Juan Nepomucema Seguin was born in Spanish San Antonio on October 27, 1808 to Juan José Erasmo and María Josefa Becerra Seguin. Erasmo was descended from one of sixteen families who came to the San Antonio area from the Canary Islands in the early 1700s. The Seguin cattle ranch covered portions of three current Texas counties: Bexar, Guadalupe and Wilson. Erasmo served as postmaster of San Antonio from 1807 to 1835, mayor (alcalde) of San Antonio from 1820-1821 and quartermaster of Presidio de San Antonio de Béxar from 1825 to 1835. Erasmo was acquainted with Moses Austin who was succeeded by his son, Stephen F. Austin. Along with Don Martin de Veramendi, Erasmo assisted them in obtaining their Austin Colony grant.
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The early life of Juan N. Seguin paralleled the time period of the Texas Revolution. Juan N. Seguin was the oldest of two sons of Erasmo and María and was married to Maria Gertrudis Flores on August 10, 1821, around three years before Mexico declared its independence from Spain in 1824. About nine years later, in 1833, Santa Anna rose to become dictator of Mexico. That same year, Juan’s father Erasmo, Stephen F. Austin and James Miller sought to divide the northern section of the former Spanish Texas with the Mexican state of Coahilla, but were unsuccessful in the effort.
By 1835, Juan Seguin was quite involved in the movement to separate Mexican Texas from’s Santa Anna regime. Santa Anna sent the Mexican cavalry to move against the residents of Gonzales and take their cannon, one of the early events of the Texas Revolution, and Juan was active in recruiting residents of Mexican and Spanish descent and Mexican soldiers to serve against the Mexican Army. Many had settled in the area while it was under Spanish rule, and like their Anglo counterparts, they might have been relatively satisfied living under Mexican rule as long as Mexico was governed as a republic and was operating under its constitution.
Juan Seguin was actively serving with Jim Bowie and others at the Battle of Concepción in the Seige of Bexar that occurred from October to December of 1835 resulting in the first of several changes of control for the San Antonio area. Seguin was appointed as captain, after the Mexican forces under General Martín Perfecto de Cos were driven from the area. The residents enjoyed a few weeks of peace until they learned that a larger Mexican force was returning. A small group of soldiers remained in and around the Alamo. Seguin and another man, Antonio Cruz de Aroche, were sent to the convention at Washington to request aid to help defend San Antonio. They delivered their message and headed back towards Gonzales to meet up with forces led by Fannin’s 300 men. At Gonzales, Seguin joined Sam Houston who placed him in charge of a rear guard of his group. In the interim period, the Alamo defenders fell to Mexican forces after a siege of several days, ending a Mexican victory on March 6, 1836.
Seguin led what is believed to be the only Tejano group to serve with Houston at the Battle of San Jacinto in April as Santa Anna and his Mexican forces were defeated. Seguin returned to San Antonio and served as military commander of the forces there into 1837. During this period he arranged for formal military burial for those killed in the seige of the Alamo. In 1838, the town of Walnut Springs in Guadalupe County (not to be confused with the town of Walnut Springs in Bosque County) was renamed in honor of Seguin. He left the Army after being elected to the Texas Senate, serving in the Second, Third and Fourth Texas Congress, despite not writing or speaking English. It is not known whether he eventually acquired some use of English, but we understand that when he was in the Texas Senate, he used an interpreter. Seguin led a movement to have the new republic’s constitution and laws also printed in Spanish for the Spanish-speaking residents.
In 1840, Seguin left the Republic of Texas to support General Antonio Canales in his effort to unseat the Centralist government. When he returned, he was elected mayor of San Antonio though he endured rumors that he may have betrayed the Santa Fe Expedition, criticism from Anglos for his moves against squatters on city land and other difficulties. He resigned in 1842 and moved with his family to Mexico following the 1842 invasion of San Antonio by Mexican forces led by General Rafael Vásquez. He had fought against the Mexican invasion, but his detractors alleged that he had supported it. Such allegations against Tejanos were sometimes successful in attacking Tejano citizens of the Republic.
While in Mexico, he allegedly served with Mexican General Adrian Wall’s 1842 invasion of Texas, though he said that he did so under duress, and served with the Mexican Army during the Mexican-American War in the mid 1840s. Seguin would say that he was given the choice of serving in the Army or going to prison. He was later pardoned by the United States government, returned to Texas in the 1850s and again served in city and county government. Near the end of his life, he moved to Nuevo Laredo in Mexico, where his son was established in business. Seguin remained there until he died and was initially interred there in 1890. In 1974, his remains were relocated to Seguin, Texas. In addition to the town of Seguin, numerous streets, schools, monuments and public buildings are named for him.
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