The record from 1755 to 1823 in the history of Milam County seems a blank. No doubt some traveled through this territory, but no record is to be found. It was occupied by the Indians but by no other people for any length of time.
The Nashville company was formed in 1822 in Nashville, Tennessee. It was purely a business proposition. There were 52 men in the company. Robert Leftwich was commissioned to go to Mexico City to secure the grant for the company. He was accompanied by Andrew Ervin. These men selected the land from a map shown them by Austin in Mexico City. Ervin returned to Nashville. In 1825, after two and a half years, the contract was granted. However, it was granted in the name of Robert Leftwich. This angered the stockholders very much and to make bad matters worse Leftwich wanted extra money for his work in Mexico City. In order to secure this money, the company had to be reorganized. The number of shares was raised from fifty-two to seventy-four. Each of these was in eight parts so there was really five hundred and ninety-two shares, valued at $50 per share.
In 1826, Dr. Felix Robertson came to Texas with a group of young men to explore the grant. Among this group was his son, Sterling C. Robertson, who had spent some time in Mexico after Mexico had gained her independence from Spain. The company camped at the junction of Little River and the Brazos. While exploring the county Robertson and his company spent considerable time in hunting and fishing. While in the vicinity he also visited Austin’s colony, and others.
On March 7, 1827, the company drew up papers asking for the grant in their names or the name of the company. They asked that Hosea H. League be empresario. He was a member of Austin’s colony and stockholder in the Nashville Company. The new contract was granted in October 18, 1827. Sterling C. Robertson was employed to guide citizens to the new grant. (1)
“On the fifteenth day of October, 1827, the Legislature of the state of Coahuila and Texas, by act of concession, appointed H. H. League empresario for the purpose of settling people in the country in the boundaries therein mentioned, and by the same act, James Overton, N. Patterson, John Davis, Richard Hyde, E. B. Marshall, Andrew Hynes, James Roan and John Shelby were appointed directors to give instructions as to the manner of settling the country, which said board of directors vested the authority of settling families in the colony in Sterling C. Robertson, one of the original stockholders, by virtue of which authority the said Robertson made application to said empresario League, to enter upon said land his families and settle according to the law of colonization, which permission was granted by said league to said Robertson, with full authority to lay, establish, and settle thereon the Nashville colony. This letter of authority dated October 16, 1830.” (2)
Robertson became empresario of the colony on October 1, 1830. League put him in charge because he, League, was in jail for connection with a shooting. League was considered a friend of education in Austin’s colony.
“After the Mexican provinces had declared themselves free and sovereign, and subject only to federation, a national colonization law was adopted August 18, 1824, one provision of which authorized the legislatures of the different states for form colonization laws for the occupancy of the public domains within their respective districts, on terms that were not at variance with federal constitution. Accordingly, the newly formed state of Coahuila and Texas, having organized its government, the legislature, on March 24, 1825, decreed such a law, one provision of which required, in order to people the land by the colony system, a certain number of families to be introduced within a given time, at the expense of the immigrants themselves. The particulars of the system were as follows, in brief: The empresario first presented a memorial to the State Government asking for permission to colonize certain waste lands which were designated, as well as the number of families he proposed to introduce. To afford ample choice to settlers, the tract designated and usually conceded by the government was greatly in excess of the appropriation to be finally made; but after the establishment of the settlement and the completion of the allotments of the colonists, and the assignment of the “premium land” to the empresario, all the surplus land reverted to the state. The distribution of the allotments was under the control of a commissioner appointed by the state, but he had power to make an assignment without the approval of the contractor. If the contractor failed to introduce the stipulated number of families within the term of six years, he lost his rights and privileges in proportion to the deficiency and the contract was totally annulled if he had not succeeded in settling 100 families. The premium granted to a contractor was five square leagues* of grazing land and five labores of tillage land for each hundred families; but he could not acquire a premium on more than 800 families.”
“Every family whose sole occupation was farming received 177 seres (one labor) of agricultural land, and if it is engaged in a stock-raising also a grazing tract sufficient to complete a square league was added. these families whose sole occupation was cattle-raising received each a square league, less one labor. (177 acres) An unmarried man received one-fourth of the above quantity. The State government alone could increase the quantities in proportion of the size of a family and the industry and activity of th colonists. Eleven square leagues was the limit of land that could be owned by the same hands as prescribed by the national colonization law. For each square league, or sitie, as it was denominated, the colonists paid an exemption sum of $30 to the State, $2.50 for each labor not irrigable, and $3.50 for each that was irrigable; but these payments were not demanded until after the expiration of six years from the time of settlement, and then only in three installments at long intervals. Contractors and the military were exempt from this tax.”
“Thus the terms offered settlers were very liberal, except that they required them to be of the Catholic faith and gave preference to Mexicans. However, after the promulgation of the above laws as increased tide of immigration set in from the United States, and little or no regard was paid to the religious character of the law. In a few years nearly the whole of Texas was parceled out to empresarios, though none fulfilled their contracts except Austin. Settlers, however, continued to come in and improve the land, mainly from the United States little or no regard was paid to the religious character of the law. In a few years nearly the whole of Texas was parceled out to empresarios, though none fulfilled their contracts except Austin. Settlers, however, continued to come in and improve the land, mainly from the United States, with the inevitable results, as almost anyone might have seen, of turning eventually the province of Texas into a member of the American Union. The population increased from 3,500 in 1821 to about 20,000 in 1830.” (4)
MAP - Robertson’S Colony
The foregoing quotation shows something of the system under which Robertson established his colony. these grants included all territory in a block which began west of the Navasota crossing of the old San Antonio and Nacagdoches road thence west into said road to the divided ridge between the waters of the Colorado and the Brazos Rivers, thence northwest with said ridge of hills to the Comanche trails, thence with this trail to the Navasota River and down said river to the beginning. The grant included the water drain of the Little River, the Bosque, and all other streams flowing into the Brazos. It has been estimated that the colony was one-sixth the total area of Texas and was as large as the state of Tennessee, or 40,000 square miles (5) (See map) The colony included all or part of what are now nineteen counties. These lands were divided and subdivided from 1846 to 1855.(6) Some of the counties carved out of this are: Brazos, Burleson, Hill, Williamson, Milam, McLennan, Bell, Limestone, Navarro, Burnett, Lampassas, Robertson, Bosque, Coryell, Hamilton Erath, Hood, Comanche, Brown, and Eastland. (7)
Miss Jean Adams in her article on Nashville states that 32 counties were carved out of this territory. (8)
As stated, in 1830 and organization known as the Nashville Company was formed. Robertson and Alexander Thompson were made managers. Undoubtedly these two men made a trip to the colony in the early part of 1830 and later in the year began to introduce families. Thompson brought his family there and began to build a few cabins at the site which was later called Nashville. (9)
Some time in 1831 Robertson had trouble with the Mexican Government and his contract was revoked. He went to Saltillo and made representations of his expenses and labors (Mr. Brown says that Robertson spent $45,000 in all) and his contract was renewed on April 29, 1834. The same legislature revoked it again in 1835 but the revolution was already brewing then and it did not hurt his plans for colonization. (10)
Not many families were settlers in the colony before 1836. As has been stated, Thompson brought his family in either toward the close of 1830 or early in 1831. He was the first to settle in Nashville. Another early settler was J. P. Jones, who settled at what is now known as Jones Prairie and lived there for some time. He had come south for his wife’s health but had to leave because of hostile Indians. The Mexican government also granted the Davila grant to Miguel Davila and this included the later town of Davila. (11)
Davidson had settled on what is now Davidson’s Creek near Caldwell but later in 1834 moved up on Little River by way of Nashville and made a crop in the spring and summer of 1835. In the fall he returned to Nashville. In the spring of 1836 he returned to Little River and in the Indian raids of that year he and a man named Crouch were killed. (See map)
When Robertson came to the colony in 1834 he settled a village at the falls of the Brazos. This village was located at the site near the present town of Marlin. He named this town Sarahville de Viesca, in honor of the Spanish governor of that time. The settlement was abandoned but was re-settled much later under the name of Fort Milam. (12)
The whole grant at this time was referred to by some as Viesca and by others as the Nashville colony. These names were applied until the first year of the Republic, after which it bore the name of Milam, one of the heroes of the Texas Revolution. Milam or Viesca was one of the original 23 counties of the Republic. (13)
The town site of Nashville, as already indicated, was settled by Alexander Thomson, the right-hand man of Robertson. Nashville was on the southwest land of the Brazos about two miles below the mouth of Little River. The site was just east of the place where highway #79 crosses the Brazos. The place may also be identified by the railroad bridge across the Brazos. Nashville was on a prairie that extended to the river bluff. There were springs gushing from the bluff, and timer was found not far away. (14)
In the background were small belts of timber, with lots of post oak and live oak in the open. Less than a mile to the south a large timbered region set in, extending to the northeast of Williamson County near Thorndale. To the west the heavy timber bordering the Little River was visible. On the north was a wide bottom, extending from the Brazos four or five miles to a line beyond the Little Brazos, or Hearne. in old times this bottom was covered with a thick growth of heavy timber and dense underwood, now mostly cleared and in cultivation. On the southeast the prairie extended a mile or so down the river, and in that direction was a wet weather branch flowing into the river. Near its east bank was the cemetery.
The town was named Nashville by the colonists for the capital of Tennessee, for many of the people of the colony came from near Nashville, Tennessee. The town was laid out by General Thomas J. Chambers, who owned eleven leagues of land crossing the site. The ferry, in 1835, was placed near where the railroad bridge now stands to accommodate the few settlers on both sides of the river.
Mr. Brown describes the village as follows:
“The village of Nashville consisted of an aggregation of small log and board houses erected near the river bluff. Some of the log dwellings were double pens, without hall between, some with halls (dirt floors), others single pens—some were of hewn, some of unknown logs; a few were framed and weather boarded with whip-sawed edges. Openings between logs were ‘chinked and daubed’.”
“As a sample of the log dwellings of the time, a description of my father’s log hut is here given: It was built of hewn cedar logs, one room 16X18 feet, about 9 feet high, plain chimney at one end, covered with oak boards about three feet long, showing 18 inches held in place by two poles. There were two small unhewn log houses close by – one for smoke house, the other for corn crib. (The field, enclosing some 8 or 10 acres, was south of the dwelling.) Those homes are still standing (1905) and can be plainly see3n from the car windows. There are about 100 yards west of I.&G.E. railroad track and probably the same direction from the river. After we left the village another living room was added to the east end, probably by Captain W. D. Thomson, who occupied the premises many years.”
“It is impossible, after the lapse of 63 years, to give the names of all the families that lived in and near Nashville. In 1836, and up to the winter of 1839-40 when I left there, I knew nearly everyone. The village was small, not over 15 or 20 families in town and the immediate vicinity. there were many comers and goers from time to time. I call to mind the following residents:
Thomson, W. D.
Brown, John Duff
Howlegg, Capt. James**
Childers, Capt. Goldsby
Among those at Nashville, more or less, and at different times, in the middle and late ‘30s, were:Thomson, Thomas
“Nashville was the colonial capitol, where empressario Robertson had his land office, kept his papers and records, and transacted his business.
“Indian visits occurred every now and then. It happened more than once that on arising at morning, moccasin tracks were found in the yard, showing that Indians had visited us in the preceding night.
“On one occasion mother came to the crib where her children were at play, and told us to get out quickly as Indians were in close proximity. We all scrambled out and ran to the house of Mr. Bell, the largest in the village, where we found the rooms crowded with women and children, the doors barricaded and several men in the yard with guns, standing guard. The alarm soon died out. The alarm was caused by Indians running a couple of men right into the town.”
“On another occasion the members of our family stood at the front door of the dwelling and saw about forty Indians on Horseback enter the village, passing within 150 yards of us. We quickly learned that they professed friendship. They soon departed.”
“I do not remember the date, but it was some time in the late ‘30s that John McLennan, Sr., brother of Neill, Sr., while proceeding on foot from Little River to Nashville, when at a place on the road, seven miles from town, known as the “Sugar Loaf” (a small round eminence), was killed by Indians. This occurred early in the morning. The same day several men went after his remains. The body was strapped on a horse, his head and arms hanging on one side, and his legs dangling on the other. He was thus brought in and placed on planks. His body had in it several arrows. I will never forget the horrid scene presented by his mangled body, scalpless, and the protruding arrows. The spectacle was revolting. The memory of it is vivid after 65 years.”
“Living, in the olden time, was attended with many hardships and perils. The men hunted game in the bottoms of the Brazos and Little River and in the post oaks south of the village. There was much danger but they took the risk”.
“The people used corn bread almost exclusively. Wheat flour was seldom seen. At rare intervals a barrel or two of the flour was brought from Houston by ox team; but as a rule, it was too expensive and seldom used. People were too poor to purchase it. Hog products, beef and chickens, gradually came into use. There were no luxuries. A few vegetables were raised at autumn and spring. It was a hard life, but with care it brought health and strength. Wild honey was on the table now and then. the corn was ground into coarse meal in steel mills. Nearly every family had one.”
“I do not remember that any schools were operated while I was there. Afterwards, when I attended school in the early forties, there were no steel pens in use. Writing was entirely taught with goose quills. Teachers were usually experts in repairing and mending them. They did well for a while, but required frequent mending.”
“The men usually wore buckskin clothes. Later they had, at times, cotton drilling and Kentucky jeans. The women made their own clothes from the small patches of cotton grown near their dwellings. They and the children usually gathered the staple and picked away the seeds by hand. This was mostly done at evening by fire light. The women carded, spun, and wove the cloth on hand looms. The cloth was dyed with oose from the bark of trees.”
“There were no friction matches in the early days. When at home or traveling, fires were usually lighted with flint and steel, using punk, and sometimes firing a wad from a rifle and igniting dry leaves and twigs. It was an invariable rule, to cover coals and burning chinks with ashes before retiring at night.”
“I do not know when Nashville was finally abandoned. It ceased to be the county seat in1845. It must have finally gone to decay about the time of the Texas and Houston Central Railroad reaching Hearne, soon after the close of the Civil War in 1865. Several old Texas towns were ruined by railroads. long before this, however, some families had left there. the Davidsons family moved to Austin in 1846; N. C. Raymond and the family moved to Austin the same year, and W. D. Thomson and family moved to the capitol in 1855. Other families migrated elsewhere. There was a post office at Nashville up to the beginning of the civil war. the desertion of the town must have been gradual, and no doubt finally ceased to exist some time in the sixties.” (18)
Another settlement was called Tenoxtitlan. This was 10 of 20 miles down the Brazos from Nashville and is not in Milam County as it stands now. It was used as a resting place for travelers and was important in that day. (19)
There were many Indian fights and many raids. Among the most important were the “Elm Creek Fight” and the “Post Oak Fight”. One may read of these in Mr. Brown’s accounts.
His account also gives character sketches of the more important citizens of Nashville. These Indians, in the year 1836, became so menacing that settlements were abandoned and the families moved to Fort Nashville. These facts as well as the distances between the homes of the colonists, who did not live in the settlements mentioned, made schools impossible.
Under conditions as described schools were impossible. Probably a few came into being during the early forties. No record of any have been found from the time of the closing of the missions (in the middle eighteenth century to a very few organized a few years after) to the close of the Texas Revolutionary War. Even Nashville was without a school, at lest at that time. the lack of schools was one of the prime grievances against the Mexican government at that time, and the main grievances of the revolutionists. The following is taken from the Lone Star State concerning education before the revolution.
“Education in Coahuila and Texas was at an extremely low ebb. Only in the town of Saltillo was there a fixed appropriation for the maintenance of a common schoolmaster, and that was a scanty one. the education of the children of servants to write was prevented, on the fear that on growing up they would want higher position than that of servitude. In 1880 the Congress endeavored to remedy this evil by enacting a law to establish schools of mutual instruction on the Lancastrian system, but the law did not establish the schools. In these schools were to be taught reading, writing, arithmetic, the dogmas of the Catholic religion, and Ackerman’s catechisms of arts and sciences, the teacher’s salary being fixed at $800 a year. The next year was another law adopted, to establish primary schools on a similar plan, with a similar result. The people were indifferent to educational progress. Among the settlements of Austin’s colony a few private schools were established, and, in 1829, the first Protestant Sunday-school in Texas was opened, at San Felipe de Austin, by t. J. Pilgrim, of the Baptist church. It was soon interrupted, however, when fears were excited by a litigation that the public would recognize it as a violation of the colonization law.” (20)
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* A square league was a tract of 5,000 varas square, and contained 4,428 acres. A labor was 1000 varas square, and contained 177 acres. Twenty-five labores were equal to one sitie, and five sities composed one hacienda.
** The first surveyor of the municipality of Milam.
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CHAPTER III – FOOTNOTES
(1) Henderson, Katherine, History of Milam County Until 1850 (Unpublished Thesis – Texas University –1924) pps 31-38
(2) Brown, Frank R., Nashville – Old Settlers Reunion 1905
(3) Note - This footnote number was not in the original text; the footnotes are misnumbered or it was omitted by the author.
(4) The Lone Star State (Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Co., 1893) page 34
(5) Henderson, Katherine, History of Milam County Until 1850 (Unpublished Thesis – Texas University – 1924) page 40
(6) Henderson, Katherine, History of Milam County Until 1850 (Unpublished Thesis – Texas University 0 1924) pp. 40
(8) Adams, Jean, Cameron Herald – May 30, 1935
(9) Henderson, Katherine, History of Milam County Until 1850 (Unpublished Thesis – Texas University – 1924) pp. 41
(10) Henderson, Katherine, History of Milam County Until 1850 (Unpublished Thesis – Texas University – 1924) page 41
(12) Henderson, Katherine, History of Milam County Until 1850 (Unpublished Thesis – Texas University – 1924) pp. 1
(13) Brown, Frank R., Nashville – Old Settlers’ Reunion – 1903
(15) Note - This footnote number was not in the original text; the footnotes are misnumbered or it was omitted by the author.
(16) Note - This footnote number was not in the original text; the footnotes are misnumbered or it was omitted by the author.
(17) Note - This footnote number was not in the original text; the footnotes are misnumbered or it was omitted by the author.
(18) Brown, Frank R., Nashville – Old Settlers’ Reunion – 1903
(19) Brown, Frank R., Nashville – Old Settlers’ Reunion – 1903
(20) The Lone Star State (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1893)
We must say a special thank you to George Keeton of Buchanan Dam, Texas, for typing the above thesis for use on the Milam County TXGenWeb site.
Created on 21 Dec 2003 and last revised on __________