Catalog Archive
Auction 186, Lot 326

Important Documents Enabling Land Ownership in Austin's Colony

"[5 Certificates of Baptism Signed by Michael Muldoon in Austin's Colony]",

Subject: Austin's Colony, Texas, Documents

Period: 1831 (dated)


Color: Black & White

8 x 9.7 inches
20.3 x 24.6 cm
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This rare and fascinating lot contains 5 certificates of baptism that were issued in Austin's Colony for members of William "Cow" Cooper's family including himself, William Cooper Jr., Samuel Cooper, Sara Hensley and Alice Hensley. Each is dated May 18, 1831 with Latin text and signed at bottom by Michael (Miguel) Muldoon, priest for the colony.

While Stephen F. Austin had received permission to settle southeastern Texas in 1821, it was contingent upon new settlers being of Catholic faith or converting to Catholicism, the established religion in Mexico. However, nearly all Anglo settlers from the United States were Protestant (or agnostic), and required conversion to be considered full citizens with land ownership rights. Unfortunately, there were no priests to carry out the Mexican government's requirement in this remote part of the country as Austin began settlement in 1823. This void left Austin's settlers in the precarious position of improving lands that weren't officially theirs yet. Austin tried in earnest for years to get a priest to the colony, but it wasn't until 1831 that Father Muldoon arrived and quickly baptized scores of eager settlers including the Cooper family.

William "Cow" Cooper, along with his wife Sarah (James), moved from Tennessee to Texas in 1822. He was a member of the Old 300, having been awarded 1.5 leagues of land (6,642 acres) in Waller County and additional lands in Austin County. According to the 1826 census of Austin's Colony, he was a married farmer with 5 children, 2 servants and 3 slaves at the time. Cooper served in the Texas Revolution and furnished military supplies and horses for Sam Houston's army.

Streeter notes four examples of these baptismal certificates, with the earliest date of July 8th 1831, nearly 2 months after the present examples. He further states that "it seems probable that the forms were printed at the office of the Mexican Citizen, which probably began publication late in January or in February, 1831." The only auction record we located is the Streeter example sold at Parke Bernet in 1967.

References: Streeter (Texas) #22.

Condition: B

Folded with a number of edge chips and small tears. The sheets are lightly toned with a few spots of foxing.

Estimate: $2,000 - $2,500

Sold for: $17,000

Closed on 2/9/2022