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The Winedale Story - The Spanish and Mexican Eras

After their explorations in the 1500s and 1600s, the Spanish established their presence in Texas. Throughout the Spanish colonial era, the Winedale area continued as a major crossroads of exploration, travel, and trade. Spanish explorers, soldiers, missionaries, and cattle herds traversed the region from San Antonio and La Bahía to Nacogdoches and into Louisiana. Except for the dwindling Tonkawa population, the area remained sparsely settled until Mexican independence from Spain and the beginnings of Anglo colonization in the 1820s.
 
Register of private brands and earmarks in the San Antonio area, 1762.
Bexar Archives
Register of brands and earmarks, 1762
  Juez de campo

Juez de campo (field judge), drawing by José Cisneros, in his Riders Across the Centuries: Horsemen of the Spanish Borderlands (1984).
Texas Collection Library

  Stephen F. Austin, Map of TexasStephen F. Austin, Map of Texas (1835).
J. P. Bryan Map Collection

This adapted 1835 map of Texas is based on the surveys of empresario Stephen F. Austin and Mexican General Mier y Terán. It depicts the strategic location of the Winedale area near the major road connecting the presidio, missions, and cattle ranches of La Bahía (now Goliad) with Nacogdoches in east Texas. In the 1820s, the area lay in the northern part of Austin’s original colony. La Bahía Road, which developed from an old Indian trail and was traveled as early as 1690 by the Alonso de León expedition, crossed the Colorado River near present-day La Grange, then curved to the northeast before joining the Camino Real from San Antonio. It has left its name in Fayette County in the form of La Bahía Prairie.

The large Spanish cattle industry in south Texas exported horses and cattle up the Caminos Reales (“Royal Roads”) from San Antonio and La Bahía for sale in Louisiana. The practice of branding livestock was one of many cattle-raising traditions that the Spanish brought to the New World. Those traditions also included a comprehensive legal structure regulating cattle taxes, roundups, slaughter, and export and sale.  
 
 
Stephen F. Austin   With independence from Spain in 1821, the new Mexican Republic was eager to settle its sparsely populated northern frontier with stable and prosperous farmers and planters. American Stephen F. Austin promised to fill that need with his first colony in 1822. Austin worked hard to promote peace and stability between the settlers and the Mexican authorities. The Austin Colony was a generous grant, extending far inland from the coast to embrace the area of present-day Winedale (see map above). The original Austin colonists, known as the “Old Three Hundred,” included the first Anglo settlers in what is now northern Fayette County.

Portrait of Stephen F. Austin, by William Howard, 1833.
J. P. Bryan Papers

     
Stephen F. Austin kept a homespun-bound ledger of land titles issued to the settlers in his colony. Among the original “Old Three Hundred” settlers was William Rabb, who received three titles north of the Colorado River in the summer of 1824. Rabb was vital to the success of Austin’s colony because he agreed to establish a mill. Rabb’s Prairie in northern Fayette County recalls his role in the history of the region.
 
Homespun cover for, & William Rabb title entries in, Stephen F. Austin, A List of Titles, 1824 William Rabb title entries in Stephen F. Austin, A List of Titles, 1824 Homespun cover for, Stephen F. Austin, A List of Titles, 1824   Homespun cover for, & William Rabb title entries in, Stephen F. Austin, A List of Titles, 1824.
J. P. Bryan Papers
  Reconstructed Log Cabins at Winedale Reconstructed Log Cabins at Winedale Reconstructed Log Cabins at Winedale Reconstructed Log Cabins at Winedale
Reconstructed log cabins at Winedale,
Photographs by Drew Patterson.
Winedale Photograph Collection
 
John and Mary Rabb, William Rabb’s son and daughter-in-law, also settled in the area in the 1830s. Pioneer life in the Austin Colony demanded unceasing toil and privation to wrest a livelihood from the wilderness. Mary Rabb left a written reminiscence of those early days:
 

“… then you Pa left me and the chilern and the cows and the hogs and went over to the collerrado.… I stayd all summer by myself onley my two little children … while you Pa raist corn on the Colorrado I would pick the cotten with my fingers and spin six hundred thread a round the reel evry day and milk my cows and pound my meat in a mortar and cook and churn and mind my children.…”

  Portrait of John and Mary Rabb
Mary Rabb reminiscence, 1875.
Rabb Family Papers
  Portrait of John and Mary Rabb. Prints and Photographs Collection
     

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