The Harts of San Patricio

John Hart and Felix Hart settled in the San Patricio colony before 1832. They were not directly related, but likely came from the same extended clan in Ireland. We do not know where in Ireland they originated. But, in 1820, most Harts were in County Sligo. According to the Tithe Applotment Books, completed in 1824, there was one Luke Hart in County Sligo, in Calry civil parish. Luke was not a common Irish name, so there may be a connection.

John first came to New York city, where his first two sons, John, Jr. and Luke were born. John, Jr. was born in New York in 1827 and Luke was born in 1829. John, Sr. was not literate. But, coming to the San Patricio colony, John and his wife, Bridget, received a league of land (4428 acres) and a labor (177 acres) in 1831. That land was part of a different colony. John later renounced the grant, as too far up the Nueces river in Lipan Apache country.

Even so, John and Bridget built a picket cabin which was typical of the time period. The cabin was located in what became known as the town of San Patricio. A portion of his property became known as Hart Place, a place where neighbors would gather on the Nueces River, which had no alligators. The neighbors came to Hart Place to do their wash and play hurley. Later, John’s three sons, John, Jr., Luke, applied for grants from the Refugio colony as close to San Patricio as they could manage. [1]


Early in the Texas Revolution, John espoused the cause of the rebels. He hosted some of the rebel leaders at his home. Local Mexicans assassinated John on a lonely road leading to the town of San Patricio in early 1836. He was shot several times and stabbed repeatedly, suggesting a great deal of anger.

By the late 1850’s, frame houses began to replace the picket cabins of the pioneer days. Luke Hart married Ann Hart, daughter of Felix Hart on July 19, 1853. Luke Hart then lived with Ann on Papalote Creek, near what would become the town of Papalote. [2]


By 1860, there were a good many Harts who mostly lived in San Patricio County. In the 1860 census, there is a Patrick Hart married to Anna with a son named Luke. But, this was  probably a different Luke Hart. The San Patricio Irish retained the custom of re-using first names. Patrick Hart was listed as a stockman in the 1860 census. Most of the San Patricio settlers engaged in raising cattle from the outset. The grass land in the area was suited to ranching, not farming. Patrick claimed $4,000 in personal assets and $5,000 on real estate. He was doing very well for the time. Generally, any value above $4,000 would place a person in the upper class for the time.

Locating any of the San Patricio settlers in the 1850 and 1860 censuses is difficult. During times of danger, the families often re-located to Matamoros, Mexico. Matamoros was about 200 miles from San Patricio. During the 1840’s and 1850’s, raids by Mexican bandits and Comanches occurred with some frequency. Luke and his wife, Ann do not appear in the 1860 census. But, they do appear in the 1870 census. In 1870, Luke claims personal assets of $2,000 and $1500 in real estate. For the depressed economy of 1870 Texas, Luke was doing very well. In 1870, he was listed as a merchant. He had a store in Papalote for many years, in addition to his extensive ranch.

We get some idea of the serious depression in 1870 when we look at Patrick’s assets. In 1860, he claimed personal assets of $4,000 and $5,000 in real estate. Those numbers decreased to $500 and $1000 respectively in the 1870 census.


In 1860, San Patricio County was ranch country. The terrain was dominated by the scrub brush it has today, but by grassland. They had very few slaves, only 77 persons enslaved in the then very large county. None of the many Harts owned slaves, like most of their Irish neighbors. In 1850, San Patricio County had no slaves. But, in 1850, the county was still largely not inhabited. Most of the residents had evacuated to Matamoros. In 1860, there were only seven slaves in the town of San Patricio. The largest number of slaves were found in the town of Ingleside, a town located on the bay, which accounted for 46 of the 77 slaves in San Patricio County. [3]

Civil War

In July, 1861, Luke enlisted in Capt. William Miller’s Home Guards Company. William Miller was a resident of San Patricio himself. This appears to have been a militia for home defense. Luke enlisted with one six-shooter, one rifle and 50 rounds of ammunition. [4]

Hobby’s Battalion

In 1862, Luke Hart enlisted in the 8th Texas Infantry, commanded by William P. Hobby. The unit was sometimes known as Hobby’s Battalion or as Hobby’s Regiment. Luke was in Capt. P.H. Breeden’s company, Co. C. He enlisted at Goliad, Texas in May, 1862. He did not join during those first, heady days of April and May, 1861. That suggests he was not an ardent secessionist. He was 34 years old at the time. Hobby’s Battalion saw action at the Battle of Corpus Christi in the summer and Fall of 1862 and the Battle of St. Joseph’s Island in May, 1863.

In November, 1863, Luke was marked as AWOL. By the standards of the time if had just left to go take care of business at the ranch, he would not have been designated as AWOL. In January, 1864, he was marked as AWOL in San Patricio County. So, he appears to have gone home to take of business. Hobby’s Regiment was ordered to Galveston in December, 1863. He may have left the Battalion, to avoid leaving his home so far away. [5]

Yet, sometime after this point, Luke Hart raised his own troop of calvary and traveled as far as Louisiana when the Civil War ended. Luke Hart was long known to his family as Capt. Hart, apparently due to this troop of cavalry. [6]

In 1871, Luke Hart and two other Hart families sold land to Bishop C.M. DuBuis for a Catholic church. Most of the residents in that part of Papalote were Catholic.ry. [6]

Luke Hart would eventually own some 10,000 acres in and around Papalote. He served as Bee County Clerk. He was elected one of five County Commissioners for Bee County in 1880. Luke died Dec. 6, 1883 in Papalote. [7]


An old story told about the Harts concerned a son of David Craven. David married Catherine Hart. When WW I first started, Great Britain sent thousands of soldiers to Europe. Britain had trouble feeding its troops. So, U.S. Pres. Wilson asked Americans to eat less wheat and eat more cornbread. He hoped to send the wheat to Britain. The son of David Craven lived  in Bee County, in South Texas. He ate cornbread every day at each meal. The son loved cornbread. When he heard Pres. Wilson’s request to help Britain, he announced to his family that from now on, they would eat wheat bread at every meal every day. David Craven was not Irish. It is likely that the anti-British sentiment originated with the Harts.

[1] Rachel Bluntzer Hebert, The Forgotten Colony: San Patricio de Hibernia (Burnet, Texas: Eakin Press 1981), pp. 171-182.

[2] The Forgotten Colony: San Patricio de Hibernia, pp. 171-182.

[3] 1860 Slave Schedule

[4] Civil War Muster Rolls Index Cards, 1838-1900.

[5] Service Records, Confederate States of America

[6] Notes of discussion with Alfred T. Otto, this author’s grandfather, in the author’s possession.

[7] Galveston Weekly News, Nov. 25, 1880, p. 7; Old Papalote Cemetery, grave markers

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