Saturday, May 30, 2015

Juan Linn, A Street in Victoria, Texas

A distant relative, John Howland Wood, went to Texas from New York in 1836 to fight on behalf of the residents of Texas who were seeking independence from Mexico. Instead of returning to New York, he remained in Texas and married Nancy Clark, a woman of Irish descent.

John H. Wood's mother was Reformed Dutch and his father was born of Quaker parents. The couple were married by an Episcopalian minister. John was raised in a Protestant community. However, Nancy Clark was Catholic. They were married by a Catholic priest in Texas. His offspring were active in the Catholic church to the point that two of his daughters became nuns.

I periodically came across a record in which one of John H. Wood's descendants was living on Juan Linn Street in Victoria, Texas. The first time I saw Juan Linn, I thought it was an odd name for a street. Juan is a name in Spanish and Linn is, it seems, an Irish name. I wondered how a street got such a name.

John H. Wood's children married people with surnames like Sullivan, Mahon, McCurdy, etc., mostly Irish surnames. A little research revealed that Mexico actively recruited the Catholic Irish in the early 1800s. I suspect that the Mexican government was concerned after the United States acquired the Louisiana Purchase from Catholic France, a concern that Britain had after the American Revolution when the United States was moving its citizens into the lands to the west acquired by the 1783 Treaty of Paris.

Britain had been persecuting the Irish Catholics but also the Irish Episcopalians. At that time the Church of England and the Episcopal Church were not the same. After the close of the American Revolution, the Church of England in the United States and the Episcopal Church were one and the same.

John H. Wood must have felt a bit like an outsider as he was settling into his new life.

I happened to come across a booklet about the Irish in early Texas and, in particular, a chapter entitled, "The Irish of Victoria." On Page 91, it stated that John J. Linn was one of the most prominent Irishmen in Victoria. He apparently was looked upon in favor by the Mexicans and that did not surprise me as I read the booklet. However, the one item that struck me in the booklet was that he was the son of a college professor who was involved in an Irish uprising and fled to the United States. His father settled at Poughkeepsie, New York, obtaining a teaching position by 1800. In 1822, John J. Linn move to New Orleans, then later to Victoria, Texas.

There was no indication the John Linn's father moved to Texas, so I assume that his father remained in Poughkeepsie during John Howland Wood's formative years. I have no way of knowing if John H. Wood had any association with John Linn's father or other of his family members that might have had an influence on John Howland Wood's desire to fight in the Texas-Mexican War.

According to the Texas State Historical Association, John Joseph Linn was called Juan Linn by the Mexicans. Because he was fluent in Spanish and could communicate between the Mexicans and the Irish settlers, he served a valuable function to the Mexican government.

So a this point, Juan Linn Street doesn't sound so strange to me.

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