Family and Land History

Robert H. (Rob) Welder had a uniquely rich family ancestry consisting of a diversity of peoples that immigrated to North America. His ancestors, and the countries from which they originated, included the Welters (Bavaria), de la Portillas (Spain), Powers and Hughes (Ireland), and Traylors (France). Mr. Welder’s great-grandfather, Franz Welter, immigrated here in 1830 with his wife and their five children. Franz and his family lived in New Amsterdam until 1833, when they joined the Beales and Grant Colony to head for Texas to settle along the Rio Grande. Later, his two sons John and Tom would change the family surname from Welter to Welder.

The 59-person Beales colony was 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. 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 and 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 and 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.

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