duff, the lieutenant stated he met 'determined
resistance', hence I have no prisoners to report (Fehrenbach 363 - 364)."
My intent in
presenting this is to make vivid the picture of what the German settlers
were facing during the Civil War. This is the written material I have found.
One can be sure that the Czech immigrants were treated in much the same
manner as the Germans.
All of this pertains
to my issue of settlement practices because it not only shows what was going
on with European settlers at the time but also sets the stage for who
settles where after the Civil War. That will be the subject of Part Four.
Cartwright, Gary. Galveston: A History of the Island.
TCU Press, 1991.
Cottrell, Steve. Civil War in
Texas New Mexico Territory. Louisiana: Pelican Publishing Co, Inc.,
Fehrenbach, T. R. Lone
Star: A History of Texas and the Texans. New York: Collier Books,
Gallaway, B. P. Texas: The Dark Corner of
the Confederacy; Contemporary Accounts of the Lone Star State during
the Civil War. Nebraska; University of Nebraska Press, 1994.
The Handbook of Texas Online: "West Nueces
Susan Rektorik Henley