On November 11, 1833, the Amos Wright sailed from New York for Texas with fifty-nine men, women, and children aboard, the vanguard of a proposed colony backed by the Rio Grande and Texas Land Company and under command of John Charles Beales. From 1830 to 1832 Beales and other contractors had received several colonial grants totaling more than fifty million acres and embracing much of western Texas, eastern New Mexico, and the Rio Grande valley. On May 1 and October 9, 1832, Beales and James Grant had acquired two tracts and obligated themselves to settle 800 families in the region between the Rio Grande and the Nueces; they set up the joint stock company to promote their venture.
The first colonists landed at Copano Bay on December 12, 1833, and journeyed in ox wagons to their destination. The site chosen for the colony was on Las Moras Creek, a short distance down the Rio Grande from Presidio del Rio Grande and a few miles up the creek from its confluence with the river. Here, on March 12, 1834, the emigrants–American, English, German, and Spanish American–planted their settlement and named it Dolores, in honor of Beales's Mexican wife. Although the colony was in an inhospitable country, semiarid, and overgrown with dense thickets of mesquite, chaparral, and prickly pear, the settlers cleared out the flats along the stream, plowed their fields, and experimented with irrigation. They set up a saw and grist mill, built jacals and brush huts and a church, organized a government, and prepared for permanent occupation.
Beales brought at least one other band of colonists to Dolores, and the settlement grew in spite of marauding Indians and drought. But the colony was doomed to failure. Blighted crops and poor prospects caused general disappointment, and the settlers left in ones and twos for the Mexican town of San Fernando or elsewhere. The outbreak of the Texas Revolution and Antonio López de Santa Anna's invasion with a large army to drive Americans out of Texas caused a general exodus. One large wagon train was attacked by Comanche Indians on the Matamoros road, and all the settlers were massacred except two women and their small children, who were taken captive.
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Lucy Lee Dickson, Speculation of John Charles Beales in Texas Lands (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1941). Carl Coke Rister, Comanche Bondage: Dr. John Charles Beales's Settlement of La Villa de Dolores on Las Moras Creek in Southern Texas of the 1830s (Glendale, California: Clark, 1955). Carl Coke Rister, "The Rio Grande Colony," Southwest Review 25 (July 1940).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Carl Coke Rister,
“Beales's Rio Grande Colony,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 22, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
November 1, 1994
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: