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When the Irish Came to Texas

March 9, 2010 at midnight
Updated March 9, 2010 at 9:10 p.m.


In honor of St. Patrick's Day, I have an Irish story for you about Rosalie Bridget Hart, later to become Priour when she married.

Her mantra was "As I had no fear of death. . . I used to laugh at them and say: 'We have but one life to lose and we may as well die now as at any other time.'"

Rosalie was the only one of her parents' nine children who survived emigrating from Ireland and arriving on the shores of Copano Bay in the summer of 1834.

Her autobiography, "The Adventures of A Family of Emigrants Who Emigrated to Texas in 1834," relates how Col. James Power came to Ireland to persuade a colony of emigrant families to settle in Texas.

After hearing Power represent Texas, "one of the richest countries in the world . . . a most delightful climate. . . and gold so plentiful you could pick it up under the trees," the Harts decided to pack the required provisions for one year, including farming implements, limited clothing and supplies and set out for Texas.

After enduring many hardships during the journey across the Atlantic and into the Gulf of Mexico, including bouts of cholera, which eventually consumed her father, the Harts along with about 108 other Irish passengers in their group finally reached Copano.

Rosalie writes, "We were landed on a sand beach without even a tree to shade us from the sun. Mother got some spades and hay forks and stuck them in the ground and made a tent with bed clothes to protect Father from the sun, but it was a poor protection on the fifteenth of May, in a country where at that season of the year, the sun is so hot that the ground would burn the feet in the middle of the day if you happened to have on shoes with thin soles."

Her father died shortly after and her mother, another valiant soul, managed to keep herself and her daughter alive during those trying days alongside the Copano Bay until they could join other Irish families in the Refugio Mission.

There is so much more of this fascinating story to tell, but space limits must be met.

I urge you to read Rosalie Bridget Hart Priour's fascinating story, which until a few years ago was kept close to family members' chests, not willing to share the historical document. Eventually they relented and today Patricia Elwonger, Rosalie's great-granddaughter, published the document for her family and shares it with the public.

Copies are available in the Regional History Museum of the Victoria /University of Houston-Victoria College Library for researchers, historians, genealogists, and interested people wanting to know more about the Irish who settled along the Texas Gulf Coast.

Thank you, Pat, for sharing your family history. What an excellent example for us all.

Happy researching, and Happy St. Patrick's Day: Erin go Braugh.

E-mail queries to Martha Jones at mjones@vicad.com.

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