"To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering."


- Aldo Leopold

Monument at homesite of John Welder and Dolores Power located on the Welder Wildlife Refuge. Photo courtesy of Neal Johnson.



Robert H. (Rob) Welder's ancestors were the Welters from Bavaria, de la Portillas from Spain, Powers and Hughes from Ireland, and Traylors from France.  Rob Welder’s great-grandfather, Franz Welter, immigrated to this country in 1830 with his wife and their five children. They lived in New Amsterdam until 1833, then joined the Beales and Grant Colony to head for Texas to settle along the Rio Grande.  His two sons, John and Tom, changed the family name to Welder.

The 59-person colony was a led by empresarios Dr. Charles Beales and Dr. James Grant. They, along with the Welder family, embarked from New York on November 10, 1833 on the schooner Amos Wright and anchored at El Copano on the Texas coast on December 11, 1833. They brought oxen along to carry the colonists on their trip inland, and an abundance of wildlife provided food for the trip.  El Copano is located within 12 miles of the Welder Wildlife Refuge. 

Franz Welter's son, John Welder, was Robert H. Welder's grandfather. John accumulated approximately 100,000 acres of land in south Texas mostly through the purchase of land grants. In 1850 John married Dolores Power, daughter of Dolores de la Portilla and Colonel James Power, a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence. Dolores de la Portilla's father, Felipe Roque de la Portilla, was born in Spain about 1768 and then immigrated to New Spain around 1786

In 1807 Felipe Roque de la Portilla was living in Matamoros, Mexico when the Mexican governor of Texas established a civil settlement program on the Texas frontier to ward off foreign penetration. In return for premium lands, de la Portilla agreed to make a Texas settlement at his own expense, thus inaugurating the empresario system of colonization in Texas.

The Rob & Bessie Welder Wildlife Foundation and Refuge are located about 10 miles northeast of Sinton, Texas on the lands deeded along the Aransas River in the original 1834 land grant to Felipe Roque de la Portilla.