Don Erasmo Seguin
Don Erasmo Seguin
A Spanish Aristocrat, a trusted Agent of Governor Martinez, a Counselor of Stephen F. Austin, an able Deputy of the Mexican State of Texas to the National Congress, a Patriot of the Republic of Texas and a loyal Citizen of the American Commonwealth.
By J. M. WOODS
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS
(All Rights Reserved)
Don Erasmo Seguin
From the study of the glamorous deeds of laudable characters of the past there emanates a spirit of exaltation that lifts the mind above the disappointments and the confusing mists of today; there is revealed a conception of the eternal achievement of The Great Architect of the Universe which He wrought out of the strife and turmoil of centuries and there comes to the student a purification of his soul, higher, purer and more unselfish aspirations because of which he should be the better enabled to discharge the purposes for his creation—which are to honor his God, serve his Country and benefit his Fellowmen.
As Texans we are at this time chiefly interested in the entrancing, marvelous story of The Lone Star State, worthy as it is of the pen of a Macaulay, a Prescott, or a Ridpath; but the songs of the bravery of its men, the glory of its women, and the high idealism, the hardihood and audacity of its people in the face of privations, overwhelming numbers, arms and munitions of war, defeat, and massacre are yet to be sung in their full beauty, melody and grandeur!
The City of Seguin and Guadalupe County are definitely and securely linked in many ways and through the sacrifices of their gallant dead with the traditions, the glories and the unselfish devotion of the heroic pioneers of Texas, they being a composite of different races with multiform characteristics, and yet the full story of their intricate connection with one of the most enthralling characters of Texas history has not yet been told!
Guadalupe County (so named after the Guadalupe River which flows through it from its northwest to its southeast corners, it having been discovered and so named in 1689 by Count de Leon while marching from Monclavia, Mexico to exterminate the French settlement on Matagorda Bay—a colorful account of this occurence being set forth in his "Memories de Nueva Espana") has in the name of its County Seat preserved to future generations the identity of one of the most noteworthy personages of the period in which he lived, one who by the force of his character, the greatness of his vision and the generosity of his nature proved himself to be one of the grandest figures of Texas history!
Largely by reason of the fact that an oil portrait of Juan N. Seguin was presented to the City of Seguin a number of years ago by his devoted son, he sharing his fathers political views and being for many years a citizen and resident of the Republic of Mexico, the erroneous impression was created, and has been quite generally accepted, that when the name of the town was changed from "Walnut Springs" to that of "Seguin" that it was done to revere the memory of Juan M. Seguin; but such was not the case.
It is true that Juan N. Seguin, a son of Don Erasmo Seguin, was a prominent figure in early Texas history, he entered the Alamo with Travis; he was sent to Goliad to raise reinforcements and thereby escaped the massacre; he joined Houston on the Guadalupe and fought rear-guard actions with the advance forces of Santa Anna all the way to the Brazos; and on the immortal field of San Jacinto he commanded a company of Texans-born Mexicans and gallantly led them in the charge of the Army of Independence which was the motive force that created a new Republic and gave to an oppressed people the priceless blessings of liberty!
As a colonel in the Texas Army and under Houston's orders Juan N. Seguin returned to San Antonio and reverently gave Christian burial to the sacred remains of the devoted champions of freedom who had so courageously sacrificed their lives as burnt offerings upon the altar of Liberty, thereby fanning to white heat the wavering spark of independence in the hearts of the people of Texas!
Following the proper performance of this duty he was placed in command of the military forces at San Antonio, and when, because of the exposed position of the city, the general staff decreed its destruction and the transfer of the inhabitants to the east side of the Guadalupe River, Seguin so earnestly protested that the order was rescinded.
Later he represented Bexar County in the Senate of the Republic. He was ambitious for higher political honors which he felt that he could attain if Texas remained a Republic, but which could not be acquired if it was annexed to the American Union, and he vigorously opposed annexation. He felt that in political matters he was discriminated against and was mistreated by the Anglo-Saxons of Texas. He foreswore his allegiance to Texas, moved to Mexico and fought under her flag against the Texans and later the Americans dying a citizen of Mexico.
As a matter of fact, the town of Seguin was so named to commemorate the record of the father of Juan N. Seguin, Don Erasmo Seguin, of whom the historian Thrall said, "He was a high-tone gentleman of truly honorable and patriotic sentiments."
In 1831 Humphreys Branch, a Green DeWitt Colonist, located his League and Labor of land, upon a portion of which the City of Seguin is situated, moved onto it in 1832 and built the first house on the banks of Walnut Branch (the former name of the City of Seguin in 1833.
In 1834 Humphreys Branch sold a portion of his League. The Texas Revolution temporarily arrested the development of the country, but in 1838 the Town of Walnut Springs was layed out and a form of government organized.
Guadalupe County, originally a portion of Bexar and Gonzales Counties, was created by Act of the Texas Legislature in 1846. The writer hereof has had the pleasurable opportunity of knowing intimately a few of the descendants of that group of sixteen families of Canary Islanders of the best and proudest blood of old Spain who emigrated to the "New Philipines" (later to be known as "San Fernandez", San Antonio de Bexar, and now San Antonio) under the patronage of the Marquis of Casa Fuerta, and who in 1731 estabiished the first municipal government of Texas at the site of their new home.
Among these he notes with pride Mrs. Carolina Jarvis, wife of his friend, E. L. Jarvis, a charming and cultured lady, a great, great grand-daughter of Don Erasmo Seguin; Mrs. Antonio Sandoval and her nephew, P. M. Batisto, lineal descendants of those notable heroes of Texas, Francisco Ruiz and Jose Nararro, both of whom signed the Texas Declaration of Independence, and who have preserved some of the traditions and records of their respective families.
The Ruiz, Seguin and Navarro families intermarried and many useful citizens of this section of the State resulted from those unions.
That staunch adopted son of Texas, Reverend Homer S. Thrall, preserved by the various products of his pen much of the intimate early history of Texas, and, due to his education and to the very high character of the man, to his personal acquaintanceship with many of the outstanding characters of whom he wrote and the known thoroughness of his investigations, his statements can safely be accepted as authentic.
Thrall was an accredited correspondent of The Texas Christian Advocate when it was established in 1847. He wrote many historical sketches for various publications and he wrote and published a "School History of Texas", a "Pictorial History of Texas" and "History of Texas Methodism".
Thrall in his "Pictorial History of Texas", page 666, states that the county seat of Guadalupe, Seguin, was "named for Erasmo Seguin". One familiar with the history of the period and with the record and character of those living in the town at that time can readily understand why they chose to thus honor, not Juan N. Seguin, but his more distinguished father, Don Erasmo Sequin—one justly entitled to a prominent place among the immortals of Texas History!
The facts herein set forth as to the life and services of Don Erasmo Seguin may be verified by reference to the following:
Published articles by Mildred Burrows Garrett, a loyal daughter of Wilson County; Thrall's "Pictorial History of Texas"; Texas Historical Association Quarterly; Paddock's "Texas", and other accredited histories and papers of Texas and the Deed Records of Bexar County, and are submitted with full assurance of their authenticity.
Erasmo Seguin, who after the custom of his people and as was his lineal right, was called "Don Erasmo", was born in 1772, the son of Don Basil Seguin, one of the original Canary Island settlers of San Antonio.
Don Erasmo owned large bodies of land which he obtained through various grants and deed? situated generally between San Antonio and Floresville in what is now Wilson County. His name first appears upon the Deed Record of Bexar County with the note upon the Index of Deed Records that on October 27, 1814, the Spanish Government executed a Release-Confiscation to a large body of land in his favor. This instrument, together with many others of that period, is not now obtainable. The recorded copies of many such instruments were carried away from San Fernando de Bexar, some by the Spaniards to Seville and others by the Mexicans to Monclavia and Saltillo. Copies and translations of some of those instruments have been made and recorded in the Deed Records of Bexar County.
The records show that Don Erasmo's title to the first of these lands was evidenced by the ancient custom of "livery of seisen", that is, in company with a representative of the Government he went upon the land and pulled up weeds, threw stones, drew water from a stream and poured it back and erected monuments at the corners of his grant.
Upon this ranch Don Erasmo, in later years, erected "Casa Blanca", a wonderful house for that period, where he and his family entertained most royally—Americans being especially welcome. This place, also locally known as "The House of Don Erasmo" is fairly well preserved. It is situated about four miles north-west of Floresville and one-half mile west of the highway to San Antonio. It is upon a considerable elevation, overlooks the surrounding country, its broad veranda faces the rising sun, emblematical of the faith its builder had in the future of the Commonwealth he had done so much to establish, at its rear stands a magnificent live oak tree under whose branches was dug a well of sweet water. Its outer walls are of red sand stone plastered white, its inner walls are of cobie brick—the depth of both walls being approximately twenty inches. The ample windows are set flush with the outer wall, the broad, deep window sills are at a heighth from the floor to form comfortable seats. The lower "half story" rises above the ground and provided ample "cellar space" and ventilation. The entire structure is suggestive of the foresight and refinement of its builder.
He owned vast herds of cattle and horses which grazed not only upon his own lands but over a large part of what is now eastern Bexar, southern Guadalupe and western Wilson. His generosity with the use of his horses and cattle was at times abused by his less fortunate neighbors.
Don Erasmo Seguin from his early days appeared as a public spirited citizen and frequently served his people in various official capacities. He was postmaster at San Fernando in 1815, and Alcade of San Antonio.
The outstanding service of his career, that which will forever endear his memory to the hearts of all loyal Texans, was rendered in conjunction with Don Juan Martin de Veramandi (father-in-law of James Bowie and who was afterwards Lieutenant-Governor of Coahuila and Texas). The Spanish Governor Martinez from his royal palace at San Antonio de Bexar appointed Don Erasmo Seguin as Commissioner to meet the incoming colonists of Austin at Nachitoches at the 'border of the Neutral Ground which had been established by General Wilkinson of the Anerican forces and General Herrera of the Spanish forces in 1804, to see that all of the conditions of their entry into the Province were complied with and to conduct them safely into the interior.
Commissioner Don Erasmo Seguin was accompanied on this mission by Veramandi. After meeting Austin and some of his colonists at Nachitoches the Commissioner, Veramandi, Austin and an escort pushed on along the old San Antonio Road towards Bexar in order to meet Governor Martinez and complete the arrangements for the settlement of the Colonists.
On August the 10th, 1821, while this party was camped on the Guadalupe, messengers to Don Erasmo Seguin reached the party and imparted the glorious news that Mexico had achieved her independence from Spain.
During the long march and while engaged in the search for a suitable site for a colony for the Americans a warm friendship, born of mutual admiration, spraring up between Austin and Seguin which was destined to endure through the years and which inured particularly to the benefit of the colonists. The broad, liberal and progressive theories of government entertained by Austin were at this favorable opportunity transmitted to the receptive mind of Erasmo Seguin and had a most beneficial effect upon the future of Texas.
In 1821 Mexico gained its independence from Spain and in 1824 Erasmo Seguin was Deputy from Texas to the National Congress at Mexico City. As the Deputy for Texas he espoused the principles of the Liberal Party and assisted in forming the first Liberal Constitution, the same to be forever known as the Constitution of 1824, "Acta Constitutiva de la Federacion Mexicana", the Federation then comprising nineteen states and five territories whose first President was Guadalupe Victoria.
In 1833, when the political union of Coahuila and Teras became unsatisfactory to the colonists, the Ayuntamiento of DeWitt's Colony at Gonzales appointed Stephen F. Austin, James B. Miller and Erasmo Seguin as Commissioners to represent the colonists at the National Capitol and to endeavor to secure a separate state government. In order to allay the hostility of Santa Anna it was deemed advisable to at that time abandon the effort to secure political relief. Later the effort was renewed, Austin went to Mexico City and because of his efforts in this direction was for a long time confined there in prison.
When the Dictator Santa Anna abrogated the Constitution of 1824 and prorogued the Congress of Coahuila and Texas, denying to the colonists the political and social rights guaranteed to them by that Constitution, Austin was among the first of the Americans to protest. He vigorously asserted the liberties of the colonists as Mexican citizens under the Constitution of 1824.
The first Revolutionary Meeting convened to protest against the tyranny of Santa Anna was held at San Antonio, October 13, 1834 and at that time and place Don Erasmo Seguin issued a call for a Constitutional Convention for November 15, 1834, but owing to the limited notice the people failed to respond.
Let it never be forgotten that when diplomacy failed, when the despot Santa Anna marched into Texas at the head of his servile minions, and when the colonists were in confusion, that it was under the Green, White and Red flag bearing upon its folds the numerals "1824", the Constitutional Flag of Mexico, the flag that Don Erasmo Seguin had helped to make, that the immortal Travis, Crockett, Bonham, Bowie and tiheir inspired co-patriots defended the Alamo from whose sacked and ruined walls there rose the sacrificial smoke of their burning bodies that led the Texans on to victory and independence at San Jacinto!
Upon the fall of the Alamo Don Erasmo and the members of his family were compelled to abandon their hitherto peaceful acres which had pastured the hard-ridden and weary horses of the soldiers of Texas and furnished cattle for the nourishment of their brave riders and seek safety in flight towards the army of Sam Houston. Following San Jacinto they returned to find their splendid ranch pillaged of much that they had valued.
Don Erasmo Seguin died at his home in what is now Wilson County in 1857 mourned by those who had come in contact with his engaging personality and revered by those who knew of his service to his country.
Many men, native born and adopted sons, served Texas faithfully during the perilous days of her early history and among the grandest of them all Don Erasmo Seguin is an outstanding figure for it was he who thrice rendered preeminent service to the government which he helped to create!
He was the Commissioner who at the direction of the Spanish Governor welcomed and conducted the American Colonists into Texas; he was the Deputy from Texas to the National Congress which formulated the first Constitution of the Republic of Mexico; and it was he who from San Antonio de Bexar—the birthplace of Texas Independence—issued the summons for the First Constitutional Convention to be called in Texas!
It is believed that his now unmarked grave lies not in the "El Canipo Santo" which was later located near the road, but close by the banks of the San Antonio River, and it might be said that the wild winds of a winter day as they blow through the leafless branches of the willow trees sound a mournful Requiem for the soul of the departed dead; but let all loyal and grateful Texans rather say that the soft breezes of the springtime as they gently stir the waving inesquite grass growing over his final resting place, and the glad songs of the wild bird's, are a grand and exquisite Te Deum of praise for the useful and glorious life of service and the untarnished reputation of one who made no bounteous a contribution to the creation of a Sovereign State!