How it all beganů The Peters Colony

From The Lake Cities Sun, July 2, 1975

They came in covered wagons, on horseback and in some cases, on foot to settle this land ripe with virgin forests, streams and meadows.

Many years ago with Indians rampant in most of all of Texas, it took a brave and adventurous soul to settle far from the protection of other small communities. The seaport towns of south Texas received the largest number of settlers first as many seemed happy to settle where they landed.

Since the Republic of Texas, created in 1836, was anxious to entice settlers to the financially troubled new state, the Texas legislature passed a bill on February 4, 1841, granting impresario rights to the men of the Peters Colony settlement, sometimes known as the Texan Land and Emigration Company.

The men who organized this push for settlers were staid businessmen and it is doubtful if many of them ever came to Texas or even to the U.S. Eleven of the 20 original organizers of the Texan Land and Emigration Company were from London and nine were from the U.S.

An even more unlikely prospect for a land impresario was W.S. Peters who was recognized as the "organizing force behind the settlement" of this area. Peters was a music publisher in Louisville, Kentucky. He opened a music store there in the 1830s and it is documented that he published the music of Stephen F. Foster.

It is not known now why he became interested in the settlement of Texas, but he did and made several trips to London to organize the company. Several of his brothers were also members of the company.

Peters and his brothers did make numerous trips to Texas bringing families to settle here, but it is considered doubtful in history books if the London partners ever left Europe.

The first contract between the Texan Land and Emigration Company and the Republic of Texas was signed on August 10, 1841. Additional contracts were signed later enlarging the area open to the Peters Colony settlement to include all or part of 26 North Texas counties. The original contract was for a wide strip of land along what is now the eastern boundary of Denton County extending west to the area of Justin.

In this initial contract, Peters promised "to introduce into Texas a colony of 600 families within three years."

The Republic of Texas agreed to grant 640 acres of land to each family and 320 acres to each single man over 17 if they settled within the prescribed boundaries of the contract. The agreement stipulated that they "be of good moral character."

For the trouble and expense of organizing the settlers, the Texan Land and Emigration Company was to receive a premium of ten sections of land for every 100 families that settled here and five sections of land for every 100 single men they introduced to the area.

Advertising extolling the virtues of the land was seen as far away as France and England. The following ad was placed in the Bonham weekly on February 25, 1842: "To Emigrants - Now within the Republic of Texas, the undersigned agent of the Peters Colony takes this method to say that to all families who proceed to the Colony, make their selection, build their cabins and occupy same on or before the first day of June next, 640 acres or one section of land will be given - and young men over 17 years, a half section, or 320 acres.

"Mere visit and selection without improvement is indispensable. Temporary absence after settlement does not forfeit rights." To the land starved people of the already settled eastern states, this was a boon. They came from every direction. The first wave of settlers in 1844-45 consisted of a total of 822 colonists. The second wave in 1846-48 consisted of 1286 settlers, but very few settled in this immediate area.