By Eugene Brennan
Handbills, posted throughout Ireland, advertised the benefits of life in Texas and wide-eyed children listened to returnees regale them with exotic tales of life in the new land.
Born in 1817 in Wexford, Thomas O’Connor lived on the family farm at Kilmuckridge. As a 17-year-old he was mesmerized by the tales his uncle James told of life in Texas.
Ireland was dominated and held back by callous landlords, but in Texas Thomas could own his own land – and plenty of it. He sailed to America with his uncle in 1834 and immediately went from renting 50 acres to owning over 4,000.
On September 28, 1834, the Mexican government granted Thomas O’Connor 4,428 acres as a settler in the Power and Hewetson colony, established to boost settlement in the area. Irish people who wished to possess their own land were encouraged to settle in Texas.
The next year, Thomas joined the Texas cause against Mexico. After arriving in Goliad on October 10, 1835, he was among the first to reinforce La Bahía by joining the local volunteers. With John O’Brien, another relation, he was in charge of the oxcart evacuation of San Patricio, Refugio.