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Historically Fort Bend:
The Old 300


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Jane Long

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Adam Stafford

Portraits of Old 300 members

 

The 1936 historical marker for Wyly Martin near his grave in the Dyer-Myers Cemetery in Richmond.

The 1936 historical marker for Wyly Martin near his grave in the Dyer-Myers Cemetery in Richmond.

The palmetto leaf hat belonged to C.C. Dyer.

The palmetto leaf hat belonged to C.C. Dyer.

By Chris Godbold
The Old 300 are the first settlers brought to Texas under Stephen F. Austin’s contract to bring families to the Mexican province. The contract was initially negotiated by Stephen’s father Moses, and granted the Austins permission to bring 300 families to Texas. The number of men and women who were granted land actually comes to 297. These early pioneers included both men and women; single and married; young and old. Some of the Old 300 acquired land as part of business ventures while many others applied for land where they could live and raise their families.

When applying for land, prospective settlers were asked for what purpose they wanted it. Those who wanted to farm received a labor (about 177 acres) of land, while those who were stock raisers received a sitio or league (about 4428 acres) of land. Those who were both stock raisers and farmers received a sitio and a labor of land. Consequently, most applicants responded that they were both stock raisers and farmers. In addition, families were preferred,so single men could only receive a fourth of the above totals. Other colonization rules prohibited the slave trade and required settlers to live on or cultivate their property within two years or risk repossession of the property. Catholicism was the preferred religion, though this was only loosely enforced.

Some of the Old 300 didn’t stay very long and others never came at all. However, many settlers established generations-long residence in Texas. Austin’s Colony stretched from the Gulf Coast to present day Grimes, Brazos, Burleson, Lee and Bastrop counties, and east to west from present day Harris County to portions of Lavaca and Jackson counties. The Old 300 lived throughout this area. About 55 of the Old 300 received grants in what would become Fort Bend County. Other members of the group settled in Fort Bend County after receiving their initial grant(s) elsewhere.

Many of the Old 300 chose land along bodies of water. In Fort Bend County, the Brazos River was popular as was the San Bernard River and Oyster Creek. Other Old 300 pioneers settled on the Colorado River, San Jacinto River, Buffalo Bayou and along several other bayous and creeks. Wherever they settled, each colonist came to Texas for their own reasons. Some traveled here to get rich; some to escape their past, and still others chose to migrate to Texas to make a new life for themselves and their families. Despite their diverse origins, most of the Old 300 developed shared Texas ties and became the nucleus of the budding Lone Star State.

Bibliography:

Spellman, Paul. Old 300: Gone to Texas.

San Bernardino, CA: by the author, 2014.

Ernest Wallace, David M. Vigness and George B. Ward. Documents of Texas History, 2d ed. Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 2002.

 

Historical facts and photos courtesy of the Fort Bend County
Museum Association, Richmond, TX

sponsored by:
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