Patricia de la Garza De León, early settler, who with her husband, empresario Martín De León, developed the city of Victoria, was born in Soto la Marina, Nuevo Santander (now Tamaulipas), Mexico, in 1775. Her father, Felipe de la Garza, served as commandant for the Spanish government. In 1795 Patricia and Martín were married, and they started a ranch near Cruillas, Nuevo Santander. Between 1798 and 1818 Doña De León gave birth to ten children. In 1805 the De Leóns moved to the east bank of the Aransas River, north of Corpus Christi. They moved several more times before 1824, when they were granted land by the newly independent Mexican government. Using money they had earned from the sale of livestock and the $9,800 Patricia inherited from her father, they established a colony on the bank of the Guadalupe River in Southwest Texas. Martín named the settlement Guadalupe Victoria in honor of the first president of Mexico; it was the only predominantly Mexican colony in Texas.
Life in frontier Texas was very different from the life Patricia had lived in Mexico. She was forty-seven years old when she settled in Victoria, where she lived in a house of hand-hewn logs with a dirt floor. Although her new home was simple, she placed fine furniture in it and kept servants. While Martín worked to bring financial success to the community, Patricia attempted to transplant to Texas some of the cultural traditions of Spain and Mexico. She saw that a school was established immediately after she arrived in Victoria. She also helped found a church, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, to which she donated money and furnishings. As the family's wealth increased she imported fine furniture and clothes and sent her children and grandchildren to Europe and Mexico to be educated. She and her daughters became known for their excellent embroidery skills and fine clothing. The De León home was described as among the most beautifully furnished in the area, and it became the center for community gatherings. Shortly before her death Madame De León donated the original homestead to the Catholic Church as the site for a new church building.
After Martín died of cholera in 1833, Patricia managed the family's property and continued to work for the community. She and her family supported the idea of an independent Texas and smuggled arms and ammunition from New Orleans to the Texans. Despite their support of the Texans, however, the De Leóns were victims of the anti-Mexican sentiment that swept through Texas after the Texas Revolution. Her youngest son was murdered by cattle thieves. The family fled to Louisiana, where they lived in poverty, and then to Soto la Marina. In 1837 Patricia sold 25,000 acres of Victoria County land on Garcitas Creek for $10,000. When she returned to Texas in 1844 she found her possessions scattered among newcomers, and she no longer held an influential position in the town. She resumed her work with the church and until her death lived as an ordinary parishioner. She died at Victoria in 1849, after devoting much time to the church her husband founded. Her homesite, donated to the parish at her death, is the site of the present St. Mary's Catholic Church, to which she also contributed altar vessels, including a gold monstrance. The state of Texas recognized the contributions of the De Leóns by dedicating historical grave markers to them in Evergreen Cemetery, Victoria, on April 8, 1972.
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