On this day in 1841, the Republic of Texas passed a law authorizing the president to enter into an empresario contract with William S. Peters of Pennsylvania and his associates. The contract required Peters to bring 200 colonists to North Texas every three years. The colony was headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky, and its bumpy history contrasts sharply with that of such earlier colonies as the Austin colony partly because the successful earlier empresarios lived in their colonies and managed them personally. After the initial authorizing law, the Peters colony entered four contracts with the republic. Each was an effort to correct some defect in the previous one, or to relax the demands of the government on colony officials, who failed to bring in the requisite colonists. Peters and his investors soon gave up, and in 1844 the Texas Emigration and Land Company was founded to take over the colony. The company continued the earlier management's precedents for rapacious demands on the colonists and inept management. The installation in 1845 of the officious Henry O. Hedgcoxe as the company's agent in residence inflamed the colonists and precipitated the Hedgcoxe War, in which the agent was driven from the colony. A settlement was eventually reached, and the deadline for colonists to file their claims was extended to May 7, 1853. But it took nearly ten legislative enactments over nearly twenty years to bring final settlement of the land titles. The colony that helped settle North Texas brought little if any profit to the investors and much disgruntlement to the settlers.
On this day in 1829, the Mexican government issued a decree officially changing the name La Bahía to Villa de Goliad. The term La Bahía (“the bay”) historically referred to several entities, including La Bahía del Espíritu Santo (present Matagorda and Lavaca bays) and Nuestra Señora del Espíritu Santo de Zúñiga Mission and its accompanying presidio. Coahuila and Texas state legislator Rafael Antonio Manchola proposed the change, arguing that the name of the settlement around the presidio was meaningless because neither the mission nor presidio were located on “the bay.” His suggestion of “Goliad” was actually an anagram for the name of Father Hidalgo, the priest who led the fight for Mexican independence. For a time during the 1830s settlers called the town both La Bahía and Goliad. The community played a key role in the Texas Revolution and became the site of the signing of the first declaration of independence for Texas.
On this day in 1968, Marine sergeant Alfredo Gonzalez died near Thua Thein, Vietnam, after action that earned him the Medal of Honor. On January 31 the native of Edinburg was commanding a platoon in a truck convoy formed to relieve pressure on the beleaguered city of Hue. After being wounded, he moved through a fire-swept area and rescued a wounded comrade. On February 3 he was again wounded, but refused medical treatment. The next day, as the enemy inflicted heavy casualties on his company, Gonzalez knocked out a rocket position and suppressed much enemy fire before falling. The missile destroyer USS Alfredo Gonzalez, named for him, is the first United States military ship named for a Hispanic.