Announcement of Stephen F. Austin’s death
The Patriarch Has Left Us
Often called "The Father of Texas," Stephen F. Austin carved out his place in history by bringing thousands of settlers to Mexican Texas from the United States. By the time he died in December 1836, Austin had settled over 1,500 families and built the foundation of what had just become the Republic of Texas.
His friends and relations have sustained an irreparable loss; his country, just merging into existence, the best and tenderest of fathers.
Stephen Fuller Austin (1793–1836) arrived in San Antonio from St. Louis in August 1821. His goal was to fulfill the wish of his father, Moses Austin, who had requested permission from the Spanish government in 1819 to form an Anglo community in New Spain. Shortly after Austin’s arrival, however, Mexico gained independence from Spain, placing the colony in jeopardy.
A diplomatic negotiator, Austin traveled nearly 1,000 miles on horseback to Mexico City to convince officials to pass laws favoring immigration. He was given official status as an empresario in 1823 and he began in earnest to recruit settlers from the United States. He surveyed and mapped thousands of acres of the best farm lands in Texas in hopes of building a cotton empire to rival that of the American South.
The success of his plan was dependent on attracting Southern farmers to Texas. With cotton production soaring in the United States, and land prices rising too, many farmers were eager to follow Austin to Texas where land was plentiful and comparatively cheap. A farmer willing to take the gamble could build a prosperous future in Austin’s Colony.
Austin lobbied heavily and cannily for laws that would allow his settlers to bring their enslaved workers to Mexico. Newly independent Mexico preferred to outlaw slavery entirely, but Austin and Tejano leaders in San Antonio convinced the Mexican Congress that the success of the Texas economy depended on enslaved labor.
In the years that followed, Austin worked tirelessly on behalf of Anglo settlers to protect their interests and preserve their rights. He hoped to do so within the framework of the Mexican government, ideally as a separate state of Mexico. He even spent a year in prison in Mexico City after encouraging Texans to form an independent state government, a move the central government deemed treason. Allowed to return to Texas in 1835, he came home to a colony on the brink of outright rebellion.
Always loyal to his colonists, he joined in the revolution, acting first as commander of the Texas Volunteer Army and then as a commissioner to the United States to garner support for the revolution. Following the Texan victory at San Jacinto in April 1836, he accepted the office of Secretary of State for the new republic.
He did not live to see how the Republic of Texas fared. Austin caught a severe cold that quickly turned into pneumonia in December 1836. He died at the age of 43 in Columbia on December 27, 1836.
Courtesy University of Houston Libraries
Time Period: 1835 - 1844
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