A Condemned Man by Nancy Marie – RESEARCH NOTES

O’Connor Family Ranch, Uvalde, Texas.

Thomas O’Connor (1819 – October 16, 1887) was an Irish rancher and landowner from County Wexford, Ireland whose estate was reportedly the largest individual land and cattle holding in Texas at the time of his death.

Life

O’Connor was born in County Wexford, Ireland. In 1834, he sailed with his uncle James Power, who was an empresario, to Texas. Given Power’s diplomatic status, the newly formed independent Republic of Mexico granted them access to the country’s unpopulated northern lands. On September 28, 1834, the Mexican government granted O’Connor 4,428 acres as a “settler in the Power and Hewetson colony”. O’Connor used the property to make saddletrees.

The following year the Texas Revolution broke out. O’Connor was among the first to reinforce Presidio La Bahía, joining the volunteer regiment commanded by Philip Dimmitt. O’Connor was one of the signers of the Goliad Declaration of Independence. He was one of the youngest soldiers who participated in the Battle of San Jacinto, at age 17.

After the revolution, he returned to Refugio County and continued his old trade of saddletrees. He married Mary Fagan in October 1838. With her cattle and horses, he was able to grow a herd which he eventually sold in 1873 for $140,000. He invested the money into more land and was able to fence in over 500,000 acres in barbed wire and grow a herd of 100,000 cattle.

Death

O’Connor died on October 16, 1887. At the time of his death, his estate was estimated to be worth $4.5 million. His obituary in the San Antonio Express called him “the wealthiest man in Texas and the largest land and cattle owner in the state”.

As of 2017, his family heirs are the 17th largest private landowners in the United States owning a total of 587,000 acres by the Texas Coastal Plain.

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Uvalde, Texas

Uvalde (/juːˈvældi/ yoo-VAL-dee) is a city in and the county seat of Uvalde County, Texas, United States.The population was 15,751 at the 2010 census.

Uvalde was founded by Reading Wood Black in 1853 as the town of Encina. In 1856, when the county was organized, the town was renamed Uvalde after Spanish governor Juan de Ugalde (Cádiz, Andalucía, 1729–1816) and was chosen as county seat. It is usually considered the southern limit of the Texas Hill Country or the most northerly part of South Texas. Historically, Uvalde is known for its production of huajillo (also spelled guajillo) honey, a mild, light-colored honey, dating back to the 1870s.

In November 1855, Reading Wood Black successfully lobbied the Texas legislature to organize Uvalde County. On May 12, the county was formally organized. On June 14, Encina was named county seat. The second floor of the courthouse was made into a school, and six school districts were organized for the county in 1858. The San Antonio-El Paso Mail route was extended along the county’s main road with a stop at Fort Inge in 1857.

Conflict between Mexicans and Anglos during and after the Mexican War continued in Uvalde County, with the reported lynching of eleven Mexicans near the Nueces River in 1855. Laws passed in 1857 prohibited Mexicans from traveling through the county.

Residents of Uvalde County voted 76–16 against secession from the Union. The abandonment of Fort Inge immediately after secession was followed by renewed Indian attacks. Many men in Uvalde County fought for the Confederacy, while some Unionists fled to Mexico to avoid persecution.

Uvalde County endured three decades of unrelenting lawlessness after the Civil War. Violence, lawlessness and Confederate-Union conflicts among citizens were so pervasive that armed guards were employed to assist the county tax assessor and collector, and the county had no sheriff for nearly two years. The years immediately following the Civil War were marked by conflicts between Confederates and Unionists returning to live in Uvalde County. Smugglers, cattle rustlers and horse rustlers, and numerous other desperadoes saturated the area, including notorious cattle rustler, J. King Fisher who was appointed Uvalde sheriff in 1881. Willis Newton of The Newton Gang robbed his first train near Uvalde. Jess and Joe Newton retired to Uvalde.

The Uvalde Umpire began publication in 1878 and the Hesparian in 1879.

The Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway was built through the county, passing through Sabinal and Uvalde City, in 1881.

William M. Landrum introduced Angora goats to the area in the 1880s. By the turn of the century goats outnumbered cattle.

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