The Irish have been a bigger part of Texas than most people realize and Irish immigration to the Lone Star State began in earnest during the 1840’s. But the Potato Famine was only one of the reasons the people of The Green Isle eyed Texas as their best bet for the future, with the earliest colonies being established along the coast of Texas with settlements in North and Central Texas beginning soon after.
Texas was well known for its abundance of natural resources compared to a low population. As early as 1828, the first colonies of Irishmen sprouted in the coastal areas and were very inclusive with a diverse population including many Mexicans and settlers of other nationalities. In 1850 the Texas census report included 1,403 Irish with that number growing to 3,480 in 1860.
Many soldiers who had immigrated from Ireland were early participants in some of the landmark engagements that have made Texas famous and many more were a part of the war of independence against Mexico. There were as many as 29 men from the United Kingdom who gave their lives at the Alamo and many were Sons of Erin. And at the Battle of San Jacinto, roughly 100 Irish soldiers comprised over 15% of the entire Texas fighting force.
But long before all of the mass immigration, a descendant of the first King of Ireland escaped political and religious persecution, fleeing from Ireland to Spain. He settled in Aragon and served in the Spanish Royal Army as a volunteer, eventually attaining the rank of Major. He was later deployed to Cuba and Mexico City where he established himself as a formidable military commander. Afterward, he was appointed Governor of Texas, serving from 1767 to 1770. His name was Hugh O’Conor and he was the direct descendant Turlough Mor O’Conor, first King of Ireland. He changed his name from Hugh to Hugo after his escape to Spain.