Scope and Contents
The collection consists of correspondence and land documents related to the personal, business and legal correspondence of the Groce family of Texas and 2 letters regarding the possible donation of an historic letter. Topics include family matters, plantation conditions, legal concerns and land dealings. Most of the letters were written in Texas and are to and from Jared Ellison Groce, Sr. and his sons, Jared, Jr. and Leonard Waller Groce. Highlights include an official transcript of the land grant from Estevan F. Austin and the Baron de Bastrop to Jared E. Groce; a letter from Henry Smith, Provisional Governor of Texas, relating his dealings with his Council; and a letter from John A. Wharton regarding the capture of the "Independence" off Velasco.
Biographical / Historical
Jared Ellison Groce (1782-1839), planter, public official and the wealthiest settler in Stephen F. Austin's colony, was born in Halifax County, VA, on October 12, 1782, the son of Jared Ellison and Sarah (Sheppard) Groce. In 1802 he moved to South Carolina, where he acquired property and married Mary Ann Waller, daughter of Texas pioneer Leonard Waller, on August 29, 1804. Later that year he moved to Lincoln County, Georgia, where he purchased a large estate. There he became a delegaate to the convention that drafted the Georgia constitution. After his wife's death in 1814, Groce moved to Alabama and established a settlement known as Fort Groce. Austin's colonization scheme drew him to Texas in 1821.
Groce reached the Brazos River in January 1822. He constructed a homestead, which soon became known as Bernardo Plantation, on the east bank four miles south of the site of present-day Hempstead. The Mexican government granted him title to ten leagues of land in 1824, which was soon augmented with other land. In 1822 he cultivated the first possible cotton crop in the Austin colony and in 1825 constructed one of the earliest gins in Texas on the Brazos River. He resided on his plantation until 1833, when the malarial environment compelled him to divide his estate among his children and move to Wallace Prairie. There on the east bank of the Brazos he constructed his home known as Groce's Retreat. He was selected as a delegate from the District of Viesca (later Milam County) to the Convention of 1832, where he opposed the resolution seeking independence for Texas. He espoused revolution but outfitted men for service in the Texas Army. The draft of the Texas Declaration of Independence was completed at Groce's Retreat and was sent to Washington-on-the-Brazos for ratification. Between March 18 and 21, 1836, Groce's Retreat served as the temporary capital of the Republic of Texas. After the Battle of San Jacinto in April, 1836, Groce's Retreat was considered as a site for the permanent capital of the republic.
Groce and his first wife had three sons and a daughter. In 1814 Groce married Ann Waller, Mary's sister, and they had two additional children. Ann died in 1818; Groce died in 1839 and was buried at Bernardo.
Leonard Waller Groce (1806-1873), oldest son of Mary Ann (Waller) and Jared E. Groce, was born in Lincoln County, Georgia, on September 27, 1806. He was attending school in Montgomery, Alabama, when his father moved the family to the Brazos River area of Texas, where he received title to lands from Stephen F. Austin in 1824. Leonard received his education in Augusta, Georgia, and in 1825 took over responsibility for much of his father's business. Leonard brought the first cotton gin to Texas and in 1830, with his brother Jared E. Groce, Jr. and a partner, went into the cotton trade. On November 17, 1831 he married Courtney Ann Fulton and lived at Bernardo, which they inherited in 1835 from Groce, Sr.
Leonard Groce was a member of the local militia at San Felipe de Austin, a delegate to the Convention of 1833, and a commissioned colonel in the Texas army. He supplied corn and beef for the army during the Texas Revolution, and saw the "Twin Sisters" cannons mounted at Bernardo on April 11, 1836. In 1840 Leonard Groce received his license to practice law, but remained with cotton production. Later on in life he was a trustee of the Chappell Hill Male and Female Institute.
In 1853 he moved his family of eleven children to Liendo Plantation which was the site of a Confederate recruiting station, prisoner of war camp during the Civil War, and troop encampment during Reconstruction. Groce sold his plantations and remained in Texas. The purchasers defaulted on the payments, but Groce was caught in the economic debacle of southern Reconstruction and declared bankruptcy in 1868. He died at Liendo on August 29, 1873.
Excerpted from "The New Handbook of Texas," 1996