Patricia de la Garza’s land grant petition
Women in early Texas could own property in their own name
Thirteenth century Spanish legal customs called Siete Partidas enforced and protected a woman’s right to hold property in her own name, independently of men. These laws remained in place when Spain began settling Texas during the 17th century and continued after Mexico won its independence in 1821. Under Mexican law, widowed Mexican and Anglo women were eligible for land grants. Patricia de la Garza and María de Jesús de León, mother and daughter, received two such land grants in the 1830s.
Patricia de la Garza (1775–1849) was the widow of Martín de León (1765–1833), the only Mexican empresario to receive a colony grant. Following her husband’s death in 1833, De la Garza oversaw operations at their 22,140 acre ranch on Garcitas Creek in southeastern Victoria County and continued with her community efforts that involved education and support of the Catholic church. In June 1835, she petitioned for five labors, or 885.5 acres, on the grounds that "my husband fulfilled in the end the colonization contract he made with the Supreme Government of the State and consequently is entitled to five labors of land besides the five leagues to which he was given possession." She located this property south of the city of Victoria on the east side of the Guadalupe River.
Her daughter, María de Jesús de León (1810–Unknown), also received land in Mexican Texas as a widow. At the age of 14, María married Rafael Manchola, an influential 24 year old with experience in the military, ranching, and legal professions. Like the De León family in Victoria, the Manchola family in Goliad was well-regarded in social and civic circles. The couple's only child, Francisca, was born in 1826. After her husband died in the same 1833 cholera epidemic that killed her father, María de Jesús de León requested that the four leagues of land granted to her husband on February 5, 1830, be granted to her, his widow and legal heir. She was awarded 17,713.6 acres in Goliad County in 1834, resulting in her being one of the largest land owners in Texas.
Patricia de la Garza, now at the helm of the De León extended family, supported the Texas Army during the Revolution, even smuggling arms to Texian troops from New Orleans. Despite their loyalty to Texas, racial tensions in the Republic forced the De León family to flee to Louisiana and then to Mexico. Patricia de la Garza returned to Victoria in 1844 to find much of her property taken by squatters. She was able to regain a small portion of the family’s original lands, which she donated to the Catholic church in Victoria upon her death.
Courtesy Texas General Land Office, Archives and Records Program, Austin
Time Period: 1835 - 1844
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