Texas Originals, a co-production with Humanities Texas

Texas Originals: Moses Austin

Portrait of Moses Austin made before his death in 1821. Image courtesy the Brazoria County Historical Museum.
He is the patriarch of Anglo settlement in Texas and father of Stephen F. Austin.

MOSES AUSTIN
October 4, 1761–June 10, 1821

 

Moses Austin, the patriarch of Anglo settlement in Texas, died before his colonial dream became a reality.

Austin was born in Connecticut in 1761. As a young man, he opened dry goods stores in Philadelphia and Richmond. After winning the contract to roof the new Virginia capitol, Austin acquired the state’s richest lead deposit and brought miners from England. In establishing the American lead industry, he became a wealthy man.

In 1798, Austin moved into the Spanish territory of Louisiana and founded the first Anglo settlement west of the Mississippi River at what is now Potosi, Missouri.  

However, the economy of the early American republic was highly unstable, and by 1819, Austin found himself deeply in debt. Ever the schemer, he developed a plan to establish an American colony in Spanish Texas. In 1820, he traveled to San Antonio, where the Baron de Bastrop convinced the Spanish governor to approve Austin’s plan. Austin soon received a land grant in what is now the state of Texas.

Austin contracted pneumonia on his return to Missouri and died two months later. Two days before his death, he called his wife to his sickbed and begged her to tell his son Stephen to take his place as leader of the Texas colony. It was left to Stephen F. Austin to fulfill his father’s dream.

 

For More about Moses Austin

The Moses and Stephen F. Austin Papers (1676, 1765–1889) are at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at The University of Texas at Austin. They consist primarily of both men’s personal and official records, documenting their colonization efforts, relations with the Mexican government, and eventual founding of the Republic of Texas. They also include correspondence, notes and lists, diaries, petitions, certificates, maps, field notes and surveys, broadsides, proclamations, inventories, financial and legal papers, land grants and deeds, reports, and newspaper clippings.

Moses Austin House
Moses Austin House, Potosi, Washington County, Missouri, ca. 1870. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

 

Selected Bibliography

Barker, Eugene C. (ed.). The Austin Papers. 3 vols.; Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1924–28.

Barker, Eugene C. “Austin, Stephen Fuller.” Handbook of Texas Online. Accessed October 20, 2013. http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fau14

Cummins, Light. Emily Austin of Texas, 1795–1851. Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 2009.

Gracy, David B. II. “Austin, Mary Brown.” Handbook of Texas Online. Accessed October 20, 2013. http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fau11

Gracy, David B. II. “Austin, Moses.” Handbook of Texas Online. Accessed October 20, 2013. http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fau12

Gracy, David B. II. Moses Austin: His Life. San Antonio: Trinity University Press, 1987.