This is Texas Originals. From Humanities Texas, for the advancement of heritage, culture, and education.
Empresario Martín De León founded the city of Victoria and played a key role in settling the Texas Coastal Bend.
De León was born in 1765 to an aristocratic family in Burgos, Mexico. After serving as a soldier, De León married and planned to settle his new family in Texas. In 1801, the couple began building a ranch along the Nueces River near present-day San Patricio.
When Mexico began issuing empresario contracts to attract settlers, De León saw an opportunity to ensure that his children could establish ranches of their own. In 1824, he founded a colony centered on the new city of Victoria. De León oversaw the only empresario grant to attract large numbers of settlers from Mexico rather than the United States.
As tensions rose between Anglo American colonists and the Mexican government, De León forged a neutral path—although he and his family supported local control in Texas affairs.
De León died in the cholera epidemic of 1834, two years before the Republic of Texas was established. Though his family had sided with the victorious rebels, Anglos in the new republic made life difficult for their former Tejano allies. The De León family fled into exile in Louisiana, returning to the city they founded only after Texas's annexation to the United States in 1845.
More information about Martín De León and other Texas Originals is available at Texasoriginals.org. This program is produced by KUHF Houston Public Radio and Humanities Texas, with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities.