Stephen F. Austin and Anglo-American Texas
In 1820, Moses Austin (1761-1821), an innovator of the American lead industry, traveled to San Antonio from his home in Missouri hoping to gain permission to establish a colony in what was then Spanish Texas. Austin visited the governor of the province in Bexar and sat for an “examination” or interview where he explained his intentions and provided answers to the governor’s questions. Eventually successful in his request, the elder Austin was not able to proceed with his plan due to illness and, according to his wife Mary, on his deathbed he asked that his son, Stephen, carry on with the “Texas Venture.”
Stephen Fuller Austin (1793-1836) honored his father’s wishes, selecting a site between the Brazos and Colorado Rivers for his colony. Beginning in December of 1821, he eventually brought in almost 300 households from the United States to settle the region. San Felipe de Austin was the hub of government for the colony and a focus of Anglo-American activity in the growing outpost, attracting immigrants from the United States. Newspapers, broadsides, circulars, and other printings from San Felipe document the activities that led to revolution and, eventually, independence in the form of the Republic of Texas. Documents in the State Archives detail Austin’s time as an empresario, leader of the revolution, and statesman of the burgeoning republic.
Portrait, Stephen F. Austin, oil painting, about 1836. Artist unknown. Texas State Archives Artwork Collection, 906-7031.TSLAC. Portrait of Stephen F. Austin painted near the end of his life at 43 years old. This is one of the only portraits painted of Austin while he was still alive.
Mapa de Original de Texas (Original Map of Texas) by Stephen F. Austin, 1829. Texas State Archives Map #917. TSLAC. Manuscript map covering parts of Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, and Tamaulipas in addition to Texas. Shown are rivers, lakes, mountainous and forested areas, towns, missions, presidios, roads, iron mines, and Indian tribes and villages. The text is in Spanish and notes that it was presented to the president (of Mexico) by the author in 1829.” View map online in Map Collection.
Texas “redback” currency, 1839. Texas State Archives Broadsides and Printed Ephemera Collection, 1993/194-6. TSLAC. The $50 note featured an image of Stephen F. Austin taken from the above portrait, painted near the end of his life. The name “redback” was derived from the color of the ink in the design on the back of the note. Click or tap thumbnail images to view larger versions.
Hatchet, 1820-1830. Artifacts Collection, ATF0149. TSLAC. A hatchet Stephen F. Austin used for chipping trees in surveying land in the colonial times of Texas. It was in the custody of Col. Guy M. Bryan until his death in 1901. His children Guy M. Bryan Jr. and Miss Holly Bryan then consigned it to the care of the State Library.
Texas. Holley, Mary Austin, 1784-1846. Lexington, KY: J. Clarke, 1836. Main Collection, 917.64 H724T 1836. TSLAC. Mary Austin Holley was a cousin of Stephen F. Austin and visited Texas in 1831 with the intent to relocate from New England. Holley described the area in detailed letters she went on to publish in an 1833 volume called Texas: Observations, Historical, Geographical, and Descriptive in a Series of Letters that was the first book written in English about Texas. The 1836 version of Texas expanded on this earlier work. Though she was never able to move to Texas, her publications persuaded others to settle there. She died of Yellow Fever in 1846. Click or tap thumbnail images to view larger versions.
Examination of Moses Austin, December 23, 1820. Nacogdoches Archives, 4-45/4-32. TSLAC.
Moses Austin (1761-1821) was born in Connecticut and found success in Virginia in the lead mining industry. He eventually moved to what was at the time Louisiana Territory under Spanish rule, settling in Missouri. After a bank he started failed, he sought a new venture in Texas. Austin visited San Antonio in December of 1820 and was interviewed about his intentions with the help of an old acquaintance, Baron de Bastrop, serving as interpreter. The “examination” contains the questions posed to Austin when he visited the office of the Governor of the Province of Texas, Colonel Don Antonio Martinez, and his replies. Austin’s plan to establish a colony in Spanish Texas was approved and the written record of his “examination” became an official document of the government. View summary translation in English (PDF).
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In This Exhibit: Document Spotlight: The Nacogdoches Archives / Treaties of the Republic
Stephen F. Austin and Anglo-American Texas | Art of the Revolution | An Independent Republic
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