Indigenous groups Spanish and
Mexican Americans
Anglo Americans African Americans Germans and
Germans and Czechs

Two national groups that were particularly prominent in the early settlement of Texas were the Germans and the Czechs, with the former comprising a very large part of the population since Texas gained its independence from Mexico. Both the arrival and growth of both cultures in Texas were influenced by key strong personalities, the German Johann Friedrich Ernst, who won a 4,000 acre land grant in the Austin colony in 1831 and the Czechs Josef Arnošt Bergmann (a protestant minister who arrived with his wife and six children in 1850) and Josef Šilar (who led a immigrant party to Texas in 1851). Subsequent letters to family and friends back home (referred to as "America letters" by sociologists) led to "chain migration" of additional immigrant parties.

From 1850 through the rest of the century, Germans comprised more than five percent of the Texas population, or about 150,000 of the three million people living in Texas by 1900. The United States census in 1990 identified 1,175,888 Texans who claimed pure German ancestry and another 1,775,838 claiming partial German ancestry, totaling almost three million people or over 17 percent of the total population at the time. [7] The number of foreign-born Czechs in Texas by 1900 was about 9,200, and reached a peak of about 15,000 a decade later, but these figures do not count children of Czech descent born in the state. By 1940, the number of Czech "foreign white stock" (defined by the United States Bureau of the Census as those who spoke Czech at home during childhood) had reached 62,680. [8]

Both ethnic communities tended to settle in ethnically homogenous enclaves, primarily in central Texas, stretching primarily from Lavaca and Fayette Counties (especially for the Czechs) westward and northward. The so-called "German Belt" stretches further in both easterly and westerly directions, from Houston westward into the Texas Hill Country, but smaller German islands of settlement were scattered even more widely across the height and breadth of the state. Most Germans came to Texas in search of economic opportunity, and were on the whole industrious, with a broad range of artisan skills and professions. Nevertheless they were a diverse lot in most other social and cultural orientations. The Handbook of Texas Online notes that the diversity of German cultures in the state was striking:

"Even in the confined area of the Hill Country, each valley offered a different kind of German. The Llano valley had stern, teetotaling German Methodists, who renounced dancing and fraternal organizations; the Pedernales valley had fun-loving, hardworking Lutherans and Catholics who enjoyed drinking and dancing; and the Guadalupe valley had atheist Germans descended from intellectual political refugees. The scattered German ethnic islands were also diverse." [9]

The Czechs were a much more homogeneous group. Most immigrants had been small landowners who saw little new economic opportunity back home. Their attitude toward the land and their family structure were distinctive. Farming was considered a way of life, not just a way to accumulate wealth, and Czech farm families functioned as self-contained economic and social units. This culture extended to the general organization of Czech communities which had egalitarian social structures and which often formed cooperative institutions for sharing their agricultural products. [10] Such cooperative institutions and egalitarian attitudes, and the general Czech embrace of democratic ideals, may have contributed to the rise of the populist movement in Texas in the last decades of the nineteenth century.

7 Handbook of Texas Online, link: "GERMANS," (accessed Feb 10, 2006).

8 Handbook of Texas Online, link: "CZECHS," (accessed Feb 10, 2006).

9 Op. cit., Handbook of Texas Online, s.v. "GERMANS".

10 Op. cit., Handbook of Texas Online, s.v. "CZECHS".