Groce’s Retreat

A major player in the early history of Texas was Jared Groce. Groce utilized his properties and position to help fashion the framework for the founding of the Republic of Texas. One of his properties, highly significant to our state’s history, was named Groce’s Retreat. That property lay in territory within the boundaries of original Montgomery County, of which county Groce was a citizen at his death.

It was in 1833 that Jared Groce established his retreat, just east of the Brazos River along the southwest corridor of what was at the time called Wallace Prairie.

In 1822, Jared Groce, with 50 wagons filled with family and servants, settled about four miles south of present Hempstead, establishing a plantation which he named Bernado. An industrious gentleman, Jared planted and harvested in the same year he arrived probably the first cotton crop in Stephen F. Austin’s colony. A few years later, in 1825, he was one of the first to erect a cotton gin.

Near Bernardo, Sam Houston’s army spent quality time in April 1836 preparing for the impending Battle of San Jacinto. Groce and his family provided food, shelter and medical facilities to the army. Although Jared Groce was present at Bernardo during this time, he had by then ceded the plantation to his son, Leonard Groce. It was to escape the malaria-prone area of Bernardo that three years earlier Jared had moved north to establish his retreat.

While Bernardo Plantation was instrumental in a strategic sense for Texas in April 1836, it was during the preceding month of March that Groce’s Retreat played its first pivotal role in the civic affairs surrounding Texas’ birth. In March, Texans gathered at Washington-on-the-Brazos bent on declaring themselves free from the rule of Mexican dictator Santa Anna. On the night of March 1, a committee led by George Childress crossed the Brazos to Groce’s Retreat. Their purpose: to draft a declaration of independence. The next day, back in Washington, the document was formally accepted and signed by the assemblage gathered there.

Not only is Groce’s Retreat part of the Cradle of Texas per its role in the crafting of the Texas Declaration of Independence, Groce’s Retreat was also, during March 18-21, the site of the capital of Texas. The interim government camped there during that time, en route to Harrisburg. Furthermore, Sam Houston, among others, later argued, in vain, for Groce’s Retreat to be the site of the capital of the Republic of Texas.

Site of “Groce’s Retreat” Texas Historical Marker 366-370 is located at County Rd 323, Navasota, TX 77868.