“OLD 300″ History With Dr. Paul Spellman
Although the vast majority of Austin’s First Colonists were families (parent and child), at least 68 of the 300 names were single men arriving in partnerships that would allow them more land according to the Empresario’s contract. Originally the contract read: “Single men will be examined as to character more particularly than men of families, and TEN of them must unite to form a family and they will be entitled to one League of land to be divided between them.” After some protest as to the implausibility of forming such large partnerships, Austin acquiesced and allowed “an official family” to be at least TWO single men. This was much more appealing to entrepreneurial bachelors, who could now be granted 4,400 acres instead of a tenth that, and over 30 partnerships were established, most with two men and a few with three.
One of the three-partner deeds went to James Frazier, David Shelby, and John McCormick, whose original land was situated in what is today the southernmost tip of Austin County near the conjunction with Wharton and Fort Bend counties. Frazier had arrived at first with David Fitzgerald – likely a fugitive from American law, but partnered with Shelby and McCormick to gain his league of land. While Frazier eventually settled over in Fort Bend, Pennsylvania-born Shelby put down his roots with his wife Rachel Marshall and their seven children in Austin County; in 1846 a small German settlement was named for Shelby.
As for McCormick, one of a dozen Irish Catholics in the colony, if he ever even set foot in Texas it wasn’t for long: he is one of four original settlers forced to forfeit his claim. This is only part of the story. Perhaps as many as a dozen of those so-called “partners” never saw the light of a Texas sunrise, signing on for a friend or cousin who was on his way to join up, agreeing – perhaps for no more than a friendly handshake or a tavern brew – to the deal so that the other could get the 4,500 acres!
As for David “Old Fitz” Fitzgerald, now there’s a story for you and for next time.
Dr. Paul Spellman is the author of the book “Old 300 – Gone To Texas“, a broad and dramatic saga of the three hundreds families who made their way to Texas in the 1820’s following Stephen F. Austin and a dream to start new lives on a new frontier. If you are interested in a copy of the book “Old Three – Hundred Gone to Texas” you may purchase it at Amazon.com in Paperback or electronic Kindle Edition.