Peters Colony was the common name of the first and most successful empresario contract authorized by the legislature of the Republic of Texas to promote settlement. The legislation authorized the Republic to enter into a contract with William S. Peters and nineteen associates to promote settlement in North Texas and paid the company with free land in exchange for recruiting new settlers. The contract, which was in effect from 1841 until June 30, 1848, obligated the company to recruit new settlers, survey over 16,000 square miles of land, and issue land titles to the settlers. The boundaries of the contract included all or parts of twenty-six North Texas counties from McKinney to Throckmorton and from the Red River to Granbury. This included The Colony and most of the DFW metroplex. The land within the contract boundaries was referred to as “The Colony.”
The contract authorized The Texas Emigration and Land Company of Louisville, Kentucky (the legal name of Peters Colony), to give up to 640 acres of free land to new immigrants in exchange for building a cabin, cultivating 15 acres of the land, and pledging allegiance to the Republic of Texas. In payment for its services, Peters Colony received over one million acres of what were called “premium lands” located in the western portion of “The Colony.”
In 1844, Willis Stewart, who had become the principal investor in Peters Colony, moved the company’s headquarters to Bridges Settlement. Bridges Settlement, settled in 1843, was the first settlement in Denton County and was named after the family of John and Mildred Bridges and their children: William, David, and Elizabeth. Some of the original colonists, including members of the Bridges family, are buried in Bridges Cemetery located on the family’s land grant in the eastern part of today's City of The Colony.
The land around the Peters Colony headquarters was named Stewartsville and also became the location of the area’s first general store and post office. The headquarters remained open until it was destroyed by fire in what is known in Texas history as the Hedgecoxe War of 1852. The headquarters building was located on land that is now close to the western edge of The Colony.
The headquarters was burned during a raid by land speculators, led by John J. Good, who later became mayor of Dallas. Good and other land speculators attempted to seize company land records and depose the company’s unpopular agent and chief surveyor, Henry O. Hedgecoxe. Hedgecoxe and his clerk Steven Venters were warned about the raid and escaped with many of the company’s records.
The underlying reason for the Hedgecoxe War was vocal land speculators, mostly from the Dallas area, who opposed legislation passed by the Texas legislature that allowed Peters Colony additional time to survey “the colony” lands. The legislation prohibited opening up vacant Peters Colony lands for purchase after the contract had expired until the land had been surveyed. Peters Colony had been unable to complete the survey work before the contract ended due to the large amount of land involved and the number of settlers requesting free land. Revised legislation was later passed that gave the company additional time to complete their surveys and select the “premium lands” they would receive in payment for their services.
Peters Colony is credited with recruiting approximately 1,800 families and single men who received land grants and are referred to as Peters Colonists. Within the city limits of The Colony, eight Peters Colonists received Peters Colony land grants.
In addition to Bridges Settlement and Stewartsville, The Colony is also the site of the following historic communities: Stewarts Creek, Rector, and Camey, also known as Camey Spur. Records indicate that Camey was the most successful community, as it was founded around the time the St. Louis-San Francisco railroad line began operations in 1902. In the 1920s, Camey had a reported population of 50 and businesses included a school, grocery store, blacksmith shop, restaurant, and a cotton gin. The opening of a railroad line in 1902 shifted the local economy in the area from cattle-raising to cotton farming. Camey faded away in the early 1940s and the area returned to its agricultural roots.
During the following years, the future City of The Colony would be positively impacted by two events: the construction of the Lake Lewisville dam and the founding of the community of Eastvale. The Lake Lewisville dam was constructed by the US Army Corp of Engineers and began collecting water in 1954. Then, in the early 1960s, Eastvale, a small lakeside living community, began on the eastern shore of Lake Lewisville. Eastvale grew to a population of 600 and would later consolidate with the City of The Colony in 1987.
In 1973, Fox and Jacobs (F&J), a Dallas-based residential land developer, purchased approximately 2,500 acres of land on the eastern shore of Lake Lewisville and south of Eastvale for a housing development. The name The Colony was chosen because F&J felt a strong sense of kinship with Texas’ early developers and also to memorialize the spirit of Peters Colony providing a new way of life – a goal Fox and Jacobs wanted their new development to share, as well.
A Municipal Utility District was then formed to provide public water services to the development. In 1974, streets were poured and many were named after early settlers and members of the crew working on the project. The first families moved into their homes in October 1974. By January 1977, The Colony had over 3,500 residents and voted to incorporate as a city. The Colony became a Home Rule city in 1979.
Fox and Jacobs built and donated a fire station in 1975; the first business was a Stop ‘n Go convenience store, opened in 1976; the first churches to open were the Methodist and Baptist churches; the first public school, Camey Elementary, opened in 1977; and The Colony Public Library opened in 1982.