The Journal of the Life and Culture of San Antonio

English, Scotch, and Welsh Settle in 19th Century San Antonio

From its earliest days in the 1600s as an English colony, until 1890, millions of Englishmen, including Scotch and Welsh, came to the United States——but not a great many came to Texas.

Between 1860 and 1890, nearly two million English, Scots and Welsh settlers added their numbers to those already in the United States—but in 1860 San Antonio had only 68 citizens English-born. In fact, the total native English population of the five principal Texas towns——San Antonio, Galveston, Houston, Austin and New Braunfels—totaled just 249. During the next 20 years, only 155 new British families came to Texas.

But the English, Scots and Welsh, relatively few as they were, made distinctive contributions to San Antonio. Moreover, a majority of the Anglo—Americans who came to Texas, beginning in the 1820s, were from families that had originated in Great Britain and came to Texas from the United States or from Canada. The British were attracted to Texas by what seemed to many of them a relatively easy way to make a fortune in cattle or sheep raising——and also by the prospect of an exciting and romantic life in the West promised them by a number of British writers.

Some British individuals and associations were active in trying to bring immigrants to Texas. Among their publicity channels was a special London newspaper, Universal Emigration and Colonization Messenger. The Mexican state of Coahuila—Texas made an empresario grant of land on March 9, 1826 to Arthur Wavell. Benjamin Milam, famous later as the hero of the Battle of Bexar, was his associate and resident manager of the Texas colony. Milam visited England during the summer of 1828 to stimulate interest in Texas [SHQ, January 1960].

A number of British immigrants came to the San Antonio area after George W. Kendall, a publisher and journalist who had successfully taken up sheep ranching in the Hill Country in the 1840s, wrote in the Boston Post. Kendall’s article brought him a deluge of letters and his written replies cost him a hundred dollar postage bill.

The net result of Kendall’s portrayal of exceptional opportunities in sheep raising was “a considerable influx from the north, including Americans, Englishmen, Scotsmen, and Germans,” according to Charles W. Towne and Edward N. Wentworth in Shepherd’s Empire. “The New Englanders generally settled in the Waco region, the English and Scotch around San Antonio, and the Germans in the vicinity of Boerne and Fredericksburg.” After the Civil War, some of the British came as “remittance men.” Paul H. Carlson tells about them in Texas Woollybacks, The Range Sheep and Goat Industry (1982). They were “young men of upper- and middle-class families, unable to find work in areas usually open to their class, such as the learned professions, the army or navy, or the civil service.... They received regular allowances from their families in England, Scotland and Ireland” [ Carlson, 721]. Most of the British were not, of course, remittance men. Some did well as ranchers, such as Thomas Hughes who successfully raised thousands of sheep near Boerne.

--Frank W. Jennings, 1992


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