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Despallier, Bernardo Martin (ca. 1773–unknown)

Rasmus Dahlqvist Biography Entry

Bernardo Martin Despallier, originally Georges Bernard Martin Despallières, was born either in French Louisiana or on the island of Saint Domingue (now Haiti). He was the son of Georges Martin Despallières, born in Lower Normandy, France, who served in the French army at Fort de Chartres, Illinois, and Hélène Layssard.

After the Black Revolution on Saint Domingue, the Despallier family members were forced to return to France; others fled to Louisiana. Bernardo became captain in the Poste des Rapides, Rapides Parish, near Alexandria, Louisiana. When Louisiana was transferred to Spain after the French and Indian War, he was in Spanish service. He was not only a military man but also a tradesman, plantation owner, and Indian agent. After the Louisiana Purchase, Bernardo proposed creating a colony of Louisianans in Texas. He was able to find a large number of families from Rapides and Baton Rouge seeking to flee to Texas. The colonists of Louisiana, first French, then Spanish (1762–63), then French (1802), and then American (1803), were dissatisfied with the American takeover. The very detailed proposal, which included building a new port at San Bernardo (present-day Galveston Bay), was granted by the Spanish King, but the colony never came to fruition.

Bernardo Despallier was allowed to move to Texas in 1804. He first settled in Nacogdoches, then in Santísima Trinidad de Salcedo. In 1806 he became the second husband of young widow Maria Candida Grande, born about 1790. They had several children, including Blaz Philipe I, Charles, and Victor Madison.

In February 1806 Despallier received a military appointment as second-in-command at Orcoquisac. He had to investigate the coast and the border, an area later known as the Neutral Ground, and visit and befriend local Indian tribes like the Caddo and Choctaw. Bernardo was relieved from duty because of “suspicious activities” and cheating with funds and Indian goods. In the end, the immediate discharge of Despallier was ordered. The settlement Santísima Trinidad de Salcedo attracted more settlers from Nacogdoches and Louisiana. The authorities felt that too many “objectionable” and “illegal foreigners” crossed the border. In 1809 Governor Manuel María de Salcedo ordered the strangers expelled. Despallier and his family had to leave Texas and lost their home and goods. He was removed from Spanish military service in April 1809 and was reported as leaving Texas in October 1809. His Texan properties were auctioned off beginning in 1810. The Despallier family returned to Rapides, Louisiana, and Bernardo developed a hatred towards the Spanish government.

When the Spanish started losing control over their numerous colonies, including Mexico, Bernardo Despallier joined the Gutiérrez-Magee expedition (1812–13). He wrote revolutionary pamphlets that were smuggled into Texas and distributed among the Creoles by Spanish deserters, Indians, and the revolutionists. His father-in-law Luis Grande was executed for carrying and distributing propaganda. Captain Despallier guided about 100 Mexicans and volunteers who joined the revolutionary army. When the expedition failed, Bernardo had to return to Louisiana once again and never returned to Texas, even when it became an independent republic known as Mexico. His sons, however, became involved in the Texas Revolution and fought in siege of Bexar and at the Alamo. Bernardo Despallier was still listed on the census at Rapides Parish in 1820. The date of his death is not known.

Rasmus Dahlqvist, From Martin to Despallier: The Story of a French Colonial Family (North Charleston, South Carolina: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013).

Categories:

  • Peoples
  • French
  • Founders and Pioneers
  • Military
  • Soldiers

Time Periods:

  • Spanish Texas

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

Rasmus Dahlqvist, “Despallier, Bernardo Martin,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed November 26, 2020, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/despallier-bernardo-martin.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects:

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