Many Irish and Anglo-Americans settled in the Spanish and Mexican territories of what is now the USA. They arrived as merchants, soldiers in the Spanish military, farmers, or as adventurers. They often obtained land grants. To buffer the expanding United States after the Revolutionary War, Spain began opening up vacant lands for settlement. Regardless of why they arrived, remember they were not living in the United States. They were in Spanish America, with different laws, language, culture, and even religion. This subject applies equally to Irish Catholics and Protestants, as both would swarm southward.
Areas of settlement can be found mainly in the modern day areas of southern Alabama, California, Florida, eastern Louisiana, southern Mississippi and Texas. Louisiana was divided between France and Spain; while Florida was contested between Spain and Great Britain. So always tie your history into your research.
Culturally, it’s important to remember that these settlers became Spanish subjects. Foreigners were required to take an oath of allegiance, and convert to Catholicism.
In regards to religion, while technically conversion was a prerequisite to settlement, it could not always be enforced as there were no few priests on the frontier.
The advent of so many settlers meant Spain would lose its lands piece by piece. Areas in Mississippi and Alabama were abandoned by 1799, Eastern Louisiana declared independence and was annexed by the USA in 1810, and in 1813 the port of Mobile was also annexed by the USA. Finally by 1821, Spanish Florida was transferred to the expanding USA. After the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), the process would be complete for most of the areas considered Spanish.
Tomorrow’s blog will be on some of the records left behind to document this intriguing piece of USA history.