In most of the early states of the United States, a prospective groom took out a bond with the clerk of the county court in the county in which the prospective bride lived. This was done as surety that there was no legal obstacle to the marriage. Either a marriage bond or the thrice publication of the banns of matrimony (as prescribed by The Book of Common Prayer) were required in order for a minister or justice of the peace to perform the marriage. The bond was required for a license to be issued. (If banns, the public announcement in a Christian parish church of an impending marriage, had been thrice published, there was no need for a license.) The bond required an amount of security to be set to be paid if some obstruction to the marriage should be discovered, and often required a bondsman (usually a relative) to vouch that the money would be paid.
The idea of a bond relating to marriage in colonial Texas, however, was a bit different. Mexico required that all colonists be Catholic. Thus, marriages had to be by a priest. Often a priest was not available. As a work-around, colonists would "marry" by bond, that is, they would file with the local authorities a document which basically spelled out their vows, their agreement, and the amount of money they would mutually bind themselves to pay should they not have the marriage "consumated [sic] by competent authority so soon as an opportunity offers" (Brazoria County, Texas, marriage bond of Elisha Maxey and Sally M. Bowls, May 3, 1833).
Here is an example of a marriage bond from the marriage records of Brazoria County:
Be it known that we, Andrew Robinson and Mary G. Allen, of lawful age of Austin Colony, wishing to unite ourselves in the bonds of matrimony and there being no Priest in the Colony to celebrate the same. Therefore, I, Andrew Robinson, do agree to take and hereby take Mary G. Allen to be my legal and lawful wife and as such to cherish, support and protect her, forsaking all others and keeping myself true and faithful unto her alone. And, I, Mary G. Allen, do agree and do hereby take Andrew Robinson to be my legal and lawful husband and as such to love, honor and obey him, forsaking all others and keeping myself true and faithful to him alone. We mutually bind ourselves to each other in the sum of five thousand dollars to have our marriage celebrated by the Priest of this Colony or some other priest authorized to do the same whenever an opportunity offers, all of which we promise in the name of God and in the presence Alexander Hodge, Commissioner for the precinct of Victoria in said Colony and other witnesses present whereof we have hereunto set our hands this 17th day of March, 1829.
Witnesses Andrew Robinson
W. M. Ross Mary X G. Allen
James Lynch mark
Throughout most of the Mexican period, marriages that were performed to fulfill the requirements of the bond were performed by a priest and then recorded in the local civil archive. After independence, many bond-marriages were fulfilled by the officiation of Protestant ministers or by local civil authorities. Thus, in doing research on Texas marriages, one encounters marriage records that note that the couple was married "by bond" on a particular earlier date. Thus, in early Texas counties one often finds ancestors (or other couples) who were "married twice" to the same spouse. As an example, there is the Brazoria County marriage record of my ancestor John Woodruff's daughter Martha J. Woodruff to John David Moore. Page 169 of Volume A (1829 - 1852) carries the following notation:
"Republic of Texas, County of Brazoria. John D. Moore -Martha J. Woodruff. (Married by bond _ May 1834.)
_ November 1837. Edwin Waller, J[ustice of the] P[eace], 4th D[istrict] C[ounty of] B[razoria]."