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The Navarro Family

José Antonio Navarro. Courtesy: Texas State Library & Archives Commission

The Navarro family was well known in Texas even before José Antonio Navarro played a key role in the Texas revolution. Learn about members of this socially and politically prominent San Antonio family.

Ángel Navarro and María Josefa Ruiz y Peña
José Antonio's father, Ángel Navarro, was a native of Ajaccio, on the Mediterranean island of Corsica. Early in his life, Ángel ran away from home and supported himself by working in ports around the Mediterranean. Young Ángel journeyed from Genoa, Italy, to Barcelona, Spain, and eventually to Cadiz in southern Spain. There he boarded a ship that brought him to the shores of colonial Mexico in 1769. Ángel toiled in Mexico's Vallecillo silver mines until 1777, when he relocated to the settlement that would become San Antonio.

Ángel quickly settled down, opening a store across the street from the public marketplace. He married María Josefa Ruiz y Peña and they had twelve children. Ángel's success as a merchant established him as a prominent resident of San Antonio, and he entered politics, becoming in 1790 San Antonio's first elected alcalde or mayor. He was reelected to that office in 1807, the year before his death in October 1808.

As agitation for liberation from Spain increased, some of María Josefa's relatives were named on a Spanish government "List of Insurgents" in 1814. In the years to come, several of Ángel and María Josefa's children would be prominent in the fight for Texas's independence.

Ángel and María Josefa's Children
José Antonio Navarro and his brothers became successful merchants and civic officials, like their father. Perhaps the most famous family member, José Antonio was one of the political leaders of the Texas Revolution, a signer of the Texas declaration of independence, and the author later in his life of Apuntes Históricos (Historical Notes), a book on Texas history. His niece, Juana Gertrudis Navarro Alsbury, was one of the few survivors of the Mexican attack on the Alamo.

One of José Antonio's younger brothers, José Luciano, born in 1800, worked as a silversmith and jeweler. After the fall of the Alamo in March 1836, Mexican leader Antonio López de Santa Anna required José Luciano to circulate a letter asking all Mexicans to apply to Santa Anna for pardons. He and his family fled to east Texas and Louisiana until after Texas won its independence at San Jacinto in late April 1836.

José Antonio's youngest brother, José Eugenio, born in 1803, served in the militia under his uncle José Francisco Ruiz, and served as San Antonio's city treasurer after Texas independence. He was also a reader: his library included books on Napoleon, mathematics, and English grammar. At age 30, José Eugenio was shot and murdered while working in the Navarro family store. He stabbed the gunman to death before succumbing to his wound.

Other Descendants
The next generation of Navarros became as prominent as their parents. José Antonio's son, José Ángel Navarro, was born in San Antonio in 1828. After graduating with a law degree from Harvard University in 1850, Angel returned to his family's San Antonio law practice. He served in the Texas State House of Representatives, and investigated the activities of Mexican rebel Juan N. Cortina along Texas' southern border, supporting President James Buchanan's decision to pursue Cortina into Mexico. While a state representative, Ángel supported Texas' secession from the Union with the other Confederate states at the time of the Civil War.

Antonio Victor Navarro, born on July 28, 1886, was another family member who became active in Texas politics. He served as the sheriff of Zapata County in 1925 and for ten years as a county judge. This Navarro was one of only six Tejanos portrayed in Texas Democracy, a 1936 publication which chronicled the history of the state's Democratic party.

The Navarro Legacy
Legacies of the Navarro family live on in Texas today. Streets, schools and a Texas county bear the Navarro name, along with thousands of Texas citizens (some of whom may trace their roots back to Ángel Navarro).

The adobe and limestone Casa Navarro is part of the José Antonio Navarro State Historical Park, a historic site in downtown San Antonio. Purchased and restored by the San Antonio Conservation Society in 1960, Casa Navarro interprets the Mexican history and heritage of Texas.

Another legacy of the Navarro family is the town of Corsicana, Texas, the county seat of Navarro County. Given the honor of naming the place, José Antonio Navarro selected "Corsicana" after the Mediterranean island of Corsica, where his family had originated. In the spring of 1894, seeking a larger water supply, the expanding town authorized drilling in the area -- and struck oil and gas. It was the first oil discovery west of the Mississippi River, and Corsicana rapidly became a wealthy boomtown. Businesses in Corsicana still extract oil and gas today.

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