Leftwich, Robert (ca. 1777–unknown)

By: Malcolm D. McLean

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: November 9, 2019

Robert Leftwich, empresario who played a key role in the founding of Robertson's colony, was born in Bedford County, Virginia, around 1777, the son of Mary (Turner) and Augustine Leftwich, Jr. By 1802 he was in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, where he operated a mercantile business with his brother, Jesse. Leftwich sold his interest in the business to his brother in 1806 and lived for a time in Rockingham County, North Carolina, before settling in Logan County, Kentucky, where he resided from 1813 to 1822. In early 1819 he entered into a partnership with Amos Edwards and Henry C. Sleight to open a store in Clarksville, Tennessee. The venture, however, soon failed, and Leftwich and his partners were forced to declare bankruptcy.

In 1822, in an effort to his reverse his financial situation, Leftwich joined the Texas Association, a group of seventy investors in Nashville, Tennessee, who sought to obtain a colonization grant from Mexico. They chose Leftwich to serve as their representative to the Mexican government. He departed in early 1822, traveled by way of New Orleans, and arrived in Mexico City in April; there he began a series of lengthy negotiations. The National Colonization Law, passed on August 18, 1824, placed colonization primarily in the hands of the states; consequently Leftwich transferred his efforts to Saltillo, capital of Coahuila and Texas.

Meanwhile the funds furnished him by the Texas Association were exhausted, and he had to borrow money on his personal account; as a result, his petition to the state government asked for a contract in his own name. The contract, granted on April 15, 1825, gave Leftwich permission to settle 800 families within the following boundaries: beginning on the west bank of the Navasota River at the point where the Upper Road crossed on the way from Nacogdoches to Bexar; thence west along the road to the Brazos-Colorado watershed; thence northwest along the watershed to the Comanche Trail leading to Nacogdoches; thence east along the trail to the Navasota River; thence downstream along the river to the place of the beginning. In addition, Leftwich obtained title to one-sixth of Haden Edwards's grant, and the government of Coahuila and Texas authorized him to form a militia in the Texas Association colony and conferred on him the title of commander in chief of the force.

Leftwich transferred the contract for the larger grant to the Texas Association on August 8, 1825, for a consideration of $8,000, on condition that the territory should thereafter be referred to as Leftwich's Grant. He was intending to accompany Felix Robertson's expedition to Texas in the fall of 1825, but ill health prevented him from doing so. Leftwich did journey to Texas the following year, but little is known about his subsequent activities. The last known mention of him was a judgment claim made against him in the court in San Augustine in the late summer of 1826. Leftwich's Grant later became known as Robertson's colony.

Eugene C. Barker, The Life of Stephen F. Austin (Nashville: Cokesbury Press, 1925; rpt., Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1949; New York: AMS Press, 1970). Zachary T. Fulmore, History and Geography of Texas As Told in County Names (Austin: Steck, 1915; facsimile, 1935).

Time Periods:

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

Malcolm D. McLean, “Leftwich, Robert,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 19, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/leftwich-robert.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 9, 2019

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