The Fredonian Rebellion and the Old Stone Fort

The Fredonian Rebellion was a brief and unsuccessful uprising which, nevertheless, had a profound influence on Texas history. The primary mover behind the rebellion was Haden Edwards, the empresario of Nacogdoches from 1825 to 1826, who was in charge of bringing in new settlers to the region. Disputes between Edwards and the established settlers living in the Nacogdoches area began soon after Edwards arrived when he demanded that all settlers produce titles for their lands. Those settlers who could not produce titles risked having to forfeit their land to Edwards. Edwards also involved himself in the election of local officials; an action that left him open to accusations of nepotism. The empresario for southeast Texas, Stephen F. Austin, wrote to Edwards telling him that he simply did not understand the nature of his duties, and furthermore, that continuing on in the same manner would bring about Edwards’ ruin as well as injure any new settlements. Choosing to ignore Austin’s advice, Edwards continued with what the Mexican government saw as a heavy-handed policy, and by the mid-point of 1826, Mexico had revoked Edwards’ empresario contract. A land speculator and businessman, Edwards now saw the establishment of a state independent from Mexico as the only course open to him to salvage at least some of his investment.

On November 22, 1826, the rebellion began with a group of thirty-six men who arrested the local authorities, and took over the Old Stone Fort in Nacogdoches to use as a headquarters. The Old Stone Fort was built in 1779 to serve as a mercantile house, but had served various other purposes since its construction. The quasi-public nature of the building meant that it became a natural spot for the members of the Fredonian Rebellion to meet and strategize. The leaders of the rebellion felt that its success would be much augmented if the local Indians could be persuaded to join the cause. Two Cherokee leaders, Richard Fields and John Dunn Hunter, pledged support for the rebellion in exchange for a promise of land. To symbolize this union, the flag of the rebellion consisted of red and white parallel bars, for the Indians and Anglo-Americans respectively. The flag was inscribed “Independence, Liberty, Justice” and was signed by the rebels who flew it over the Old Stone Fort. On December 21, 1826, the rebels signed their own Declaration of Independence from Mexico. Unfortunately for the rebels, Indian assistance never materialized, and with the militia and Mexican troops closing in, both the cause and the fort were abandoned by the end of January 1827. Most of the rebels fled eastward towards the Sabine River and then into Louisiana. Fields and Hunter were killed by their tribe for involving them in the rebellion.

Though the Fredonian Rebellion had failed, the event alarmed the Mexican government, which decided that something had to be done to prevent such occurrences in the future. General Manuel de Mier y Teran was therefore dispatched to survey the state and to make a detailed report on what he found. Teran found that the state was rapidly becoming “Americanized.” In response, the Mexican government passed the Law of April 6, 1830, which was designed to reverse these trends. Instead, the law greatly angered Anglo colonists, and paved the way for the coming Texas Revolution. The legacy of the short-lived Fredonian Rebellion was that it increased tensions between Anglo settlers and the Mexican government.
The Old Stone Fort was demolished in 1902, but a replica was built using New Deal funds in 1936, and now functions as a museum located on the campus of Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches.