By: John L. Davis and Phillip L. Fry

Type: Overview Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: September 12, 2019

The first English in Texas, according to an early written account, were not settlers, but three seamen set ashore by John Hawkins in Mexico in the sixteenth century near Tampico, after a battle with the Spanish at Veracruz on Hawkins' third expedition to the Indies. The three seamen, David Ingram, Richard Twide, and Richard Browne, allegedly walked across lower Texas on their way north in 1568, and Ingram's brief account was included by the younger Richard Hakluyt in his publication in 1589 of The Principall Navigations, Voiages and Discoveries of the English Nation (though Hakluyt's doubts about the authenticity of the story caused its omission from subsequent editions). Scattered English farmers and businessmen may have settled in Texas by 1800. At least six Englishmen were awarded empresario contracts in the 1820s, though none was successful in bringing in families; in the 1830s attempts at colonization began on a much larger scale, though again with limited success. Beales's Rio Grande colony included a few English families, and the contract granted by the Republic of Texas to the Peters colony in 1841 eventually resulted in the scattered settlement of large areas in North Texas, covering parts of twenty-six future counties. William Kennedy failed to fulfill a contract to bring 600 families to Texas, but he did attract a good deal of attention with his book, Texas: The Rise, Progress, and Prospects of the Republic of Texas (1841); William Bollaert, who published some of his own accounts of traveling in Texas in English magazines, was attracted to the new republic by Kennedy's book. A later colonization attempt was made in Bosque County in 1850 (see COLONY OF KENT).

Ranching and land-investment interests in the Panhandle undoubtedly reflected the greatest intercourse between England and Texas, especially in the boom years of 1880–87. By the end of 1886 the English had invested about $25 million in western ranches and directly controlled more than twenty million acres of Panhandle land. The largest investor, the Capitol Freehold Land and Investment Company, showed nominal capital of £1,532,226 in 1885. Concerned that Texas lands were becoming monopolized by foreign control, many Texans sought protection from the large corporations. In 1891 Governor James S. Hogg approved the Alien Land Law, which prohibited aliens from holding lands unless they became United States citizens. Even though the law was later changed and did not prohibit land ownership by alien corporations, British investments declined in the following decades. The benefits that British investors and managers conferred upon the land and economy of Texas are not easily measured. They helped to introduce barbed wire, steel windmills, deep wells, and better breeds of cattle into the northwest part of the state, and they also made attempts to attract more settlers.

The considerable English influence upon the diplomacy and laws of Texas during its years as a republic resulted in several treaties and mediations (see ANGLO-TEXAN CONVENTION OF 1840, DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS OF THE REPUBLIC OF TEXAS, and LAW). English culture in Texas through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, mostly mediated by the settlement of Anglo-Americans, became so pervasive that it is difficult to isolate various contributions. In the twentieth century the largest influx of English into the country occurred when soldiers returning home after World War II were accompanied by their English brides. In 1953 the Anglo-Texan Society was formed in London to foster the establishment of closer cultural ties; Graham Greene, the British novelist, served as the first president. In the latter part of the twentieth century, Renaissance festivals and the Texas Folklife Festival in San Antonio celebrated English culture. The 1990 census listed 2,024,001 persons of English descent in the state of Texas.

E. D. Adams, British Diplomatic Correspondence Concerning the Republic of Texas, 1836–1846 (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1918?). Seymour V. Connor, The Peters Colony of Texas: A History and Biographical Sketches of the Early Settlers (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1959). Thomas W. Cutrer, The English Texans (San Antonio: University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures, 1985). W. Eugene Hollon and Ruth L. Butler, eds., William Bollaert's Texas (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1956). David Ingram, Across Aboriginal America: Journeying through Texas in 1568, ed. E. DeGolyer (1941). J. Fred Rippy, "British Investments in Texas Lands and Livestock, " Southwestern Historical Quarterly 58 (January 1955). Lester Fields Sheffy, The Francklyn Land & Cattle Company (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1963). Vertical Files, University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures, San Antonio.


  • Peoples
  • English

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

John L. Davis and Phillip L. Fry, “English,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 22, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/english.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 12, 2019