The Fredonian Rebellion was a dispute between the Mexican government and the Edwards brothers, Haden and Benjamin. Haden Edwards received his empresarial grant on April 14, 1825. It entitled him to settle as many as 800 families in a broad area around Nacogdoches in eastern Texas. Like all empresarios he was to uphold land grants certified by the Spanish and Mexican governments, provide an organization for the protection of all colonists in the area, and receive a land commissioner appointed by the Mexican government. He arrived in Nacogdoches on September 25, 1825, and posted notices on street corners to all previous landowners that they would have to present evidence of their claims or forfeit to new settlers. This naturally offended the older settlers.
Edwards's grant was located in a difficult part of the country. To the east was the Neutral Ground, inhabited mostly by fugitives; to the north and west were Indians; to the south was Austin's colony; and in Nacogdoches itself were the remnants of previous filibuster expeditions that had failed. The number of grants actually in question was probably very low. According to General Land Office records, thirty-two had been made before 1825. Furthermore, in only one case was someone's land actually sold to someone else. But Edwards's behavior was threatening and served to polarize the old inhabitants against the new.
An election for alcalde in December provided the occasion for the factions to express their opposition. Samuel Norris was the candidate for the old settlers, and Chichester Chaplin, Edwards's son-in-law, was supported by the new. After the voting Edwards certified Chaplin's election to political chief José Antonio Saucedo in San Antonio. Norris's supporters challenged his claim and charged that the voters in Chaplin's support had come from unqualified voters. Saucedo reversed the election in March 1826 and ordered archives and duties to be surrendered to Norris. The controversy did not settle down, and by the time the news reached Saltillo and federal authorities in Mexico, Edwards appeared to be unwilling to abide by their terms, so in mid-year 1826 the grant was declared forfeit. Edwards was outraged, and he found support in the settlers he had brought.
On November 22, 1826, Martin Parmer, John S. Roberts, and Burrell J. Thompson led a group of thirty-six men from the Ayish Bayou to Nacogdoches, where they seized Norris, Haden Edwards, José Antonio Sepulveda, and others and tried them for oppression and corruption in office. Haden was released, and in fact his inclusion in the group may have been to cover up his participation in the attack. The others were tried, convicted, and told they deserved to die but would be released if they relinquished their offices. Parmer turned the enforcement of the verdict over to Joseph Durst and proclaimed him alcalde.
As soon as Mexican authorities heard of the incident, Lt. Col. Mateo Ahumada, principal military commander in Texas, was ordered to the area. He left San Antonio on December 11 with twenty dragoons and 110 infantrymen. It was clear to Haden Edwards that his only chance to make good the time and estimated $50,000 he had already expended on his colony was to separate from Mexico. He and Parmer began preparations to meet the Mexican force in the name of an independent republic they called Fredonia. Since they planned to include the Cherokees in their move for independence, the flag they designed had two parallel bars, red and white, symbolizing Indian and white. In fact, although a treaty was signed with the Indian leaders, Richard Fields and John Dunn Hunter, that support never materialized. The flag was inscribed "Independence, Liberty, Justice." The rebels signed it and flew it over the Old Stone Fort. Their Declaration of Independence was signed on December 21, 1826.
Haden Edwards designated his brother Benjamin commander in chief and appealed to the United States for help. Ahumada enlisted Stephen F. Austin, who sided with the government, and Peter Ellis Bean, the Mexican Indian agent, headed for Nacogdoches. When the Mexican officers and militia and members of Austin's colony reached Nacogdoches on January 31, 1827, the revolutionists fled and crossed the Sabine River. The Indians killed Hunter and Fields for involving them in the venture.