Loy of Mexican Texas

Like most of us, I’ve been keeping up with latest news on Harvey; watching KHOU’s live online streaming reports documenting its chaos. Despite my being several states away, I have personal connection to Texas and the other states enduring floods from this storm.

My paternal grandfather’s father was born in northeast Texas, not long after statehood, and the only of his siblings to leave Texas. To this day, Grandpa’s numerous cousins have families still living in all areas of Texas. As for Grandma’s Loy family, from Houston to Louisiana parishes, through Mississippi and western Tennessee, I know numerous distant cousins who’d be affected by the storm. Some I’ve never met, while others had been in contact with me in past years. (It’s rather frustrating, as there are several I wish I could contact to see how they fared. But earlier this year, while sending out email to update my contact list, their email addresses bounced, no longer valid. 😥 ) When Harvey passes through southern Kentucky, it’ll be near Adair County, where Grandma’s great-great-grandfather’s first cousin’s descendants live, before heading to northern Kentucky (my birthplace) and other “cousin” states. At various times in my life I’ve visited many of these areas which are now affected. So, to me, these areas are more than just places on maps or places mentioned in the news. I have kindred there.

It’s said that Texas has had the most national flags of any U.S. state. Though first claimed by Spain, it was then claimed by the French (1684-1689), then again by Spain (1690-1821), and then Mexico (1821-1836). Then Texas was its own republic (1836-1845) before joining the United States (1845-1860), then seceding to become part of the Confederate States of America (1861-1865) and, finally, back with the United States.

A section of a map of Texas at the time it belonged to Spain and was also known as “New Philippines.” This image is from Yoakum’s History of Texas. Note the territory of the Carankawas Indians listed on map, which is in vicinity of Austin’s settlement years later.

In 1821, the year Mexico would later gain independence from Spain, Stephen F. Austin’s father Moses was awarded an empresarial grant, permitting the elder Austin to bring 300 families from the United States to settle in Spanish Texas. Unfortunately, shortly after getting the news and before he could recruit these families, Moses died at home in Missouri that June of pneumonia. His son Stephen recruited and brought these families to Texas, after having his father’s grant reauthorized by the new country of Mexico. The colonists began arriving in December 1821, where a family received 1,200 acres, a farmer 177 acres, and ranchers 4,428 acres. Needless to say, many colonists decided to go into ranching in order to gain the excess acreage. Many single men were also in the group but the law gave no provision for non-families. So they grouped in “families” of two or three in order to be eligible to obtain land. In Spring 1823, Mexican emperor Agustín de Iturbide abdicated and Austin’s grant was declared null by the new administration. However, in 1825 the grant was revived, after an 1824 law was enacted that gave individual Mexican states the right to administer empresarial land.

Austin’s early settlers are known as the Old Three Hundred. The location they settled was right in the path of 2017 Harvey and currently experiencing flooding. The settlements were bordered by the Brazos and Colorado Rivers, from San Antonio Road in the north to the Gulf in the south. Among those settlers was a mysterious young man with the surname Loy.

Back in 2010, I received an email from Dr. Paul N. Spellman, Professor of History at Wharton County Junior College, in Texas. He was seeking information on a Loy that came to Texas circa 1822, who lived along the Colorado River in Wharton or Matagorda or Colorado County in Austin’s Colony. Loy was single and in mid-twenties in 1823 when he was killed by the Karankawas Indians [also spelled “Carankawas”] on Skull Creek. This is near modern Eagle Lake, Colorado County, Texas, which is another Texas county currently under deluge.

At the time of his death, Loy was traveling with two other single men in their mid-twenties: John C. Alley, who was also killed, and John C. Clark, who was wounded. As far as Dr. Spellman knew, the bodies of Loy and Alley were never recovered. Dr. Spellman was able to find information on Alley and Clark and their families, but nothing on Loy. Not even his first name. As Loy apparently wasn’t head of his “family,” his name does not appear on the Old Three Hundred land records. There was a Samuel Toy listed. But he received title for his land in 1827, four years after Loy’s death. The account of Loy’s death first appears in History of Texas: from its first settlement in 1685 to its annexation to the United States in 1846 vol. I, by Harrison King Yoakum, Esquire. (This book was published in 1846, but the Archive.org edition linked here was printed in 1855.) The book’s narrative runs as follows:

In the summer of 1823, three young men, named Loy, Alley, and Clark, went down the Colorado in a canoe for corn. The Carankawaes  were at that time encamped along at the mouth of Skull creek, and lay in ambush for the canoe as it returned. When it came near enough, they shot and killed Loy and Alley; and Clark leaped into the river, and endeavored to escape by swimming to the opposite shore. This he did, but received seven wounds from their arrows.

A similar account is given almost word-for-word in John Wesley Wilbarger’s Indian Depredations in Texas: reliable accounts of battles, wars, adventures, forays, murders, massacres, etc., together with biographical sketches of many of the most noted Indian fighters and frontiersmen of Texas. (This book was first published in 1889, but the Archive.org link here is to the 1890 second edition.)

In the summer of 1823, three young men, Loy, Alley, and Clark, went down the Colorado river in a canoe for the purpose of buying corn. A part of the Caranchua tribe were encamped at the time near the mouth of Skull creek, and waylaid these young men on their return. When near enough, the Indians suddenly rose up from their place of concealment, and fired upon the canoe. Loy and Alley were both instantly killed, but Clark, although wounded in seven places, sprang into the river, swam to the opposite shore and escaped.

So where did Loy come from? This remains a mystery. I only know who he’s not. Dr. Spellman had theorized he may have come from the early Alabama Loys, which includes my Loys. All of them have been accounted for, so can’t be from there. Then, he inquired about Isaac Loy, son of John Jr., son of John and Mary (Holt) Loy, son of Martin (to America 1741). Although Isaac’s age (born 1803) might fit, family tradition has that he died in infancy or early childhood. The 1810 North Carolina census of his parents’ household only gives one child under age 10 and that was baby David. This indicates Isaac did die before 1810. The only Loys from Martin (to America 1741) that I’ve not been able to document all children for are the children of John and Mary (Holt) Loy’s son George. And one of them may have been born in that time period. Some of Austin’s colonists came from Tennessee about the time George Loy’s family was living in East Tennessee, before George returned to North Carolina. So this possibility can’t be ruled out.

Then again, this Loy may have not have even been from Martin’s (to America 1741) branch. The elder Austin was from Missouri, as was John C. Alley. So the Loy could have also come from there. The younger Austin advertised in various United States newspapers, seeking emigrants for his colony. One of the newspaper cities was New Orleans, Louisiana. Perhaps Loy came from there. Nothing is certain.

What we do know is that Loy was likely Protestant. Despite Mexico’s law requiring that these new immigrants be only Catholic, Austin snuck in mostly Protestants for his colony.  Another known item is that Loy was likely financially well-off and well-educated, typical traits of the Old Three Hundred colonists. He seems to have had a good command of English, rather than rely on German, as virtually all of the Old Three Hundred family names are English. Thus, to communicate, or even read Austin’s emigration advertisement, he would need to know English. In the branch of Martin Loy (to America 1741) a great many of his grandchildren did not even speak English until they were much older.

Though we may never know who this Loy was, we do know a Loy was there as pioneer in early Texas history.

Further Early Texas Reading

This book will tell you all you need to know when emigrating to this northeastern province of Mexico:

A History of Texas; or, the Emigrant’s, Farmer’s, and Politician’s Guide to the Character, Climate, Soil, and Productions of that Country…, by David B. Edward (1836). [In March of the year this book was published, Texas had gained its independence. If only there’d been online publishing, the author could’ve made a quick revision. 😛 ]

Forget the common tourist and sports attractions during your next Texas visit. This book will tell you all you need to know when emigrating to this new nation:

A History of Texas, or the Emigrant’s Guide to the New Republic, authored by “A Resident Emigrant, Late from the United States” (1845).


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