I wanted to learn more about several artifacts currently on display in the “Voices from Aransas County” exhibit at the History Center for Aransas County (HCAC). These circular glass disks have raised letters on them – “St Estephe Medoc” and “Pauillac Medoc.” They are from the archeological site of Aransas City and identified as seals from wine bottles.

I began my online search at feedback@wine-searcher.com asking for information about St. Estephe Medoc. I explained the History Center has wine seals from a 1830s settlement established by the Irishman James Power. The responder replied, “Oh wow, how amazing. James Power was from Ballygarrett, about 20 miles up the road from the town I grew up in. I’ve often passed the memorial to him when I’ve been home on holiday. It’s a small world indeed.”

The rest of the story: James Power was born in Ballygarrett, County Wexford, Ireland in 1788 and immigrated first to Philadelphia then New Orleans by 1809. In New Orleans he worked as a merchant. Next, he pursued opportunities in Mexico. In 1828 the Mexican government gave an empresario grant to James Power and James Hewetson, who were to bring Irish and Mexicans to settle on the Texas coast. A few Irish arrived around 1830, among them O’Connor, St. John, McDonough, Teal, Fagan and Lambert families. Other newcomers were the Clark brothers from a family of wine merchants in Montgomery County, NY. Many of these immigrants fought in the Texas Revolution.

Power built a home on Copano Bay and laid out a town, “Aransas City” in the 1830s. He established wharves and a mercantile. This settlement was abandoned by 1855 after Power’s death and the site lay dormant. Around 2000 a new owner of the property where Aransas City was located, Harry Kreneck, noticed artifacts falling from his bluff onto the beach. He gathered the artifacts, recorded the site with the state archeology agency, and donated the artifacts to the HCAC. Among the artifacts were wine seals.

The wine seals are lovely to look at … St. Estephe Medoc and Pauillac Medoc … but what more can they tell us.

How did bottles of wine from France get to Aransas City in the 1830s?

In New Orleans James Power worked as a merchant. He established a mercantile on Copano Bay within his land grant. During the Texas Revolution (1836) he was sent to New Orleans to obtain supplies for the rebels. He had connections.

Who might have enjoyed the wine with James Power?

James Power married into the wealthy Mexican family of Don Felipe Roque de la Portilla. No doubt they enjoyed wine at family dinners in Aransas City. Sam Houston spent time with Power at his home in Refugio as the Texas Revolution was percolating. In his later years James and Tomasita entertained General Zachary Taylor who was bivouacked in Corpus Christi prior to the U.S. Mexican War in 1845-48.

What do you know about wines in early Texas that would enhance our story?

Let us hear from you at the HCAC www.hcfriends.net.

Two wine seals.

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