Leonard Waller Groce, plantation owner, oldest son of Mary Ann (Waller) and Jared E. Groce, was born in Lincoln County, Georgia, on September 27, 1806. He was attending school in Montgomery, Alabama, when he was called home in 1821 to help his father move to Texas. The Groces reached the Brazos River in January 1822 and obtained title to their land from Stephen F. Austin in 1824. Between 1823 and 1825 Leonard returned to Augusta, Georgia, to complete his education. In 1825 he took over the responsibility of much of his father's business. He traveled to New Orleans frequently to sell cotton, and he brought the first cotton gin to Texas. In 1830 he and his brother, Jared Ellison Groce III, went into cotton trading with Thomas F. McKinney. On November 17, 1831, Groce married Courtney Ann Fulton; they lived at Bernardo Plantation, which they inherited in the division of the Jared E. Groce property in 1835. The town of Courtney in Grimes County is named for Mrs. Groce. Groce purchased the greater part of his father's ten-leaguegrant as well as other land and in 1838 was paying taxes on 67,000 acres.
In 1829 Groce was a member of the local militia at San Felipe de Austin. He was a delegate to the Convention of 1833 and was commissioned a colonel in the Texas army by Governor Henry Smith in 1835, but his military service was as a private in Capt. William Ware's company from June 4 to September 4, 1836. Groce's main contribution to the Texas Revolution was the supplying of corn and beef for the army. When the "Twin Sisters" arrived in Texas on April 11, 1836, they were mounted at Bernardo. In 1840 Groce received his license to practice law, but his problems of plantation management absorbed all of his time. He won a silver cup for the first five bales of cotton and a gold cup for the first twenty bales of cotton produced in Texas in 1842. During the Mexican invasions in 1842 Groce sent all of his horses and even his gin mules for the use of the Texas army. According to the 1860 census, he owned 118 slaves; other sources report 129.
Groce was a trustee of Chappell Hill Male and Female Institute in 1853, when he moved his family to Liendo Plantation. Liendo was the site of a Confederate recruiting station and a prisoner of war camp during the Civil War. Groce furnished many supplies to the Confederacy. During Reconstruction 4,000 federal troops under George A. Custer camped at Liendo.
After the war Groce sold his plantations and planned to move to Brazil, but events anticipating abolition there probably caused him to remain in Texas. He lived in Galveston until his old property reverted to him when the purchasers could not make the payments. Caught in the economic debacle of Reconstruction in the South, Groce was declared bankrupt in 1868. He was the father of eleven children; four of his seven sons were Confederate soldiers. He died at Liendo on August 29, 1873.
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M. L. Crimmins, "Leonard Waller Groce, the Co-founder of Texas' Main Cash Crop-Cotton," West Texas Historical Association Year Book 27 (1951). Groce Family Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Texas House of Representatives, Biographical Directory of the Texan Conventions and Congresses, 1832–1845 (Austin: Book Exchange, 1941).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Julia Beazley and Eldon Stephen Branda,
“Groce, Leonard Waller,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 20, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
December 8, 2019