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O'DOCHARTY, SUSANNA DOUGHARTY

O'DOCHARTY, SUSANNA DOUGHARTY (1804–1874). Susanna Dougharty, pioneer woman, was born in Indiana in 1804 and evidently married William O'Docharty sometime before they journeyed to Texas to join the McMullen-McGloin colony. The O'Dochartys arrived in Texas before 1831, for William is listed as the surveyor of the townsite of San Patricio as well as surveyor for most of the Irish colonists who received their grant of land that year. Early deed records show William O. Docharty as the surveyor. William was the first alcalde of San Patricio Municipality in 1834. He and Thomas A. Adams represented San Patricio at the convention held at San Antonio de Béxar in 1835. Susanna, who was tall and slender with a shock of red hair, was recognized as one of the leaders in the San Patricio colony. She was one of the prime movers in the meeting between the people of Matamoros and the San Patricio colonists in 1832 at Banquete Creek. This grew into an annual festive occasion called El Lugar del Banquete. The present town of Banquete is named for the meetingplace.

Being a loyal Catholic with a great many loyal Mexican friends, Mrs. O'Docharty became identified with the Mexican cause as the rush toward the Texas Revolution gripped most of Texas. One of her letters, intercepted by John Turner and turned over to Philip Dimmitt at Goliad, showed that she was a leader of a group of San Patricio residents loyal to the Centralist Mexican government. After the battle of San Jacinto Susanna was instrumental in influencing several other families to move with the O'Dochartys to Matamoros, where they lived until Gen. Zachary Taylor's army brought a semblance of law and order back to the old city of San Patricio, which had become a den of cattle rustlers and murderers.

When the O'Docharty family returned to San Patricio County, Susanna moved back into her role as one of the community leaders. After the only school in San Patricio, taught by Catherine Hoy, closed, she took the children of the community into her home to educate them along with her own. Evidently she had better than a passing acquaintance with law, as she gave her two sons a basic law background that enabled them to become respected lawyers and judges in San Patricio and Nueces counties. Her strong character is best seen in a legend that has been handed down through the years among families in San Patricio County. While living in Mexico the O'Dochartys' infant daughter died. It grieved Susanna to leave the infant behind when the family returned to Texas. About a year after reestablishing the family in San Patricio, she enlisted the aid of twelve-year-old Hubert Timon, and the two disappeared early one morning riding horses south. Two weeks later they reappeared with Susanna balancing a small coffin on her saddle horn.

Numerous tales have grown up about Susanna and her ability to influence the course of events. When she became ill she sent for the priest, informed him that she was going to die, and said "I want you to prepare me for death."

The padre answered quickly, "Why, Mrs. O'Docharty, I see no signs of death in you."

"This is why I sent for you, I die tonight," Susanna told him curtly. The priest used prudence and gave her the sacrament of the sick and dying. Susanna died that night, October 20, 1874.

She, William, and the younger children are all buried in the Old Cemetery on the Hill in San Patricio, together with the infant daughter removed from Mexico. The O'Docharty family left their imprint on the old colony of San Patricio, especially Susanna. Not only was she a strict Catholic, stern teacher, and community leader, but her legacy of red hair marked generations of O'Dochartys as a badge of honor.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Keith Guthrie, History of San Patricio County (Austin: Nortex, 1986). Rachel Bluntzer Hébert, The Forgotten Colony: San Patricio de Hibernia (Burnet, Texas: Eakin Press, 1981). John H. Jenkins, ed., The Papers of the Texas Revolution, 1835–1836 (10 vols., Austin: Presidial Press, 1973). William H. Oberste, Texas Irish Empresarios and Their Colonies (Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1953; 2d ed. 1973).

Keith Guthrie

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Keith Guthrie, "O'DOCHARTY, SUSANNA DOUGHARTY," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fod10), accessed September 22, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.