Ghosts of Highways Past: El Camino Real
Henri Castro was a very successful empresario in the Texas Republic. He was born in France of Portuguese Jewish ancestry in 1786. He arrived in the United States in 1827. He returned to France in 1838 and became a partner in the banking house of Lafitte and Company. There, he attempted to negotiate a $5,000,000 loan for the
Republic of Texas.
While in Texas in 1842, Henri Castro entered into a contract with the Texan government to settle a colony of 600 French families on two grants: the first west of San Antonio, and the second grant bordering the Rio Grande. Although he was opposed by French diplomats in Texas and by the French government, he was successful in his colonization scheme. By 1847, he had settled 485 families and 457 single men on his grant along the Medina River. There, he established
Castroville, for which he was famous, in 1844, as well as the villages of Quihi in 1845, Vandenburg in 1846, and D'Hanis in 1847. While he was establishing towns, he spent his considerable fortune and impoverished his family. On his way home to France, he died of yellow fever at Monterrey, Mexico.
John James Audobon
Courtesy of Institute of Texan Cultures