José Antonio Navarro was the son of Angel Navarro of Corsica, the Mediterranean island south of Spain, and Josefa Maria Ruiz y Peña. He was born in 1795 in San Antonio de Béxar. He, like many other Tejano residents of the area, opposed the rule of Santa Anna. He married Margarita de la Garza in 1825 and together they would have seven children.
In his adulthood, he developed a strong friendship with Stephen F. Austin. He assisted Austin in his empresario contract with Mexico to bring Anglo settlers to Texas. As both individuals had similar outlooks and visions for Texas, they were key actors in the movement for Texas independence from Mexico. Navarro served as Land Commissioner for DeWitt’s Colony in 1831 and served in the same capacity for the Béxar District in 1834-1835, immediately prior to the Texas Revolution. In 1836, he and Samuel Maverick were the delegates from the Béxar District who signed the Texas Declaration of Independence and Navarro contributed to the writing of the Constitution of the Republic of Texas.
These events took place in the tumultuous months that included the Siege of Béxar, the fall of the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto. Jim Bowie, who was his nephew by marriage, perished at the Alamo. Navarro worked to obtain the release of three of the non Mexican Alamo survivors who had been held captive in the Músquiz residence. After their release, they resided at the home of Navarro.
Navarro served as a member of the Texas Congress in 1838. In 1840, he was a member of the ill-fated Santa Fe Expedition and was imprisoned until 1845. His political preference for republican ideals had made him an enemy of Santa Anna. Santa Anna offered to release him if Navarro would renounce his loyalty to the Republic of Texas. Navarro likely might have remained in prison, but Santa Anna had been succeeded by Herrera, who released him. After his release, which coincided with Texas becoming a state of the United States, he was elected as a delegate to the committee that drew up the State Constitution.
Navarro served three terms in the Texas Senate before retiring from political life in the late 1840s. In his senior years, he owned a ranch in nearby Seguin until he died in 1871. He was interred in the San Fernando Cemetery #1 in San Antonio marked by the gravestone below.
Navarro County was created in 1848 and was named for him. He selected the name of Corsicana, the county seat, in honor of his father’s birthplace, the island of Corsica.
[Paul Mosley narrates this post here.]
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