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Haden Edwards

by Archie P. McDonald
Archie McDonald Ph.D.

Haden Edwards helped influence the Anglo settlement of East Texas almost as much as Stephen F. Austin, but the state capitol and a couple of universities are not named for him. Here's why.

Edwards was born in Virginia in 1771 and moved with his parents to the western part of the state that became the state of Kentucky in 1796. Edwards' father, a land speculator and one of Kentucky's first U.S. senators, helped sons Haden and Benjamin Edwards begin their own successful land speculation ventures in Mississippi.

Learning about Moses Austin's land activities in Texas, Edwards shifted his interest to Texas. He traveled to Mexico City early in the 1820s to join Stephen F. Austin, Robert Leftwich, and others in lobbying successive Mexican governments for permission to colonize Texas . Because of Edwards' wealth, he supported Austin financially because Austin had already established a relationship with authorities. Their efforts resulted in the Constitution of 1824, which left land matters up to Mexican states, and the Coahuiltecan Colonization Law of 1825, which opened Texas to settlement by recognized empresarios—such as Austin and Edwards.

Edwards received permission to settle up to 800 families around Nacogdoches in East Texas—an area southward to modern Jasper and Woodville, west to the Trinity River, east to the Sabine, and north as far as the Red River.

Like all empresarios, Edwards had to honor previous grants in the area from Spanish or Mexican governments. Unfortunately for Edwards, only his area had a significant number of such grants and the grantees had no way to prove their claims because all records were in Spain. Edwards' order that he would regard all the land as his produced protests, strains with the government, and, late in 1925, the forfeiture of Edwards' grant.

By his testimony, Edwards had invested $50,000 in his Texas venture and did not want to lose it. As a result, he led something called the Fredonia Rebellion in 1826, in which he proclaimed his grant area independent of Mexico as the Fredonia Republic. It lasted only until the arrival of Mexican troops, less than a year.

Edwards fled to Louisiana, but returned to Nacogdoches even before the revolution in 1836. Family descendants lived there for many decades.

The Fredonia Rebellion alarmed Mexican nationalists about the ultimate goals of their new Anglo residents, prompting efforts to stop further immigration—and, ultimately, the Texas Revolution. Perhaps we ought to name something after Edwards after all.


© Archie P. McDonald
All Things Historical July 9, 2007 column

A syndicated column in over 70 East Texas newspapers
This column is provided as a public service by the East Texas Historical Association. Archie P. McDonald is director of the Association and author of more than 20 books on Texas.

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