McMullen, John (1785–1853)

By: Rachel Bluntzer Hébert and William H. Oberste

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: May 11, 2017

John McMullen, founder of an Irish colony in Texas, was born in Ireland in 1785. He immigrated to the United States and lived in Baltimore, Maryland, and Savannah, Georgia. In 1810 he married Esther Espadas Cummings, a widow with two children. They later adopted a nine-year-old boy. McMullen was a merchant in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, in the early 1820s, when he was attracted by the advantages offered by the 1825 colonization law of Coahuila and Texas and became an empresario. He entered into a partnership with James McGloin (who later married McMullen's step-daughter Eliza) and received a contract on August 16, 1828, which authorized the two to introduce 200 families to an assigned territory along the left bank of the Nueces River. Though McMullen and McGloin were not successful in completing their contract (most empresarios were not), they personally accompanied the first group of Irish colonists from New York to Texas on the Albion and the New Packet in October 1829. The Irish remained about a year at Nuestra Señora del Refugio Mission and then moved to San Patricio, which was established on October 24, 1831 (see MCMULLEN-MCGLOIN COLONY). During the Texas Revolution McMullen was a member of the General Council. He was fluent in Spanish and translated for the provisional government; upon the impeachment of Governor Henry Smith he served in January and February 1836 as temporary president of the council. After the revolution he moved from San Patricio to San Antonio, where he served as alderman from 1840 to 1844. In 1844 he sold the majority of his San Patricio holdings to McGloin and became a merchant at San Antonio. He was murdered by an unidentified assassin on January 20, 1853, and was buried in San Fernando Cathedral cemetery. McMullen County, established in 1858, was named after him.

John Brendan Flannery, The Irish Texans (San Antonio: University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures, 1980). William H. Oberste, Texas Irish Empresarios and Their Colonies (Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1953; 2d ed. 1973).

  • Peoples
  • Irish
Time Periods:
  • Texas Revolution

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

Rachel Bluntzer Hébert and William H. Oberste, “McMullen, John,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 26, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 11, 2017