The DeWitt Colony (ca. 1820s through the 1840s) was a settlement in Mexico (now Texas) founded by Green DeWitt. From lands belonging to that colony, the present Texas counties of DeWitt, Guadalupe and Lavaca were created. The hub of the colony was primarily located, however, in what is now Gonzales County. The first battle of the Texas Revolution occurred in the DeWitt Colony.
In 1821 the Mexican War for Independence severed the control that Spain had exercised on its North American territories, and the new country of Mexico was formed from much of the lands that had comprised New Spain, including Spanish Texas. Because it was sparsely populated, Texas was combined with Coahuila to create a new state, Coahuila y Tejas.
The new Mexican government was bankrupt and had little money to devote to the military. Settlers were empowered to create their own militias to help control hostile Indian tribes. Mexican Texas faced raids from both the Apache and Comanche tribes, and with little military support, the few settlers in the region needed help. In the hopes that an influx of settlers could control the Indian raids, the government liberalized its immigration policies for the region, and settlers from the United States were permitted in the colonies for the first time.
The 1824 General Colonization Law enabled all heads of household who were citizens of or immigrants to Mexico to be eligible to claim land. The law did not differentiate among races or social stature, and people who had been granted occupancy rights would be able to claim the land patent for the dwellings. Immigrants were required to be Roman Catholic and foreigners were expected to learn Spanish. Settlers were supposed to own property or have a craft or useful profession, and all people wishing to live in Texas were expected to report to the nearest Mexican authority for permission to settle.
Approval for settlement contracts for Texas was the responsibility of the state government in Saltillo. They were soon besieged by foreign speculators wanting to bring colonists into the state. Coahuila y Tejas implemented the federal law in 1825. At this time, about 3500 people lived in Texas, mostly congregated at San Antonio and La Bahia. Under the new law, people who did not already possess property in Texas could claim one square league (4438 acres) of irrigable land, with an additional league available to those who owned cattle. Soldiers were given the first choice of land, followed by citizens and immigrants. Empresarios and individuals with large families were exempt from the limit. Those who had owned land under Spanish control were allowed to retain their property as long as they had not fought on the side of the Spanish during the Mexican War of Independence. Immigrants were subject to the same policies as Mexican citizens, and Indians who migrated to Texas after Mexican independence and were not native to the area would be treated as immigrants.Stephen F. Austin quickly became the first empresario to successfully establish a colony in Texas.