Wilson, Stephen Julian (unknown–ca. 1831)

By: Raymond Estep

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: September 1, 1995

Stephen Julian Wilson, a native of North Carolina, arrived in the state of Coahuila as a merchant as early as 1822. After working in the mines at Santa Rosa, New Mexico, he was granted naturalization papers in July 1824. On May 27, 1826, while residing in Mexico City, he received an empresario contract from the state of Coahuila and Texas authorizing him to settle 200 families on a tract of land beginning at the intersection of the thirty-second parallel and the 102nd meridian and extending west to the boundary of New Mexico, thence north to a point twenty leagues south of the Arkansas River, thence southeast to the 102nd meridian, and thence south to the point of beginning. After contracting with Alexander Le Grand to survey, examine, and measure the lands in his grant, Wilson sold Richard Exter, a British merchant residing in Mexico City, a one-half interest in the grant, on or before November 27, 1826. Two years later, on September 23, 1828, Wilson and Exter received an empresario contract authorizing them to settle 100 families in the twenty-league boundary zone lying between the northern boundary of the earlier grant and the Arkansas River. In the week before the partners applied for the boundary zone grant, they asked the Mexican government to grant them a monopoly on hunting and trapping for beaver, bear, sea otter, and other animals in New Mexico and Alta California. On April 28, 1828, the government partially conceded their request by issuing them a provisional license on condition that two-thirds of the members of all trapping parties be Mexican citizens. Acting as if they had received the requested monopoly, the partners published a notice in a Missouri newspaper in November 1828 warning American trappers against trapping in the area without a permit. This imaginative plan to gain control of the fur trade on Mexico's northwest frontier aroused so much opposition that the government was forced to withdraw its approval of even the provisional license. While in New York City in October 1829, Wilson sold a million acres of his share in the grants to James C. Van Dyke, a New Jersey merchant, for the sum of $5,000. On August 4, 1830, in Monclova, Wilson formally made application to the state government to purchase an eleven-league tract of land on the Trinity River in eastern Texas. Within the following year Wilson was associated as a partner or as an employee in a mercantile firm in Mexico City with W. S. Parrott, who in March 1831 accused Wilson of embezzling funds from the business. Wilson disappeared shortly thereafter, and there is some indication that he died during that year.

Lucy Lee Dickson, Speculation of John Charles Beales in Texas Lands (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1941). Mary Virginia Henderson, "Minor Empresario Contracts for the Colonization of Texas, 1825–1834," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 31, 32 (April, July 1928). David J. Weber, The Taos Trappers: The Fur Trade in the Far Southwest, 1540–1846 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1971).
Time Periods:
  • Mexican Texas

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

Raymond Estep, “Wilson, Stephen Julian,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 27, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/wilson-stephen-julian.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 1, 1995

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