In The Weeds, 2/4/15: Who Was Eugene Puchalski?

If you buy a piece of land west of downtown Denton heading out towards I-35 and south of Scripture Street, chances are you are buying a portion of what’s known as the “E. Puchalski Survey” and your deed will probably state that. But, who was he? Before we get into that, a little background about our county. Denton County was formed from the much larger Fannin County in 1846 and was subsequently divided up into smaller units. The Texas Land Office archives contain a map of all the original patentees for this county and can be searched by name at the Denton Co. Clerk’s website under the “real property records search” link. I’ve seen his name many times before while doing research and thought I might see if I could find anything about him. Plus, the grant includes the area of west of downtown Denton and UNT, so what may have been a piece of land in the middle of nowhere in 1850s hasn’t been nowhere for quite some time.

In searching for his name in the County Clerk’s database I came upon this nice document from then-Governor Elisha M. Pease, which looks to be a rewritten copy of an earlier version.
Here is the survey from the Denton County Atlas with modern additions including streets, highways and railroads (click on image for larger view):

Puchalksi Survey

 

So, this is fantastic! I have the patent document from the Texas Land Office with the governor’s signature and I’m thinking, “we’ll soon find out alot about Mr. Puchalski.” Not so fast. Can’t find him in any census records, early Denton settlers, immigration lists, etc. The two standard histories of Denton and the County only briefly mention the survey, not the man. How can someone who owned a significant portion of Denton’s land “disappear”? Finally I find this somewhat cryptic document in Ancestry:

PuchalskiMexicanWar

Apparently he served as a private with Price’s Company of the Texas Mounted Volunteers in the Mexican-American War. Checking in “Texas Veterans in the Mexican War” by Spurlin, he is found in the same unit which apparently mustered into service Sept 25, 1845 comprised of men from Victoria and Goliad Counties primarily. Note that his name is spelled with a “y” at the end. Soldiers could recieve grants based on their service, so it made sense that he might apply for and be granted a deed ten years later in 1856. Still, it seemed strange not to have him listed in any census indexes anywhere in Texas or in the country, for that matter.

Then, two very interesting parallel paths revealed themselves.

1. A mention of a “Pucholasky, E, Texas, 1836” in “Passenger and Immigration Lists Index“, which references “New Homes in a New Land: German Immigration to Texas 1847-1861“. The latter mentions this man as a “German in the Texas War for Independence”. Whoa.

When typing in this variant spelling, this index card was found in Ancestry:

Pucholasky

The translated index card indicates that it was possibly a commemorative issue of a book or journal for or about Fredericksburg, Tx.

2. Trying the Texas General Land Office website itself, which includes statewide records, I found a document from Harrisburg, Texas. Where’s that, you ask? Harrisburg was possibly the temporary capitol of The Republic of Texas for a minute while Houston was being planned and established very close by near Buffalo Bayou during 1837-1839. At the very least, the Board of Land Commissioners for Harrisburg County (later Harris Co.) issued Mr. Puchalski 1/3 of league of land with his service as “soldier” listed in parentheses.

And, finally, here is the coup de grace: a letter from the War Department with dates and military unit information. Apparently, he volunteered in the Texas army about a month after the Battle of San Jacinto where the fighting had ended with Santa Ana’s capitulation and capture but, reading about that time period, Sam Houston and the government were by no means positive that the Mexican Army wouldn’t wait and reattack the Texans. It was a fluid period when Texas had won the war but the large Mexican army might’ve decided they weren’t done. Calls were made for volunteers, especially from New Orleans, to beef up the army *just in case*. Was Private Puchalski a newly arrived immigrant who was in the right place at the right time to enlist with the thought of getting land after his service?

Other questions: he was granted land for his service in 1836-37, but where was it? Harrisburg County, I assume, but there are no other records in the Land Office Archives. Did he ever set foot in Denton County?

Thanks for joining me on this journey. It seems safe to say that he served two countries: The Republic and the United States. Any additional information, corrections or comments are always welcome. Special thanks to Fritz Schwalm, Sr. for the German translation of the index card. I can be reached at  chuck.voellinger@cityofdenton.com.

 

 

 

 

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4 thoughts on “In The Weeds, 2/4/15: Who Was Eugene Puchalski?

  1. He’s also mentioned in History of the German element in Texas from 1820-1850 Houston, Tex. :: M. Tiling,, 1913, 233 pgs.
    on page 35 as part of the German settlers’ muster for Independence. But interestingly he’s not included in Pioneers in God’s Hills the history of Fredericksburg and Gillespie Co.

  2. Very interesting Chuck.That 1/3 of a League (1476 acres) you mention was most likely the Headright granted to single men who arrived before March 4, 1836. One probable reason he is not listed in the German communities is that his name is Polish. There weren’t that many Poles in Texas before 1854, but some did come as early as 1818 and a few fought in the revolution. Those later land grants, like the one in Denton, were bought and sold on the market and most were likely sold off to speculators. (like Jot Gunter for example) It is not unusual at all that Puchalski never set foot on the section that bears his name. It may sound cynical but the history of Texas is as much about land speculation as it is about the love of freedom.

    • Thanks, Mike. That helps fill in the missing pieces as to how it went from him to Wm. Little. There is another document I found from 1858-1861 with more info. I’ll send it to you.

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