When I first met Jesse O. Villarreal, Sr., at the San Antonio Founders Day celebration in San Antonio, Texas, on October 22, 2007, I immediately came to realize that he was literally “a man on fire” with a mission: to write a book to share with other Tejano descendants his soul-stirring experience with an enlightening discovery! In reading my publications about Texas and the American Revolution, Jesse discovered that the story I had to tell was about his ancestors and how they contributed to the winning of the American Revolution from which we gained the freedom and opportunity that Americans still enjoy—and defend—today! This was a story that he, like most other Americans, including me, had never learned in school or college. It was a revelation that excited him so much that he could not keep it to himself, for he knew that there were many present-day Tejanos whose ancestors, like his, also made this significant contribution; hence, this book, which is basically a documentary history of Texas during the American Revolution time period, 1776-1783.
Only in recent years has Jesse learned that he is a 9th generation Texan whose ancestors first came to Texas with the founding expeditions of 1707, 1716, and 1718. He found that his ancestry is outlined in a fairly new book titled Descendants of Alferez Francisco Hernandez: Soldier of the Presidio de Texas de Bexar 1718 (Paso de la Conquista, San Antonio, Texas, 2007). His ancestor, Francisco Hernández, first came to Texas in an exploratory expedition in 1707. In 1716 he accompanied the Domingo Ramón Expedition as Alférez (Ensign). In 1718 he served again as Alférez of the Martin de Alarcón expedition, which founded the Villa de Béxar on May 5, 1718. At that time there were ten families, including that of Francisco Hernández, already living near San Pedro Springs in San Antonio for a year or two before it was officially founded! [See Frederick C. Chabot, SanAntonio and its Beginnings (The Naylor Company, San Antonio, Texas, 1931; Ben Cuellar Ximenes, Gallant Outcasts (The Naylor Company, San Antonio, Texas, 1963); and Frederick C. Chabot, With the Makers of San Antonio (ArtesGraficas, San Antonio, 1937). Descendants of the Francisco Hernández family and the other founding families have continued to live in and around San Antonio ever since. Thusly, these founding Tejano families and their descendants have been participants or witnesses of virtually all the history that has transpired in Texas and America since earliest times.
Another special revelation for Jesse was his discovery that the oldest land grant on record in the General Land Office in Austin, Texas, is the compromise settlement dated April 12, 1758, by Luis Antonio Menchaca to Andrés Hernández, son of Francisco Hernández. Béxar Archives documents indicate that Francisco had received this ranch called San Bartolo as early as 1718! The 18,599-acre Rancho de San Bartolo, situated in the wedge of land called “El Rincón” between the San Antonio River and Cibolo Creek, was in full operation when Spanish ranching was at its zenith in the 1770s. Many cattle from the ranch were among those thousands of head of cattle that were trailed from the San Antonio River Valley ranches in Texas to the Spanish forces of General Bernardo de Gálvez, who defeated the British along the Mississippi River and Gulf Coast during theAmerican Revolution. A number of Jesse’s ancestors, including Cayetano Hernández, helped by providing, trailing, and escorting the cattle.
Yet another of Jesse’s surprising revelations was that Carlos Martínez, who received on June 7, 1788, a fifteen-league (66,420 acres) royal land grant situated in present Karnes County, Texas, land on which the present towns of Kenedy and Karnes City (where I live) are situated, was another paternal grandfather. Martínez, a rancher at the time of the American Revolution named his royal land grant El Rancho Señor San José. Previous to this time, Carlos Martínez was a soldier who served both at the Presidio La Bahía and the Presidio de Béxar.
On December 20, 2008, Jesse O. Villarreal, Sr., along with seven other members of his Villarreal Family of Texas, namely, Rene Villarreal, Jesse O. Villarreal, Jr., Santos S. Villarreal, Orlando Mora, Leonard Brennan Rodriguez, Santos H. Villarreal, and Dr. Ruben Mora were formally accepted and inducted into the Austin Patrick Henry Chapter No. 11, Texas Society of the Sons of the American Revolution on the basis of the important roles of their Tejano ancestors in the winning of the American Revolution. Collectively, the Villarreal family descendants opened wider a door of recognition that other Tejano descendants might follow, too, if they but do their genealogical homework.
Descending from a number of the founding families of Texas, Jesse has discovered that he has numerous ancestral Tejano relatives that read like a veritable “Who’s Who in Texas” for nearly three hundred years! Hopefully, they will have a grand reunion when San Antonio celebrates its 300th Birthday on May 1, 2018.
In compiling and writing this book, which is basically a documentary history of Texas for the years 1776-1783, Jesse, who lives in Austin, Texas, has spent days on end reading, studying, and copying many original and translated Béxar Archives documents in the nearby Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. He has supplemented the documents with commentary obtained from various historical publications, such as mine, to give the reader a realistic background sense of the life and times during the period.
Jesse chose to divide his book into chapters preceded by a short commentary for background historical setting, followed by excerpts from original Béxar Archives documents, Béxar Archives Translations, and other sources. Diacritical marks generally used on certain Spanish names are used only in the explanatory or commentary sections preceding the excerpts of Spanish documents and not in the succeeding copies of translated Spanish documents. Also, dividing lines are used to separate the documentary excerpts from the explanatory text.
One of my life’s greatest pleasures, privileges, and honors has been to help Jesse O. Villarreal, Sr., to write this book, which is bound to be appreciated by many of his fellow Tejano descendants for generations to come.
Robert H. Thonhoff
Karnes City, Texas