Doña Patricia de la Garza de Leon, along with her husband, founded Victoria in 1824. The couple came to Texas from Mexico after securing a large land grant in South Texas. Using her $10,000 dowry, the couple developed the land for ranching and amassed a large fortune. She also gave $500 in gold, a huge tract of land and priceless furnishings to the first church in Victoria, now St. Mary's Catholic Church. After Texas independence, anti-Mexican sentiment forced her and her family to flee the country. She returned in 1844 to find all their possessions stolen, and she lived quite humbly from then until her death.
Written by Teresa Palomo Acosta
Read by Laurie Gallardo
Patricia de la Garza de León was one of the earliest pioneers to colonize Texas.
She and her family initially settled on the banks of the Aransas River in 1799 where they raised livestock and registered the first brand in Texas, a connected E and J that stood for Espiritú de Jesús, or Spirit of Jesus.
In 1824, she contributed 9,800 pesos and numerous livestock to found Victoria with Martín de León, her husband. Because people of all races, creeds, or color who swore allegiance to Mexico and upheld the Catholic faith were accepted there, Anglo and Irish families also settled Victoria.
For this diverse group, de la Garza de León oversaw many community activities, such as setting up schools to educate the colony’s children. She also contributed $500 in gold for constructing a church.
During the struggle for Texas independence, two of de la Garza de León’s sons fought on the Texas side, and the family smuggled arms and munitions to assist in the Texas cause. Nevertheless, she and her family fell victim to anti-Mexican sentiment that arose following the revolution. She escaped to New Orleans, but upon her return to Victoria in 1845 she found her possessions scattered and her influential position gone.
After her death in 1849, her home site was donated to the Catholic parish. It is the location for St. Mary’s Church in Victoria.
Acosta, Teresa Palomo and Ruthe Winegarten. Las Tejanas: 300 Years of History. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003.
Biography Source Information
Biographies are reprinted from the Foundation for Women’s Resources (now Women’s Resources), Dallas, Texas. They originally appeared in "From Gutsy Mavericks to Quiet Heroes: True Tales of Texas Women," video study guide, Austin: The Foundation for Women's Resources, 1997. Death dates have been added where needed.
Audio Source Information
Our project, "Texas Women's History Moments," received the 2012 National Council on Public History Outstanding Public History Award and the American Association for State and Local History Leadership in History Award. The audio clips were broadcast on KUT radio from 2011-2016 during Women’s History Month.