James Power, empresario and signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence, was born in 1788 or 1789 in Ballygarrett, County Wexford, Ireland. In 1809 he immigrated to New Orleans, where he lived for twelve years and worked as a merchant. In New Orleans he learned from Stephen F. Austin of the empresario contracts being offered by the Mexican government and, in 1821, moved to Matamoros. He subsequently moved to Saltillo and became a citizen of Mexico. There he dealt in mining equipment and formed a partnership with James Hewetson. In 1828 Power and Hewetson received an empresario contract to settle 200 Catholic families, half Irish and half Mexican citizens, on the coast of Texas between the Lavaca and Guadalupe rivers. The contract was subsequently modified many times; by the early 1830s the Power and Hewetson colony included lands between Coleto Creek and the mouth of the Nueces. In the fall of 1835 Power participated in the Lipantitlán expedition and could not take his seat at the Consultation, to which he had been elected as representative from Refugio. He represented Refugio at the Convention of 1836 and signed the Texas Declaration of Independence. He used his influence to persuade the 1836 convention to seat Sam Houston and also served on the committee that drafted the Constitution of the Republic of Texas. As Gen. José de Urrea's army advanced into the state, Power was sent to New Orleans to raise supplies for the Texas army. In 1837 Power founded the town of Aransas City by his home on Live Oak Point in present-day Aransas County on the Gulf Coast. He opened a mercantile and post office, built a wharf, and established a customs operation. With his partner Henry Smith, Power promoted the town and became mayor after its incorporation in January 1839. The town declined, however, and ceased to exist by the mid-1840s. He represented Refugio in the Second Congress and at the Convention of 1845. Power was first married to Dolores de la Portilla, daughter of Felipe Roque de la Portilla, in 1832. They had two children. After her death he married her sister, Tomasita, and fathered five more children. Power died on August 15, 1852, at his home, where he was buried. Subsequently, his remains were reinterred in Mount Calvary Cemetery in Refugio. The site of his homestead, Live Oak Point, was marked by the Texas Centennial Commission in 1936.
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William Allen and Sue Hastings Taylor, Aransas: The Life of a Texas Coastal County (Austin: Eakin Press, 1997). Joe E. Ericson, Judges of the Republic of Texas (1836–1846): A Biographical Directory (Dallas: Taylor, 1980). 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).
Politics and Government
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Mrs. Patrick H. Welder,
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 28, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
April 30, 2019
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