Fayette County Courthouse
built in 1891.
Fayette County, with its seat of government in La Grange, lies on the coastal plains of South Central Texas. It is bounded on the northwest by Bastrop and Lee Counties, on the northeast, east and southeast by Colorado County, on the south by Lavaca, and on the southwest by Gonzales. It is prairie country, broken only by small streams and valleys, except where the Colorado River, on its diagonal course through the county from the northwest to southeast, flows through a rich swath of black lands.
History of La Grange, The County Seat
More than two hundred years ago the beautiful sheltered basin where the city of La Grange now lies was the site of a large Indian camping ground.
Scarcely fifty years later, our emerging young city was one of the top choices for the capitol city of the new Republic of Texas, missing being chosen when President Sam Houston vetoed the bill favoring Eblin’s League, which was adjacent to the La Grange town tract.
Founded by Colonel John H. Moore, an acclaimed Indian fighter from Tennessee and a hero of the Texas Revolution, La Grange derives its name from the home of the settlers from Tennessee who came here in the late 1820’s.
La Grange, of French derivation meaning “the meadow”, was also the name of the estate of General La Fayette, famed soldier of the American Revolution for whom Fayette County is named.
Colonel Moore first settled at Columbus, where he married the daughter of James Cummins, after whom Cummins Creek is named. In 1831 he brought his bride to our bend of the Colorado River to settle on a half league land grant.
On the site where the American Legion Recreation Center now stands, Colonel Moore built a twin blockhouse. A state marker, placed there in his memory, stands at the location today. It was in the blockhouse that the first white child to be born in La Grange made her arrival. She was Tabitha Moore, later Mrs. I.G. Killough.
Around 1838 La Grange was designated county seat of Fayette County, one of the original counties of Texas and also one of the oldest. An early order of business for the commissioners was to provide a court house. Since county revenues at that time were from $1200 to $1400 a year, a reasonable cost was essential. A small building that had once been a saloon was purchased for $250. The building had to be moved to the square and repaired at county expenses. Although the county conducted business there, it was too small to accommodate district court proceedings and other buildings around the square had to be rented for that purpose.
Other more serious matters soon confronted these early townsmen.
The question of the possession of Texas had been settled in the battle of San Jacinto. The Republic of Mexico was too weak and too much disrupted by internal dissensions to make another effort for the conquest of Texas, but the Mexicans, too weak to conquer Texas, harassed the settlers living on the frontier. They made several expeditions for that purpose into Texas. In one of those expeditions, the Mexicans under General Woll came as far as San Antonio. They were met by 300 mounted Texans under command of Col. Matthew Caldwell at the Salado. They were defeated. But a company of 53 men from Fayette County who had mustered in at the public square in La Grange, (the large live-oak under which they gathered still stands there in front of Prosperity Bank) under command of Nicholas Dawson. Of the 53 men, 41 were left dead on the ground, 2 escaped, and 10 were taken prisoners, 4 of whom were wounded.
Retaliatory expeditions into Mexican territory made against the advice of Sam Houston followed. In one of those expeditions, the one against For Mier, a large number of Fayette County men took place. They gave battle to the Mexicans, but finally surrendered. Being taken into Mexico as prisoners, they overpowered their guard, but being recaptured, every tenth man-a total of seventeen in number-was shot by order of Santa Anna.
General Walter P. Lane, on a scouting expedition to San Luis Potosi, made a detour to the hacienda of Salado, had the bones of the 17 men exhumed and brought under escort commanded by Capt. Quisenburg to La Grange. Here they were interred and placed with military honors in a cemented vault on Monument Hill or Kreische’s Bluff, opposite La Grange, in the presence of a crowd of thousands who had gathered there on this solemn occasion. In the early eighties a joint monument was erected on the public square of La Grange to the memory of the Dawson men and the Mier prisoners.
With the war’s end, progress could again commence and in 1850 La Grange was incorporated.