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Dón Antonio Gil y' Barbo:
Latter-Day Moses

by Archie P. McDonald, PhD
Archie McDonald, PhD
It may be presumptuous to liken Y'Barbo to Moses, but there is some merit in the comparison. Their motives differed, of course, but both led displaced persons to--or back to--a "promised land." At least the children of Israel and many citizens of Nacogdoches felt that way about their destination.

First, let's deal with the name. Most, including descendants, spell it "Y'Barbo." Spelling was never the strong suit of pioneers, so one also finds "Ibarbo," "y'Barvo and "y Barbo." Suffice it that most East Texans pronounce Gil's name as if it was spelled "Wye-Bar-Bow." And they say "gill" instead of "hile." A better writer once asked "What's in a name?" so hereinafter you will read Y'Barbo.


(Editor's Note: Please see letter below from a direct descendant of Dón Antonio Gil y' Barbo)


Anyway, Y'Barbo was born in Los Adaes in 1729. His parents came from Andalusia, Spain, as colonists and settled on Lobanillo Creek in an area now known as Sabine County.

In 1763, the Peace of Paris ended the Seven Year's War. A consequence was the exclusion of French claims in North America, which made Spanish and English territory meet at the Mississippi River. Rid of the French threat in their northern provinces, Spanish authorities ordered all East Texas missions and settlers removed to San Antonio in 1772.

Y'Barbo emerged as the natural leader of these displaced persons. Soon after they arrived in San Antonio, Y'Barbo pestered authorities to be allowed to return to East Texas. In 1774, they consented, if he and those who accompanied him would go only as far as the Trinity River. There they founded a settlement named Bucareli and endured several years of floods and Indian difficulties. Then, in the spring of 1779, Y'Barbo and his followers packed up and moved farther east.

They traveled as far as the site of the abandoned mission in Nacogdoches. The move was unauthorized but approved after the fact. Y'Barbo was named lieutenant governor, captain of militia, and judge of contraband with jurisdiction over smuggling cases.
The Old Stone Fort, Nacogdoches, Texas
The Old Stone Fort

Postcard courtesy rootsweb.com/~txgenweb// postcards/Index.html
It is impossible to overstate the importance of Y'Barbo to the founding of Nacogdoches. He built a "casa piedras," or Stone House, on Plaza Principal, and a separate residence. The Stone House, though always private property, became the seat of government and town gathering. Y'Barbo "fathered" Nacogdoches. He parceled property and provided leadership in all areas of development.

Then the trouble came. Complaints from convicted smugglers led to Y'Barbo's resignation in 1790, and a year later, he, too, was accused of the same offence. He was banned from Nacogdoches, but permitted to live in Louisiana after several year's residence in San Antonio and eventually returned to Nacogdoches. He died at his Rancho La Lucana, located on the Attoyac River, in 1809.


All Things Historical
- April 14-20, 2002
A syndicated column in over 40 East Texas newspapers
(Archie P. McDonald is Director of the East Texas Historical Association and author or editor of over 20 books on Texas)
Subject: Dón Antonio Gil y' Barbo

Dear TE,

I am a direct descendant of Dón Antonio Gil y' Barbo. My maiden name is Ebarb.

The purpose of my letter is to point out misspellings in my ancestor's name:
Dón (a title of nobility that is passed down)
Antonio (given name)
Gil (a family name pronounced Hill)
y' (Spanish use y' to join both family names. See - http://wapedia.mobi/en/Spanish_naming_customs)
Barbo

- Denise Jones, May 31, 2010
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