Triumph and Tragedy: Presidents of the Republic of Texas

Introduction Growing Up Gone to Texas Path to Power Mister President Later Years

Burnet Timeline

1806 - Goes to Venezuela on the filibustering expedition of Francisco de Miranda

1810 - Mexican struggle for independence from Spain begins

1811 - First steamboat travels the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers

1812 - Gutierrez-Magee filibustering expedition into Texas

1812-14 - Ohio is major battleground in War of 1812

1817 - Moves to Natchitoches, Louisiana, spends the next two years trading with the Indians

1817-20 - Pirate Jean Lafitte occupies Galveston Island

1819 - Spain cedes Florida to the United States, retains ownership of Texas

1821 - Mexican independence

1822 - Stephen F. Austin founds first American colony in Texas

1826 - Receives empresario grant

1827 - Spends a year in Texas before returning home to recruit colonists

1830 - Sells colonization rights to the Galveston Bay and Texas Land Company

1830 - Marries Hannah Este

April 4, 1831 - Arrives in Texas, becomes sawmill operator


David G. Burnet

A Life on the Move

At age 17, Burnet began his quest for adventure and success. He signed on as a lieutenant in a filibustering expedition to Venezuela. Filibusters were private military expeditions that were illegal but commonplace during this era. The crumbling Spanish empire provided an especially attractive target, and filibusters often teamed up with Latin American revolutionaries. Young men like Burnet joined up in hopes of striking it rich in land, pay, privateering, and other enterprises.

The expedition was a failure, the first of many that would dog Burnet's life. His youth would pass without finding success. Illness may have played a role. By age 29, Burnet was expected to die from a serious lung ailment. Seeking a cure, he moved to the warmer climate of Louisiana and moved in with a friend at a trading post at the headwaters of the Brazos River. Burnet became fascinated with the Comanches who came to the post and spent much time learning their customs and language. The gentler weather and interesting work led to an improvement in his health, and he returned to Ohio.

In 1826, Burnet found himself 38 years old but still broke and obscure. But a new enterprise seemed certain to make him rich. Mexico was seeking colonists for the province of Texas. Burnet traveled to Mexico City to petition the Mexican government for an empresario grant, which would allow him to start a colony. Burnet must have been elated when he received permission to settle 300 families in the area north of the Old Spanish Road and around Nacogdoches.

The hoped-for riches never materialized. Back in Ohio, Burnet was unable to find colonists or financial backing to develop his hard-won grant. He was forced to sell his rights to a group of northeastern investors. Despite the setback, Burnet was now convinced that his future was in Texas.

Shortly after selling his empresario rights, Burnet married 30-year-old Hannah Este of New Jersey. The couple used the money from the sale to buy a steam-powered sawmill. By April 1831, David and Hannah had moved to Texas and settled near Lynchburg in a simple home they called Oakland. The couple soon started a family with the birth of two sons, William and Jacob.

Burnet operated the sawmill along the San Jacinto River for the next four years. Unfortunately, it proved to be a losing proposition, and he was forced to sell it after four years of struggle.

A Piece of the Action >>

Page last modified: March 11, 2015