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Father Muldoon
Forgotten Hero of Texas History

by Wanda Orton
Wanda Orton
An ancient stone in Ireland and an historical marker in Texas share something in common.

The name, Muldoon.
Muldoon TX Depot 1940
The Muldoon Depot (c.1940s), named after Father Muldoon
Submitted by Carolyn Heinsohn, Fayette County Historical Commission

South of La Grange on U.S. 77*, a marker recognizes Father Michael Muldoon, priest and pal of early Texas settlers. The stone in Ireland pays homage to the Muldoon ancestors, a family that must have been in Ireland at least as long as St. Patrick.

Who knows. Maybe St. Patrick converted the Muldoons in the fifth century … when he was bringing Christianity to the pagans in Ireland.

In the 19th century it would be the mission of Father Muldoon to bring Catholicism to the Protestants in Texas.

You may have read that the pioneer padre didn’t take his job seriously enough and that’s how the disparaging term, “Muldoon Catholics,” evolved.

Mexico required colonists in Texas to join the Catholic Church, and Father Muldoon could make it so in about 30 seconds.

“With papal authority invested in me, I proclaim you to be Roman Catholics,” Father Muldoon intoned, concluding the ceremony by making the sign of the cross.

Anyone genuinely interested in becoming a Catholic probably thought, “Is that all there is?”

In Father Muldoon’s opinion, the brief rite sufficed for colonists who only wanted to obtain a land grant from the Mexican government.

For true converts, he was quite willing to serve as their spiritual director and indoctrinate them in the faith. For others, he could be downright ecumenical.

In a poem printed in a San Felipe newspaper, Father Muldoon wrote, “May all religion discord fall, and friendship be the creed of all. With tolerance your pastor views all sects of Christians, Turks and Jews.”

The padre drew harsh criticism from those with a more orthodox outlook. Critics claimed that Father Muldoon was flippant about his faith and was more interested in socializing than in blessing the sacraments.

He also was known as Marryin’ Muldoon, conducting multiple marriage ceremonies at one time. Usually, a big barbecue followed the group wedding, and a good time was had by all, including Father Muldoon.

The son of a prosperous farmer, he grew up in the County Cavan in Ireland, and many of his kin still reside in that region.

He was ordained at the Irish College of Seville, Spain, one of several Irish Catholic colleges established in Europe. He came to Mexico in 1821 and to Texas a decade later.

Having met the amiable priest for the first time in Saltillo, Stephen F. Austin was pleased to learn that Father Muldoon would be serving as the curate vicar general for his colony in Texas.

And that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Muldoon helped as an interpreter in San Felipe where all government negotiations were conducted in Spanish, and he taught Austin how to read, write and speak Spanish.

Called the “forgotten hero of Texas,” Muldoon was in deed a hero who never has been given enough recognition.

In Anahuac in June 1832 he offered himself as a hostage to free prisoners held by John Davis Bradburn but his offer was not accepted.

Later that summer he published a paper in Mexico, defending the conduct of the rebellious Texans. Now, that took courage!

Father Muldoon was in Mexico City in 1834 when Austin was imprisoned and he was the only visitor allowed for many months.

At one point he persuaded a North American businessman to post bail for Austin but the government rejected the bond offer.

Muldoon then pleaded with President Santa Anna to release Austin, and he finally did in the summer of 1835.

William H. Wharton was serving as minister to the United States from the Republic of Texas in 1837 when he was incarcerated in Mexico.

Again, Father Muldoon to the rescue. Providing Wharton with a nun’s habit, he enabled the “sister” to escape and return to Texas.

Muldoon himself was thrown in prison in Mexico in 1839. A passenger on a ship sailing from New Orleans to Veracruz, he was arrested upon arrival. Authorities charged him with “being too friendly with Texas.”

Whatever happened to the friendly priest? God only knows. As one writer said, Father Muldoon just seemed to “walk off the stage of history.”


© Wanda Orton Baytown Sun Columnist, May 1, 2014 column
More "Wandering" columns
See Muldoon, Texas
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Forum:
Subject: *Marker Location

I was reading various topics on your website and noted that Wanda Orton stated in her article that the historical marker for him was located on Hwy 77 south of La Grange. That's where it used to be, but it was moved to the grounds of the Queen of the Holy Rosary Catholic Church at Hostyn, TX. It now faces the parking lot at the rear of the church close to the replica of the first church. - Carolyn Heinsohn, May 05, 2014

Father Miguel Muldoon Marker text
Father Miguel Muldoon marker text
Photo courtesy Carolyn Heinsohn, May 2014
Father Miguel Muldoon Marker
Father Miguel Muldoon marker on the grounds of the Queen of the Holy Rosary Catholic Church at Hostyn, TX
Photo courtesy Carolyn Heinsohn, May 2014
Texas Escapes, in its purpose to preserve historic, endangered and vanishing Texas, asks that anyone wishing to share their local history, stories, and vintage/historic photos, please contact us.
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