The history of settlement in Refugio is closely associated with Ballygarrett, County Wexford, Ireland. Irish natives James Power (c. 1788-1852) and James Hewetson (1796-1870), both of whom immigrated to the United States in the early 19th Century and later became citizens of Mexico, obtained permission from the Mexican government to oversee the immigration of more than 200 Irish families to Texas in the 1830s. The first group of Irish settlers arrived on the Texas Gulf Coast in 1834. A cholera epidemic and the loss of provisions and equipment in rough waters as the immigrants reached the shore delayed their arrival in Refugio, where they were to settle near the former Spanish mission of Nuestra Senora del Refugio. The colony soon was established, however, and almost immediately the new settlers were embroiled in the cause of Texas independence from Mexico.
Many Irishmen fought in the Texas Army and later served in the Republic of Texas Congress. The Irish people established a lasting presence in the Refugio area. Many descendants of the early immigrants still reside in the area, some on land granted to their ancestors in the 1830s.