The Robertson Genealogy Exchange

Colonel Harlee's Notes on 12243 Sterling Clack Robertson (Part One)


A portrait, oil painting, of [12243] Sterling Clack Robertson hangs in the capitol at Austin, Texas, and bears the following inscription



Born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1785. Died in the county that bears his name, March 4, 1842. Major of Tennessee troops in War of 1812-1815. Commanded a company in the battle of San Jacinto. Member of the Senate of the Congress of the Republic of Texas. Signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence and of the Constitution of the Republic of Texas. Major in command of the Militia of Texas. Introduced six hundred families into his Texas colony at his own expense.

The following resolution offered, 10 Sep 1901, to the House of Representatives of Texas, by Hon. Sebe J. Hendrick of Henderson; Representative from Rusk Co., was adopted during the second called session of the twenty-seventh legislature of Texas.

From House Journal, September 10, 1901:


Mr. Hendrick offered the following resolution:

Whereas, The grandchildren of one of the heroes and founders of the Republic of Texas has presented to the State of Texas an oil painting of their grandfather, Sterling C. Robertson; and,

Whereas, The said Sterling C. Robertson was the founder of one of the early colonies of Texas, and had introduced more than six hundred families into his colony before the revolution in 1835, and was the empressario of said colony; and,

Whereas, The said Sterling C. Robertson was a signer of the Declaration of the Independence of Texas, was a captain and commanded a company in the war of 1836, and took an active part in the battle of San Jacinto. He was present at the surrender of Santa Anna, and he was also a 'delegate to the first convention called in Texas. He was a signer of the first Constitution of the Republic of Texas, and a member of the Senate of the first Congress of Texas, and was recognized by his contemporaries as one of the most wise and patriotic citizens of the Republic of Texas; therefore, be it

Resolved by the House of Representatives of Texas, That said oil painting be received and accepted and hung upon the walls of the Representative Hall as a token of respect of a grateful people of his eminent ability and patriotic service, and as one of the heroes who contributed so much to the welfare and upbuilding of the infant republic, and in shaping the destiny of Texas, whereby she is now one of the grandest States of this Union.

The resolution was read and went to the Speaker's table.

From House Journal, September 11, 1901:


(Oil Painting of Sterling C. Robertson)

The Speaker laid before the House, on its second reading,

The resolution offered by Mr. Hendrick yesterday, presenting to the House an oil painting of Sterling C. Robertson, a Texas patriot, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and participant in the battle of San Jacinto,

Which was read first time yesterday, and went to the Speaker's table.

The resolution was read second time.

Mr. Poole moved that it be adopted by a rising vote.

The motion prevailed, and the resolution was adopted unanimously.

Certificate in the handwriting of, and signed by, [122431C] Mrs. Cone Johnson...(nee Eliza Sophia ("Birdie") Robertson, granddaughter of [12243] Sterling Clack and Frances (King) Robertson

Tyler, Texas, June 21st, 1925.

The old oil portrait of [12243] Major Sterling C. Robertson, painted in New Orleans, La., sometime between the years 1823 and 1842, is in possession of his granddaughter, Mrs. Cone Johnson, of Tyler, Texas.

The portrait was in possession of [12243] Major S. C. Robertson's son, [122431] E. S. C. Robertson, until his death, and until the settlement of his estate, when it came into possession of Mrs. [1224315] Luella Robertson Fulmore..., eldest granddaughter of [12243] Major S. C. Robertson. On the death of L. R. Fulmore, and settlement of the Fulmore estate, it was acquired from (her son) Sterling R. [122431C] Mrs. Cone Johnson, June 15, 1925, who is a granddaughter of [12243] Major Sterling Robertson.

Mrs. Cone Johnson.
(Birdie Robertson Johnson).

From the estate of [122431C] Mrs. Cone Johnson the original portrait passed to her niece, Mrs. Ella Florence (Fulmore) Harllee..., daughter of [1224315] Mrs. Luella (Robertson) Fulmore, and great granddaughter of [12243] Sterling Clack Robertson.

The portrait in the capitol of Texas was reproduced from the original.

The portrait herein is from a photograph of the original.


"[1224] Elijah Robertson of Davidson County & State of Tennessee," in his will, 17 Feb 1797, directed a division of his property among his wife, "Salley," and his children [12241] Elizabeth, [12242] 'Patsy' (as he called his daughter, Matilda), [12243] Sterling, [12244] Eldridge, and [12245] James, and stated: "I also wish that Judge John McNairy have the direction of the education of my son [12243] Sterling, and wish him to have as liberal an education as the circumstances will admit of."

Apparently his wishes were fulfilled. His son, [12243] Sterling, appears to have been well educated. His writings and his conduct of affairs indicate that he had considerable knowledge of the law which he probably acquired under Judge McNairy's direction.

Judge John McNairy was notable in Tennessee affairs. He and Gen. Andrew Jackson, later President of the United States, were law partners, but later ceased to be friends. Judge McNairy married the widow of [1224] Col. Elijah Robertson's brother, [1226] Mark Robertson....

[12243] Sterling Clack Robertson, born 2 Oct 1785, was nearly 12 years old when his father made his will, dying shortly afterwards, 14 Apr 1797.

When [12243] Sterling Clack Robertson was only seven years old two negroes were bought for him. It was customary in those times to give negroes to children as their personal servants. In this case the conveyance vested in the young son of Elijah[1224] Robertson the title to the negroes. The conveyance is recorded thus in Will Book 1-2, p. 279, in records of Davidson Co. at Nashville, Tenn., which was then in "The Territory of the United States South of the River Ohio" and had been, prior to 1790, a part of North Carolina.

Sterling Clack RobertsonBill of Sale.
Territory of the United States South of the River Ohio
August 12th 1793
To all to whom these presents shall come.
Know ye that We Philips and Michael Campbell of the State of Kentucky of the one part, and Sterling Clack Robertson, son of Elijah Robertson of the County of Davidson and Territory South of the Ohio of the other partWitness that for the consideration of the sum of seventy pounds to us paid by the Sterling Clack Robertson before the ensealing and delivering of these presents, the receipt thereof is acknowledged, hath bargained and sold and by these presents do bargain and sell unto the Sterling Clack Robertson to his heirs and assigns forever two negroes to wit: Daniel and John, to the only use and benefit of him the Sterling Clack Robertson his heirs, etc. We the Philip Philips and Michael Campbell, their heirs etc. doth hereby covenant and agree to and with the Sterling Clack Robertson his heirs etc. that they will forever warrant and forever defend the rights and titles of the aforesaid negroes to the Sterling Clack Robertson his heirs etc. from us and heirs or from claim of any persons claiming through by or under them the Philips and Campbell or either of them. In witness whereof we have hereunto set our hands and seals this 22 day of July 1793

PHILIP PHILIPS (L.S.) MICHAEL CAMPBELL (L.S.) Test: By Bennett Searcy, Attorney in fact. Wm. Faitt JOHN GORDON ANDREW McNairy

Probate.The Execution of the within bill of Sale was acknowledged by Bennett Searcy, Attorney in fact for Philip Philips and Michael Campbell, this 22 day July 1793: Let it be recorded: JOHN MCNAIRY.

[12243] "Sterling Clack Robertson" witnessed, 1, Feb 1809, in Davidson Co., Tenn., and proved in the County Court, July Session, 1809, a mortgage of some negroes to his mother securing a loan to her brother....

A supplementary inventory of the estate of John Childress, husband of [12243] Sterling Clack Robertson's sister, [12241] Elizabeth, and father of [122413] George Campbell Childress..., showing three notes given by "[12243] Sterling and [12244] Eldridge Robertson," due 1 Jan, 1821, 1822, and 1823 "Total $2,555.00. July 27th 1820" was submitted, July term 1820, to the County Court, Davidson Co., Tenn.

[12243] Sterling Clack Robertson was then, 1820, about to start to Texas.

[12243] Sterling C. Robertson, by his attorney in fact, [12244] Eldridge B. Robertson, his brother, together with that brother, "of Nashville Tennessee," 15 Jan 1824, for $3,600.00, conveyed to their mother, "Sarah Robertson of Nashville, same state" ten negroes, "Washington called Little Washington, aged about six years, Mingo aged about forty years, Sam aged about' forty years, Peter aged about forty five years, Reuben aged about forty five years, Harry aged about forty five years, Washington aged about thirteen years, Stephen aged about eight years, Hagar aged about twenty years, Nancy aged about twenty years."

About that time, 1824, [12243] Sterling Clack Robertson was prospecting in Texas.


From Adjutant General's office, War Department:
The records of this office show that [12243] Sterling C. Robertson served in the War of 1812 as Deputy Quartermaster General in the Division of Tennessee Militia, under the command of Major General William Carroll. He was appointed November 13, 1814 and served to May 13, 1815. His residence was Giles County. Transportation was furnished him from Nashville to Camp below New Orleans via the Levy, from thence on return march to Washington thence to Nashville the primary place of rendezvous. He was also detached from Orleans to Natchez to furnish stores for the sick at that place.


(Copy of manuscript under above title written and signed by [122431] E. Sterling C. Robertson...and preserved by the latter's son, [1224316] Huling P. Robertson.... The first part of this sketch, concerning [1224] Elijah Robertson, father of [12243] Sterling C. Robertson, appears hereinbefore....

Written by [122431] E. S. C. Robertson, his son.

[12243] Sterling C. Robertson the subject of this sketch was born in Nashville about the year 1785. Served as a Major with the Tennessee troops in the War of 1812-1814, and was honorably discharged.

He had received a liberal education and went to planting in Giles Co, Tenn, but in a few years removed to Nashville.

Enterprising and adventurous by inheritance and possessed of large means, in the year 1823 young Robertson formed a company in Nashville to explore the then distant and wild Province of Texas and came as far in the country as the Brazos, and formed a permanent camp at the mouth of Little River. The party explored, and hunted the buffalo, deer, and bear, along the line of the Brazos, Little River, Leon, Lampassas, Salado, and San Gabriel. All this party returned to Tennessee except Robertson who remained in the country, visiting the new American settlement then forming on the Brazos at San Felipe, Velasco, and the old Spanish settlements of Goliad and San Antonio.

During Robertson's sojourn in the country he formed the design of planting a colony in Texas and with this object in view returned to his home in Tennessee to take the necessary steps for carrying out his plans.

One Robert Leftwich about the 15th April 1825 celebrated a contract with the Mexican Government for the settlement of 800 families, but Leftwich either for want of means or a desire to comply with the contract sold it to Sterling C. Robertson, who visited Monclova, Saltillo, and the city of Mexico in 1827 and was recognized by the Mexican Government as the successor and proprietor of the colony of Leftwich. This colony embraced all the countryViz:

Beginning on the old San Antonio road leading to Nacogdoches where said road crosses the dividing ridge between the Colorado and Brazos, thence with said ridge to the greatcross timbers; thence running in a N. Easterly direction to the dividing ridge between the waters of the Trinity and Brazos to the most northern source of the Navasota; thence down said ridge to the old road leading from San Antonio to Nacogdoches; thence in a South Westerly direction following the meanders of said road to the place of beginning.

Robertson had six years by the terms of the contract for the settlement of 800 families for which he was to receive forty leagues and forty labores of land for his services.

In 1829 Robertson introduced at his own expense one hundred families or more into the colony and had made extensive arrangements at great trouble and expense for the fulfillment of the contract; but by the law of the 6th of April 1830 these families were driven from the colony by the Military in consequence of false representations made to the Government in regard to Robertson and his colonists. This necessitated several trips of Robertson to the Mexican capital and finally in the spring of 1834 the colony was restored to Robertson.

In the summer of that year he proceeded to found and lay out the new colonial town of Sarahville de Viesca, on the heights overlooking the great falls on the west side of the Brazos River.

The Land Office was opened about the 1st Oct. 1834, and the surveying of lands, issuing of titles to the colonists and settlement of the colony progressed rapidly.

Robertson, in the summer of 1835, visited the States of Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana and Kentucky and made known the great inducements to immigration and settlement in Texas and that he had been authorized by the Mexican Government to offer the people of the United States to settle in his colony, one league and one labor of land to heads of families and one fourth of a league to single men and one league and a quarter to foreigners who married natives of the country.

In the winters of 1835 and 36 the land offices of all the colonies of Texas were closed by the "Consultation," and a convention of all Texas was called, and Robertson was elected as a delegate. He was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and of the Constitution of the Republic of Texas. Commanded a company in the spring of 1836. He received a donation of 640 acres of land for his participation in the battle of San Jacinto; was a member of the Senate of the First Congress of the Republic of Texas which position he filled until the expiration of the term for which he was elected.

[12243] Sterling C. Robertson died in Robertson Co, Texas, on the 4th of March 1842 in the 57th year of his age.

No man led a more eventful or trying life. He was descended from a frontier pioneer family, ever on the border, subject to all those hardships and trials inseparable from a life time of contact with savages, Indians and half civilized Mexicans and Americans, so well calculated to call forth the energies, nerve, courage, and chivalry of his nature.

Naturally bold, daring, patriotic and humane to a fault he had as many opportunities for an exhibition of all of them as any man of his day. From the campaigns of 1812 and 1814 down to 1842 the year of his death he was an active participant in every struggle of his countrymen and made as many efforts for the early settlement of Texas under the colonization System, as any man who came to Texas from the days of LaSalle down to the day of his death.

He introduced over 100 families into his colony at his own expense before the 6th of April 1830, and when the Revolution broke out in 1835 had introduced over 600 families. Many, fully one half of the whole number, came at the individual expense of Robertson.

It would take a volume to detail all adventures, trials, and escapes through which he passed from the day of his birth, through an active life down to the time of his death in 1842.

A copy of the above short sketch was sent to D. W. C. Baker of Austin, Texas, at his request, who is preparing for publication a biographical sketch of the leading men and events of Texas.

Jan. 16th 1875.
(Signed) E. Sterling C. Robertson.


The sketch prepared by [122431] Gen. E. Sterling C. Robertson, slightly abbreviated, was published, without reference to its source, in John Henry Brown's History of Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas, page393. In that publication was added the following:

He was a gentleman of rare culture, and was esteemed, not only for the nobility of his nature, but for his commanding intellectuality and unselfish devotion to his country and the cause of constitutional freedom. He was a leader among that band of heroes and statesmen who laid the foundation for the Texas of today.

An abbreviation of the edition of the sketch in Brown's History of Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas was published in 1893 by The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, in A Memorial and Biographical History of Mclennan, Falls, Bell, and Coryell Counties, Texas, with no reference to any source.

The statements of [122431] Gen. E. Sterling C. Robertson concerning his father are authentic, not hearsay, information. [Portions of the text are, in fact, hearsay information since 122431 Gen. Robertson did not personally witness the events he describes. TR] In 1832, before he was twelve years old, he accompanied his father to Texas and was then his companion and associate most of the time until his father's death.

Efforts to find records in Giles Co., Tenn., where [122431] E. Sterling C. Robertson was born, 23 Aug 1820, and where his father lived at the time of the War of 1812-1815, failed. The county records there were burned in 1865.

"It has been estimated that Robertson's colony embraced a territory equal to one sixth of the entire province of Texas, an area perhaps of fully 40,000 square miles, quite as large as the State of Tennessee." (Frank Brown in a published article).

It is now one of the most intensively populated parts of Texas, and contains numerous cities, among them Waco near its center.

The possession of this fertile area was a rich prize and appears to have tempted efforts to take it away from Robertson and his colonists.


(From History and Geography of Texas as Told in County Names, by Z. T. Fulmore..., Fellow of the Texas State Historical Association, — Published by its author, 1915, Austin, Texas).

Sterling C. Robertson was born in Nashville, Tennessee, October 2, 1785, Tennessee at that time being a part of North Carolina. He was the son of Elijah who accompanied Gen. James Robertson to the present site of Nashville and founded that city, Elijah being associated with him in that enterprise. Elijah was a member of the General Assembly of North Carolina in 1789 and represented the political fortunes of that portion of Tennessee up to its admission into the Union as a separate state, being associated with Thomas Hardeman who was in the same assembly and also a member of the Convention of 1788 which met at Hillsboro and the Convention of 1789, which met at Fayetteville, North Carolina, to deliberate upon a ratification of the United States Constitution.

Sterling C. Robertson was reared in Nashville with all the educational advantages the embryo city afforded. Upon the first call for volunteers he enlisted in the volunteer army of the United States and served against both the Indians and the British, and was finally promoted to the rank of Major and served with that rank on the staff of General Carroll at the battle of New Orleans, in January, 1815.

When Mexico achieved her independence from Spain his eye was turned to Texas and in 1823, made an extensive tour through the province and was charmed with the prospect and upon his return to Nashville, determined to cast his fortunes with the country. In furtherance of his plan he inter. ested himself and others in organizing a company for that purpose. After the Congress of the new Republic of Mexico had given over the matter of colonization to the states, Robert Leftwich was sent to Mexico to procure a contract to introduce 800 families. The territory sought for the settlement of the colony was embraced in the following metes and bounds:

Beginning on the west bank of the Navasota Creek at the upper crossing of the old San Antonio road; thence westwardly with said road to the dividing ridge between the Brazos and Colorado Rivers; thence with the ridge of hills northward to strike the old Comanche trace, leading to Nacogdoches; thence with this trace leading to Navasota Creek. Thence down said creek with its meanders to the beginning:

It embraced parts of what is now Brazos and Burleson Counties; all of Williamson, Milam, Falls, McLennan, Bell, Coryell, Limestone, Navarro, a part of Hill and small parts of other contiguous counties.

The date of the concession to Leftwich was April 15, 1825, and was the first contract made to colonize portions of Texas by the State of Coahuila and Texas. For reasons which need not be explained, the contract was made with Leftwich individually but it was in fact the Nashville Company's contract, and so recognized by Coahuila and Texas, as will be seen to the description of Austin's third or Little Colony, when it is called the "colony of the Nashville Company" in 1827.

Leftwich after securing the concession returned to Nashville where his health began to decline and he finally died. Robertson then took charge of the company's affairs, reorganized the work, establishing his headquarters for offices of the company at a place on the Brazos River near where the town of Marlin now stands. At the same time he settled further down the Brazos and established a village which he called "Nashville" on a high bluff on the right bank of the river just above the present crossing of the river by the International and Great Northern Railway Company. This was to be the objective point of the settlers who were to be distributed from there to such locations as they chose to settle. It was made secure against the Indians and grew to be quite a village. About ten miles below this point and where the old San Antonio Road crossed the Brazos was another point called "Tenochtitlan." A few miles above the village of Nashville a river flowed into the Brazos which had been called by the Spaniards San Andress, but as the Spaniards had abandoned the old missions on the San Gabriel and left that region about seventy-five years previously the new settlers found it virtually without a name and called it "Little River."

The protracted illness of Leftwich and the delays occasioned by the readjustment of the business of the Nashville Company, Robertson. having in the meantime to assume full charge, delayed the introduction of immigrants so that not until 1829 did any 'settlers come into the colony. The original contract of the company required the fulfillment of the contract within six years from its date; in other words, the contract would expire April 14, 1831. In contemplation of this he secured a renewal of the contract and went actively to work in securing settlers in the colony.

In the meantime a new and most serious complication arose in the decree by the Mexican government forbidding the introduction of any more American settlers into Texas. At the time of the decree Robertson was in the east organizing and equipping at his own expense companies of settlers for his colony and in 1830 and after the date of the decree, a long line of immigrants in charge of Alexander Thomson reached the boundary of Texas and there learned for the first time that they were forbidden by the decree to settle in -Texas. It was wholly impracticable to return to Tennes. see or Kentucky. They had disposed of their homes and all their belong. ings and they concluded to enter Texas and risk the consequences, many of them finding an asylum in Austin's colony.

As Robertson had a valid contract still in existence permitting him to introduce settlers, he took the American view that the government could not destroy his vested rights. Consequently he continued the work of his enterprise.

In the meantime the decree of April 6, 1830, was repealed but now arose a new difficulty.

The Congress of Coahuila and Texas having been informed of the dis. obedience to the decree forbidding the introduction of any more settlers from the United States, the contract of the Nashville Company was cancelled and the region embracing his contract was given over to Austin and Williams February 25, 1831. It took over three years for Robertson to have this order annulled and the Nashville Company contract restored which was done April 29, 1834. Desiring that settlers already in his colony should not be left to themselves and to carry out his contract at all hazards, he con. tinued to introduce settlers but on the 18th of May, 1835, it was restored to Austin and Williams and matters were in this situation when the Texas Revolution broke out in October, 1835.

The first clash of arms of the Texas Revolution on the 2nd of October, 1835 was at Gonzales, Texas. Robertson at this date was busily engaged in the east, organizing and equipping settlers for his colony in Texas. As soon as the news of a clash of arms reached him he hastened back to Texas and found that an election was soon to take place for delegates to the Convention to meet on the Brazos, and he and his nephew, Geo. C. Childress (770a1), were elected delegates to represent the Municipality of Viesca later known as Milam. He took his seat in that convention participating in all the deliberations, until a day or two before adjournment, when, hear ing the news of the fall of the Alamo, he hastened back to his colony, had all the important land papers and other evidence of title belonging to his colonists securely packed in a box, placed in a cart drawn. by a yoke of oxen, and entrusted the same to his son, then only fourteen years old, with orders to take them beyond the limits of Texas.

He then organized a company and proceeded with all dispatch to join the army of Gen. Houston, then on its way to San Jacinto. Whether he overtook Houston in time to participate in that battle is not certainly known. His name does not appear in the official list prepared by Gen. Houston's direction. On the other hand a donation certificate of six hundred and forty acres of land was issued to him for participation in that battle before the issuance of which, strict proof was required by law.

When matters settled down after the battle many left the army by permission to look for their fleeing families who had left their homes upon the approach of Santa Anna's army and Robertson left to find his son, who had been sent with the archives of his colony to a place of safety, and after finding him with the archives he returned.

At the election in that year he was chosen Senator in the first Congress of the Republic from the Milam District and served in that body until the expiration of his term in 1839 and retired to devote his exclusive attention to his land matters which as we have already seen were in a most complicated condition at the beginning of the Revolution in 1835.

In June, 1837, an act was passed by the Congress of the Republic of Texas authorizing him to institute proceedings in the courts to determine his rights to the lands as an empresario.

The case is reported in the second volume of the reports of the Supreme Court of Texas. The case was ably briefed and argued on both sides and Chief Justice Hemphill rendered the decision of the court. Among other things the Court says: "The law of 1834 heretofore referred to, as restoring to him his rights" (after the Nashville Company contract had been cancelled by a decree of the Congress of Coahuila and Texas) "treats the contract as his (Robertson's) own, and recognizes no other agent for carrying out the project of colonization. He commenced action, shortly after the passage of the law as empresario and continued to act as such; the witnesses recognized him as empresario and his conduct in that capacity is contrasted with that of other like affairs. His activity, energy and expenditures in encouraging emigration are authenticated and he appears to have been unaided by the assistance, pecuniary or otherwise, of others in the establishment of the colony.

After this contract had subsisted for five years with but little progress toward its completion, it was suspended by the Act of 1830 prohibiting the introduction of immigrants from coterminous countries. In February, 1831, one or two months before the expiration of the contract by its own limitation and years before the suspensory provision of the decree of the 6th of April, 1830, was repealed, the same territory was ceded to Austin and Williams for the purpose of colonization.

The case was tried before a jury and the court referring to the verdict saying: "They find evidence of one hundred families introduced previous to the renewal of his contract; two hundred and twenty-nine families agreeably to the titles issued; one hundred prior to March, 1836, and one hundred and twenty-one previous to that time but not recorded in consequence of the closing of the land office, making in all six hundred families." It appears therefore that Robertson introduced more settlers into Texas than any other empresario except Austin. This decision was not rendered until 1847. Having in the meantime retired to his plantation on the Brazos in Robertson County a few miles above the present crossing of the International Railway, he died in March, 1842.

Source: William Curry Harlee, Kinfolks: A Genealogical and Biographical Record, 3 vols. (New Orleans: Searcy & Pfaff, 1935-37), 3: 2813-2821.

Continue with Part Two

Last updated: Tuesday, March 9, 2004

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