TABLE OF CONTENTS
Jacob de Cordova:
An Inventory of the Jacob de Cordova Letter Book at the Texas State Archives, 1851-1856
Jacob Raphael de Cordova, Texas land agent and colonizer, was born in Spanish Town, Jamaica, on June 6, 1808. He was the youngest of the three sons of Judith and Raphael de Cordova. De Cordova was raised by an aunt in England and joined his father, a Jewish Jamaican coffee grower and exporter, in Philadelphia in 1820. He married Rebecca Sterling around 1826 and learned the printing trade. His ancestors had supported themselves as printers for generations, beginning in the sixteenth century when a de Cordova in Spain published Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca's explorations in Texas, the Relación, in 1542. In 1834 Jacob moved back to Jamaica, where he and his brother Joshua started a newspaper, the Kingston Daily Gleaner. In early 1836, Jacob went to New Orleans, where he shipped supplies to Texas during its struggle for independence. While in New Orleans, he served a term as Grand Master of the Odd Fellows. After the battle of San Jacinto, he visited the Republic of Texas to install members in Odd Fellows lodges (the first established outside the United States).
De Cordova settled in Texas in 1839 and lived in Galveston and Houston, where he was elected as a state representative to the 2nd Texas Legislature in 1847. De Cordova traveled extensively throughout Texas, including western frontier areas. Through scrip and direct purchase, he acquired large amounts of land to sell to settlers; at one time he had a million acres in scrip or title. To attract settlers to Texas, he made speeches in New York, Philadelphia, and Manchester, England, among other cities. His lectures were published on both sides of the Atlantic. The Texas Land Agency, which Jacob owned with his half-brother Phineas de Cordova, became one of the largest land agencies in the southwest.
De Cordova and Robert Creuzbaur compiled the Map of the State of Texas, first published in 1849. The details of this map were checked by surveyor, cartographer, and General Land Office draftsman Charles W. Pressler, who served as the head of Jacob de Cordova's survey expeditions. Subsequent Texas cartography often was based on this map, which was praised by Sam Houston on the floor of the United States Senate. De Cordova wrote books to attract settlers to Texas, including The Texas Immigrant and Traveller's Guide Book (1856), and Texas, Her Resources and Her Public Men (1858), the latter a first attempt at an encyclopedia of Texas. Jacob and Phineas de Cordova published two early Texas newspapers—the Texas Herald out of Houston and the Southwestern American out of Austin. Governor Peter H. Bell used the Southwestern American to help pass the Compromise of 1850, which resulted in a $10 million payment to Texas for adjusted boundaries after annexation. In the 1850s, de Cordova moved from Austin to Seguin, where he built a home he called the "Wanderer's Retreat." Jacob de Cordova died on January 26, 1868, and originally was buried in Kimball. In 1935, his and his wife's remains were moved to the State Cemetery in Austin. He was survived by five children.
(Sources include: Ornish, Natalie, "De Cordova, Jacob Raphael," Handbook of Texas Online, accessed on August 8, 2019, and the collection itself.)
The Jacob de Cordova letter book contains copies of outgoing correspondence from de Cordova relating to his business as a land agent, dating from 1851 to 1856. The book consists of two sections: "Assessors and Collectors" and "Letters to Phineas de Cordova and Commissioner of the General Land Office Austin and other persons," each with an alphabetized index of correspondents. Noteworthy correspondents include Jacob's brother Phineas de Cordova, former Governor James Pinckney Henderson, General Land Office commissioner George Washington Smyth, and General Land Office draftsman Charles W. Pressler.
Restrictions on Access
Materials do not circulate, but may be used in the State Archives search room. Materials will be retrieved from and returned to storage areas by staff members.
Restrictions on Use
Under the Copyright Act of 1976 as amended in 1998, unpublished works are protected for the life of the author plus 70 years. The term of copyright for published material varies. Researchers are responsible for complying with U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17 U.S.C.).
The letter book is too fragile to be photocopied.
Jacob de Cordova letter book. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
Accession number: 2012/174
These records were purchased by the Archives Division of the Texas Library and Historical Commission from Frank Caldwell on October 7, 1940.
Processed by Tiffany Criswell, August 2019
This letter book has been digitized and is part of the Texas Digital Archive, available online at https://tsl.access.preservica.com/tda/manuscripts-collections/#deCordova.