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co-founder of Corpus Christi, Texas; Texas Senator
Henry Lawrence Kinney was born near Shesequin, Pennsylvania, on June 3, 1814. After his mother's death in 1835 he moved with his father to Indiantown, Illinois, where he and his brother engaged in land speculation. Both brothers were forced to leave Illinois after the financial panic of 1837-1838 ruined their land venture.
In 1838, Kinney settled in the area around present-day Brownsville, Texas. By 1841 he was engaged in ranching and trading near Corpus Christi, a city that he had helped found.
Kinney served as a delegate to the Texas Constitutional Convention of 1845, and was then selected to serve in the Senate for the First Texas State Legislature; he was subsequently elected to the Second, Third and Fourth Legislatures. During the Mexican War he served on the staff of James Pinckney Henderson in his northern Mexico campaign.
After the war Kinney began trading with a number of Central and South American countries. He also operated a fleet of prairie schooners that transported freight from Corpus Christi into the interior of Texas. Ever the land speculator, he became increasingly involved in buying large tracts of land and selling them to new immigrants.
Kinney was never successful in luring settlers to Texas, and as a result lost great sums of money. Hoping to recover some of his losses, he went to Washington in an attempt to persuade the federal government to invest in several schemes, including a camel corps to transport freight from Corpus Christi to San Francisco and an army hospital in Corpus Christi. Neither of these schemes ever materialized, so Kinney turned his attentions to establishing a colony in Nicaragua. Financed by New York speculators, he contracted for thirty million acres of land along the Mosquito Coast. But, when his largest financial backer died, Kinney was forced to abadon his plans.
Financially ruined by his Nicaraguan venture, Kinney returned to Texas and was elected to the Eighth Legislature. Opposed to the secession movement, he resigned his seat in March 1861 and moved to Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico. He was apparently killed there in a gunfight between two local factions on March 3, 1862.
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This page was last updated on April 30, 2017.