Haden (or Hayden) Edwards, pioneer settler and land speculator, was born in Stafford County, Virginia, on August 12, 1771, the son of John Edwards. In 1780 the family moved to Bourbon County, Kentucky (at that time part of Virginia), where John Edwards acquired 23,000 acres of land, worked for statehood, and was elected to the United States Senate. Haden was educated for the law but like his father was more interested in land speculation. In 1820 he married Susanna Beall of Maryland, and they moved to the area of Jackson, Mississippi, where he and his brother Benjamin W. Edwards acquired a plantation. He and Susanna eventually had thirteen children. In Mississippi the Edwardses first heard the news of Moses Austin's plans for colonization in Texas. In 1823 Edwards traveled to Mexico City, where he joined Stephen F. Austin, Robert Leftwich, and others in a three-year attempt to persuade various Mexican governments to authorize American settlement in Texas. Because of his wealth Edwards was often called upon to finance Austin. Their efforts resulted in the colonization law of 1824 in Mexico City and of 1825 in Saltillo, which allowed empresarios to introduce settlers to Texas (seeMEXICAN COLONIZATION LAWS, 1821–30). Edwards suffered more than he profited from his relationship with Austin, at least in his own mind, since he believed that Austin claimed the best lands and tried to push his boundaries in every direction at the expense of other empresarios (seeEMPRESARIO).
Edwards received a grant in the vicinity of Nacogdoches where he could locate 800 families. Like other empresarios he agreed to honor preexisting grants and claims made by Spanish or Mexican officials. Of all empresarios, Edwards probably had the most such claims, some over a century old. In 1825 he posted notices to inform all potential claimants that they must come forward with proof of their claims or he would consider the land his, subject to sale to new settlers. This angered the older settlers, who opposed Edwards until he was expelled two years later. He also became involved in an election dispute between the representative of the older settlers, Samuel Norris, and Chichester Chaplin, Edwards's son-in-law. As empresario, Edwards certified the election of Chaplin. Norris then protested to Governor José Antonio Saucedo in San Antonio, and Saucedo upheld Norris's claim to office. However, Chaplin continued to hold the position until Norris requested aid from the local militia. Continued complaints from the area caused Edwards to come under suspicion, and his brother Benjamin, who handled business affairs while Haden was absent from Texas in 1826, addressed such strident correspondence to government officials that it resulted in the revocation of the Edwards grant in October of that year.
Edwards was shocked by this turn of events. He had invested more than $50,000 to secure and launch the grant, and he did not willingly surrender it. Additionally, the cancellation of his grant resulted in the forfeiture of the claims of all settlers who had moved onto his lands. Thus, when the events known as the Fredonian Rebellion, which the Edwards brothers eventually headed, began the following month, the Edwards grantees were most supportive. In November 1826 Edwards was arrested as a ruse. When no one appeared at his trial as an accuser he was freed, but Norris and militia chief José Antonio Sepúlveda were found guilty and judged deserving of the death sentence, which was commuted to banishment from office by this extralegal tribunal. News of the uprising reached the Mexican authorities, who dispatched Lt. Col. Mateo Ahumada to Nacogdoches. Learning that troops were on their way, Martin Parmer and Benjamin Edwards recruited the Ayish Bayou militia to come to town as well. They signed articles establishing the Fredonian Republic, with Haden Edwards as its leader. An alliance was also made with Cherokee Indians led by Richard Fields and John Dunn Hunter, who also had grievances against the government. Before an armed clash occurred the Fredonians dispersed, in early February 1827, and Edwards fled to Louisiana for safety. He returned to Texas during the Texas Revolution and made his home in Nacogdoches until his death, on August 14, 1849. Edwards was the first worshipful master of Milam Lodge No. 2 when it was organized in 1837, a fact that indicates his status in the Anglo leadership. Until his death he was engaged in the land business.
Biographical Files, Special Collections, Steen Library, Stephen F. Austin State University. Archie P. McDonald, comp., Nacogdoches: Wilderness Outpost to Modern City, 1779–1979 (photocopy, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin). Edward Morris Parsons, the Fredonian Rebellion," Texana, Spring 1967.
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Archie P. McDonald,
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