Castro Colony Map — Bexar District | by Texas General Land Office | Save Texas History | June 2022
San Antonio, 1851
Henri Castro, a French-born empresario, established the Castro Colony to settle 600 families in two claims in south-central Texas. He first came to the United States as the French Consul in Providence, Rhode Island, and became an American citizen in 1827. After returning to France, he became a land agent for the bankrupt Lafitte Company to manage the sale of public lands of the Republic of Texas. in 1841. On February 15, 1842, he signed an empresario contract with President Sam Houston, officially launching the Castro colony.
On September 1, 1844, after working for two years to organize the project, Castro left San Antonio for his colony. The early settlers struggled due to a lack of significant farming experience and poor preparation, having received instructions from Castro to bring clothing, ammunition, tools and provisions for a six-month . However, most settlers came from the urban centers of Europe and had not anticipated the challenges that life on the frontier would present. According to Castro, “wealthy farmers rarely emigrate.”
Families were entitled to grants of 640 acres and single men over the age of seventeen could receive grants of 320 acres. On August 15, 1847, Castro recruited 2,134 settlers from Europe and issued a total of 558 titles for a total of 277,760 acres. Despite the unrealistic expectations of the early settlers, government financial difficulties, native incursions, cholera, poor environmental conditions, and drought, the colony’s population grew slowly. In 1848, the Texas Legislature formed Medina County, with Castroville as the county seat.
This manuscript map depicts Castro’s settlement with a blue border and highlights the land granted to the settlers. An open space indicates land that was still available for settlement. A notation under the title block reads: “Open for all locations after October 1, 1856”, allowing any new settler in Texas to settle in the geographic area, without limiting settlement to settlers. The map includes the territory of Frio, Atascosa and Medina counties, and it plots the boundaries of “McMullen’s Grant” in yellow, a reference to Irish Emperor John McMullen’s unfulfilled colonization contract. A small grid depicts Castroville nestled in a bend in the Medina River in the northeastern part of the settlement. The map identifies several routes including the Presidio, Old Presidio, Old Pita, Fort Merrill and many smaller routes. A weak road from Castroville to San Antonio crosses the Medina River, connecting Castro’s settlement to an important trading post.