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BELGIANS   IN   AMERICA Belgian settlements by State  

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The settlers

The Catholic Missions

Belgians Settlements in TEXAS at the time of the Civil War

(Here rather French colonies in texas)

=> HENRY CASTRO colony in Medina County

=> VICTOR CONSIDERANT colony in Dallas County

Belgians first set foot on Texas soil with La Salle in 1685. Three Franciscan priests from the province of Hainaut arrived with him - Maximus Le Clerq, Zenobius Membre and Anastasius Douay. Membre and Le Clerq were killed in the massacre at Fort Saint Louis by hostile Indians, but Douay survived to return to France and tell the story of La Salle's death. 

Another of the earliest Belgians in Texas was Juan Banul, a master blacksmith born in Brussels when Belgium was under Spanish rule. While still a young man he traveled to New Spain seeking a new life with better opportunity. By 1719 he was at the presidio of San Antonio and two years later, the young blacksmith was recruited by the Marqués de Aguayo to accompany an cast Texas expedition. Given the rank of corporal, Banul helped build six missions and two presidios in eastern Texas and Louisiana. Banul married Maria Adriana Garcia, a Flemish widow, and in 1730 they were living in Mission San Antonio de Valero. In 1741 he was granted additional land in recognition of more than 20 years of loyal service to the Spanish crown.

A project of Belgian colony in Texas :

Following its war for independence, the young Texas republic was deeply in debt. Solution to this problem seemed to lie in European recognition and the negotiation of substantial loans with the governments of Europe. Under the administration of President Mirabeau Lamar, General James Hamilton was appointed commissioner of loans and began his official rounds. When in Brussels Hamilton met with the foreign minister, but nothing was agreed upon. While keenly interested in Texas as a foreign market and possible site for colonization, the Belgians were afraid that official recognition might jeopardize trade with Mexico, which still claimed Texas.
Hamilton proposed that, in exchange for a Belgian loan of 37 million francs (over $7 million), Texas would allow certain Belgian products favored status over imports from other nations and allow Belgian vessels the privileges of coastal trade. Since the Belgian government wanted an American colony there is some indication that Hamilton agreed to do what he could to make a site available in Texas, though it was not written into the treaty. The Belgians were still reluctant to advance so large a sum against the revenue of a country about which they had so little information; therefore, Hamilton proposed that the king send a reliable representative to Texas to observe firsthand the nature of the land and its people and a young artillery captain, Victor Pirson, was chosen.
At 32 Victor Pirson was already well known in Belgium. He had played an active role in its war for independence and had served as attaché to the Belgian legation in Constantinople. Pirson was cautioned by the government that he was being sent only as an observer and that he was in no way empowered to make treaties.
Pirson was sent to Boston, where he would be met by Hamilton's oldest son. Docking in late December, Pirson hurried to Washington, D.C., where he visited President John Tyler on New Year's Day 1842. The next day Pirson continued his journey by packet to Charleston and then on to New Orleans. During this voyage he met Henri Castro also bound for Texas. Castro had recently completed negotiations for a colony in Texas, and he gave Pirson a copy of his contract to use as a model in his negotiations.
Hamilton joined Pirson in New Orleans, and the two took a steamer to Galveston, arriving January 25. From there they proceeded to Austin via Houston. While Hamilton had been in Europe President Lamar had been replaced by Sam Houston. When Pirson and Hamilton arrived in Austin on February 1, Hamilton immediately called on the new President Sam Houston, successor of Lamar, to discuss his negotiations for the Belgian loan. Pirson was given permission to examine all registers and archives of the Republic. From this research Pirson could determine population, revenue, public debts and other sources of income and expenditures by which he could better report the advantages of a Belgian loan.
Upon congressional adjournment in early February Pirson was convinced that little else could be accomplished in Austin; he decided, therefore, to see more of the republic. In San Antonio, assisted by André Antoine Mellaerts, a local businessman and fellow Belgian, Pirson gathered information on the volume of goods traded in town and even purchased samples to take back with him. Instead of exploring the region between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande as he had intended, Pirson decided to leave for Galveston. This was due in part to news of an impending invasion from Mexico.
In early March, Pirson had a last visit with president Houston and Anson Jones in Galveston. Secretary of State Jones brought up the subject of Belgian colonization. Houston was prepared to grant the Belgian government two extensive tracts of land along the Rio Grande, between the Castro and Kennedy grants, in exchange for the introduction of 600 to 1,000 families of high character. This land was to be held for the colonization project until December 1, 1842, after which time, if no action was taken, the President could dispose of it.
Pirson's report, submitted on August 9, 1842, dealt favorably with the Republic of Texas in general, but expressed concern over unstable political and military conditions. A contract was prepared on November 18 calling for the immigration of at least 350 families during the first year. The Count de Briey, the Belgian foreign minister, not only questioned whether the colonists would remain loyal to Belgium, but voiced concern for their safety, since they would exist in a buffer zone on the Mexican border of Texas. Also, the Belgian government did not wish to endanger its relations with either Mexico or the United States and the Texas colonization plan ended.
The continued hope for a Belgian loan and recognition prompted Texas to send yet another chargé d'affaires to Belgium. But, in May 1844, the Belgian government, certain that the United States planned to annex Texas anyway, ended the matter of Belgian recognition and the loan.

Others individuals in Texas :

Peter Shiner, from Luxembourg , settled in 1842 at Victoria, Texas.
Anton Diedrick debarked in Galveston after four years held prisoner on a ship.
Charles A. Otterbein, a dentist, left Belgium in 1856 for political reasons.
Jean Charles Houzeau, a scientist, resided in Texas from 1858 till 1862, but fled to Mexico because of is abolitionist sympathies.

Sources :
- Archives du Ministère des Affaires Etrangères
- The Handbook of Texas Online
- Old Fort Davis

Links :