Trinity Land Company

By: Margaret S. Henson

Type: General Entry

Published: March 1, 1996

The Trinity Land Company was organized in New York in January 1834 for the purpose of settling 142 leagues of land in the Trinity River watershed within Joseph Vehlein's empresario grant, one of the three colonization contracts purchased by the Galveston Bay and Texas Land Company. It was formed by brothers James and Henry Bowdoin Prentiss, James Henry Prentiss (son of James), Gilbert Thompson, and Stephen Cleveland as the successor to the Union Land Company and probably included the twenty-eight leagues that company had purchased as scrip from the Galveston Bay Company in 1831. The additional acreage was unlocated scrip issued by the parent company. Seventy-two men, women, and children embarked on the small schooner Climax on May 28, 1834, from New York to Galveston Bay. Accompanying the colonists were Henry B. Prentiss, his wife, Elizabeth Drury, and infant, his sister, and his wife's brother. Also on board were a physician and the company's lawyer, James R. Newell. After landing at Anahuac the colonists expected to locate their farming tracts some one hundred miles up the Trinity River around what is now Polk County. In exchange for their transportation to Texas and subsistence for one year, the colonists would work for the company and at the end of that time exchange their company scrip for 177-acre headright deeds to be issued by the state land commissioner. If the settler was entitled to more than the scrip allowed, the additional land was to be given by the colonist to the company, in accord with Mexican colonization laws. The remote wilderness area and the usual coastal fevers discouraged many, and by September only nine remained. George Willich, Jr., of Hamburg hired himself out as a farmer to an Anglo-American settler, but by February 1835 he gave up and went to the United States to settle. Henry Prentiss and his wife remained in the area until his death in 1836, when she and her daughter returned to relatives in Vermont. The revolutionary events taking place in Texas after June 1835 discouraged settlement. James Prentiss and the other investors made claims to the commissioners under terms of the Convention of 1839 between Mexico and the United States to settle debts owed to residents of each country for injuries to property due to governmental action. In 1841 Prentiss hired lawyer Richard S. Coxe to present his exaggerated claim for $1,315,416 for efforts to place 125 people on the 142 leagues. The claim was declared invalid, but another board awarded the company $63,559 in 1851 for expenses, interest, and loss of use of his capital. How much money was actually paid remains unclear.

Andreas Reichstein, Der texanische Unabhängigkeitskrieg (Berlin: Reimer, 1984; trans. by Jeanne R. Willson as Rise of the Lone Star: The Making of Texas [College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1989]). Daniel Webster, Claims of the Union Land Company (New York, 1949).
Time Periods:
  • Mexican Texas

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

Margaret S. Henson, “Trinity Land Company,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 16, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

March 1, 1996

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