First Settlers to Rio Hondo Lands

Several years before the boundary between Louisiana and the Spanish province of Texas was settled, immigrants from the old states had settled I v West Louisiana, and no doubt the first English speaking settlers in this state located in the Neutral Strip and within the present boundary of Sabine parish. In 1803 regiment of United States troops in command of Colonel Gushing was sent up Red River to repel Spanish aggression and Captain Turner with a company of soldiers was left to garrison the Fort at Natchitoches. The English-speaking homeseeker followed the soldiers, coming from practically all parts of the United States. These settlers were representatives of the great race which has made the pioneers of America the most famous the world has ever known. While English was their language, there coursed through their veins the blood of the various races of Northern Europe, the German, the Irish, the Scotch, the Dutch and the Anglo-Saxon, a blending of nationalities which has always added luster and glory to the world's civilization. They sought the unoccupied lands, covered with magnificent forests, where they could build homes. Many of them brought their families, and, despite the lawlessness which prevailed in the Neutral Strip, they cast their lots here, and with a few primitive tools erected houses and cleared land for cultivation of crops. A few came with slaves, but as a rule the pioneer of Sabine parish possessed only small means and depended upon his strong arm and determination to build his new home. He had an exalted idea of justice and a profound respect for law, but in "No Man's Land," where the law did not prevail, he frequently became identified with the "regulators and moderators" who brought terror to the thieves and bandits by the administration of a code of unwritten laws, by means of a rope or a fusillade of bullets. Some of the applications of the unwritten laws would not be approved nowadays, but in those times probably had the effect of commanding more general respect for the law.

In 1805 the territory of Louisiana was divided into twelve parishes, via: Orleans, German Coast, Acadia, Lafourche, Iberville, Pointe Coupee, Attakapas, Opelousas, Concoidia, Rapides, Ouachita and Natchitoches. The parish of Natchitoches comprised all the territory in the old ecclesiastical parish of St. Francis. The town of Natchitoches was the seat of the ecclesiastical parish, which included the present parishes of Caddo, Claiborne, Bossier, DeSoto, Webster, Bienville, Red River and Sabine and part of Winn, Grant and Lincoln. The first grants of lands in Natchitoches parish were made during the last half of the eighteenth century.

"The Sanchez grant at Las Tres Lianas, where Louis Larham resided in the '20's, was one of the oldest grants by Governor Lavois, who resided at Adizes. Sanchez' son was 89 years old in 1820 when District Judge William Murray took testimony in the case."*

Later grants were made to Pierre and Julian Besson on the Ecore Rouge by Athanase Mázieres, commandant at Natchitoches (1770), and to Michael Crow on Sabine River. Crow's father (Isaac) married the Widow, Chabineau and purchased land of Viciente Michele, who held a Spanish grant.

In 1769 St. Denys gave to to his daughter, Marie de St. Denys, a tract of land in this vicinity.

The claim of Athanase Poisol for lands at Three Cabins, purchased from Chief Antoine of the Hyatasses Indians, was approved, as was also the claim of Francois Grappe, who purchased lands from Indians of the Caddo tribe, and Pierre Gagnier and Hypolite Bourdeliu, who had bought lauds from the Chesteur Indians at Natchitoches.

 Governor Mird made many grants to settlers who then (1799) lived within the boundaries of the present parish of Natchitoches.

Under the Spanish regime, in 1795, Jacinto Mora was granted 207,360 acres on the east side of the Sabine River, "twenty-five leagues distant from the village of Our Lady of the Pillar of Nacogdoches, in Texas,'' which was known as the Las Ormegas grant. In 1805 Mora sold this land to Ed Murphy, William Burr, Samuel Davenport and L. Smith, and the tract was legally transferred to them under the name of the "grant of Santa Maria Adelaide Ormegas."

The LaNana grant to Ed Murphy was made in 1797. It embraced a territory twelve miles square and included the present town of Many.

The LaNana and Las Ormegas grants were not finally approved by the United States government until 1847.

Practically the entire Neutral Strip was parceled out in Spanish grants, but some were of doubtful legality. The Spaniards very generously donated lands to persons who had rendered military and other valuable services to the king. But grants were not approved by the United States until after abundant proof of their legality had been furnished. One method of establishing a Spanish claim consisted of pulling grass, throwing dust in the air and digging holes in the ground by the claimant. Many large tracts of land included in these grants were occupied by settlers who built homes and reared families on them long before a valid title was established. In the course of time many thousand acres reverted to the government and came into the possession of settlers under the provisions of the homestead laws.

A large number of the first immigrants to Sabine parish settled on what was designated, and still commonly known, as Rio Hondo lands, the original title to which was based on a Spanish grant to the settler, in return for some stipulated service to be or having been rendered, or other considerations. The residents on these lands in 1805 were:

Christopher Antony
Thomas Arthur
Jose Bascus
Stephen Bascus
Andrew Bassum
Guilliam Bebee
Asa Beckum
Benjamin Biles
David Case
Manuel Cherino
Remey Christy
John Cortinez
Raymond Dally
William Davidson
Dennis Dios
Martin Dios
Michael Early
Jose Estrader
Andries Galindo
Domingo Gonzales
Manuel Gonzales
John Gordon
Thomas Gray
Thomas Hicks
Samuel Holmes
Nicholas Jacks
James Kirkham
Antoine Laroux
Antonio de La Sarda
Louis Latham
Jacob Leahy
Joe Leaky
Jacques Lepine
John Litton
John Lum
Jose Antonio Mancbac
John Maximilian
Hugh McGuffy
Hugh McNeely
Joseph Montgomery

Benjamin Morris
La Lena Padea (Widow)
Ganissieu Parried (Widow)
Jean Biptiste Parrot
Peter Patterson
Edmund Quirk
Henry Quirk
William Quirk
Jose Rivers
Jose Antonio Rodriguez
Francisco Rosalis
Maria Sanchez
Henry Stoker
John H. Thompson
Interest Toval (Widow)
John Waddell
James Walker
David Watterman
James Wilson
Thomas Wilson
Absalom J. Winfree
Jacob Winfree
Philip Winfree
Benjamin Winfree
John Yokum
Matthias Yokum
Thomas Yokum
Jose Maria Procello (heirs of James Denney and Manuel Bustamento)
John Yokum (assignee of Jesse Yokum),
Azer Mathias, George Slaughter (assignee of Louis Warren)
Thos. Gray (assignee of James Bridges and John Mackay)
Felicien and Francisco Gonzales
Green Cook (assignee of Henry Charbineau)
Robert McDonald (assignee of Stephen Moore)

These claimants presented evidences of their settlement on Rio Hondo lands in 1824, but after a new survey of the country had been made eight years later they filed new proof of their settlement and claims. The claims were for tracts of various size. One claimant, Antoine Laroux, very modestly asked for title to one or two acre, on which he had located his dwelling in the woods, explaining that he would not know what to do with more land.

In 1831 the government survey of the territory within the present boundary of Sabine parish was completed, the lands being laid out in townships and sections. No official survey was ever made by either the French or the Spanish, even the alleged marking of the Arroyo Hondo line defining the Neutral Strip being regarded as mythical. The survey of the United States made available for settlement thousands of acres of land which could be procured by a small cash payment per acre. The "five year" entry or free homes law did not prevail until many years later. In Sabine parish, as in other sections, the liberality of the homestead laws and government grants to railway corporations resulted in diverting many thousand acres from the the individual home builder, to whom the public domain rightfully belonged.

Sabine Parish | AHGP Louisiana

Footnotes:
*Memoirs of Northwest Louisiana.

Source: History of Sabine Parish, Louisiana, by John G. Belisle, Sabine Banner Press, 1913.

 

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