Moses Austin

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Moses Austin
Moses Austin-P83-012-0012 enhanced 1.jpg
Portrait of Moses Austin

October 4, 1761
DiedJune 10, 1821(1821-06-10) (aged 59)
Cause of death Pneumonia
Nationality American
OccupationBusinessman, empresario
Known forBeing awarded the first land grant to settle Anglo-Americans in Spanish Texas
Spouse(s) Mary Brown Austin
Children Stephen F. Austin, Emily Austin Perry, James Elijah Brown Austin
Parent(s)Elias Austin and Eunice Phelps Austin

Moses Austin (October 4, 1761 June 10, 1821) was an American businessman and pioneer who played a large part in the development of the lead industry in the early United States. He was the father of Stephen F. Austin, one of the earliest American settlers of Texas, which was at the time part of Mexico.

Lead Chemical element with atomic number 82

Lead is a chemical element with symbol Pb and atomic number 82. It is a heavy metal that is denser than most common materials. Lead is soft and malleable, and also has a relatively low melting point. When freshly cut, lead is silvery with a hint of blue; it tarnishes to a dull gray color when exposed to air. Lead has the highest atomic number of any stable element and three of its isotopes are endpoints of major nuclear decay chains of heavier elements.

History of the United States (1789–1849) aspect of history

George Washington, elected the first president in 1789, set up a cabinet form of government, with departments of State, Treasury, and War, along with an Attorney General. Based in New York, the new government acted quickly to rebuild the nation's financial structure. Enacting the program of Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, the government assumed the Revolutionary war debts of the states and the national government, and refinanced them with new federal bonds. It paid for the program through new tariffs and taxes; the tax on whiskey led to a revolt in the west; Washington raised an army and suppressed it. The nation adopted a Bill of Rights as 10 amendments to the new constitution. The Judiciary Act of 1789 established the entire federal judiciary, including the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court became important under the leadership of Chief Justice John Marshall (1801–1835), a federalist and nationalist who built a strong Supreme Court and strengthened the national government.

Stephen F. Austin American empresario, slaveholder, namesake of Austin, Texas

Stephen Fuller Austin was an American empresario. Known as the "Father of Texas", and the founder of Texas, he led the second, and ultimately, the successful colonization of the region by bringing 300 families from the United States to the region in 1825.


After receiving a land grant from the Spanish Crown in 1820, Moses Austin planned to be the first to establish an Anglo-American settlement in Spanish Texas, but he died before his dream was realized. [1] On his deathbed, he pleaded his son to fulfill his dream to colonize Texas. Stephen led the colony to a now-sovereign Mexico in 1825, and in time, the settlers demanded autonomy and later won independence from Mexico under President Antonio López de Santa Anna, thereby establishing the Republic of Texas.

Monarchy of Spain ruling monarchy in the Kingdom of Spain since the arrival of Felipe V

The monarchy of Spain, constitutionally referred to as The Crown, is a constitutional institution and historic office of Spain. The monarchy comprises the reigning monarch, his or her family, and the royal household organization which supports and facilitates the monarch in the exercise of his duties and prerogatives. The Spanish monarchy is currently represented by King Felipe VI, Queen Letizia, and their daughters Leonor, Princess of Asturias, and Infanta Sofía.

Spanish Texas

Spanish Texas was one of the interior provinces of the Spanish colonial Viceroyalty of New Spain from 1690 until 1821.

Mexico Country in the southern portion of North America

Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a country in the southern portion of North America. It is bordered to the north by the United States; to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; to the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and to the east by the Gulf of Mexico. Covering almost 2,000,000 square kilometres (770,000 sq mi), the nation is the fifth largest country in the Americas by total area and the 13th largest independent state in the world. With an estimated population of over 120 million people, the country is the eleventh most populous state and the most populous Spanish-speaking state in the world, while being the second most populous nation in Latin America after Brazil. Mexico is a federation comprising 31 states and Mexico City, a special federal entity that is also the capital city and its most populous city. Other metropolises in the state include Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puebla, Toluca, Tijuana and León.


Coat of Arms of Moses Austin Austin Family Arms.svg
Coat of Arms of Moses Austin

Moses Austin was born October 4, 1761 to Elias Austin and Eunice Phelps Austin in Durham, Connecticut. [2]

Durham, Connecticut Town in Connecticut, United States

Durham is a town in Middlesex County, Connecticut, United States. Durham is a former farming village on the Coginchaug River in central Connecticut. The population was 7,388 at the 2010 census. Every autumn, the town hosts the Durham Fair, the largest volunteer agricultural fair in New England.

In 1784, he moved to Philadelphia to enter the dry goods business with his brother, Stephen. He then moved to Richmond, Virginia to open a second dry goods store. In 1785, he married into the affluent iron mining family of Mary Brown, who then became known as Mary Brown Austin. [3] The Austins' second child was born in 1793 and named Stephen Fuller Austin in honor of his father's brother and his mother's great uncle. Their daughter Emily Austin followed in 1795. A second son, James Elijah Brown Austin, was born in 1803.

Dry goods term referring to supplies and manufactured goods

Dry goods is a historic term describing the type of product line a store carries, which differs by region. The term comes from the textile trade, and the shops appear to have spread with the mercantile trade across the British colonial territories as a means of bringing supplies and manufactured goods out to the far-flung settlements and homesteads that were spreading around the globe. Starting in the mid-1700s, these stores began by selling supplies and textiles goods to remote communities, and many customized the products they carried to the area's needs. This continued to be the trend well into the early 1900s, but with the rise of the department stores and catalog sales, the decline of dry goods stores began, and the term has since largely fallen out of use.

Richmond, Virginia Capital of Virginia

Richmond is the capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States. It is the center of the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) and the Greater Richmond Region. Richmond was incorporated in 1742 and has been an independent city since 1871.

Mary Brown Austin (1768–1824) had dramatic influence on early Texas history. Perhaps her most important contribution to history is writing a letter to her son, Stephen, two days before the death of her husband, Moses Austin, imploring Stephen F. Austin to carry out the dying wish of his father—that Stephen follow through with the empresario grants for land settlement in Texas. As such, Mary Brown Austin had a significant role in the shaping and development of Texas.

Austin sought to start his own mining business in southwestern Virginia, and in 1789 he traveled there to look at a lead mine. Moses saw potential in the site and by 1791 his family had joined him in what is now Wythe County. Moses and his brother Stephen and several other partners and individuals industrialized the area. Several smelters, furnaces, commissaries, the Jackson Ferry Shot Tower, blacksmith shops, liveries, and mills were established. The tiny village around the mines became known as "Austinville", and Moses came to be known as the "Lead King".

Virginia State of the United States of America

Virginia, officially the Commonwealth of Virginia, is a state in the Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States located between the Atlantic Coast and the Appalachian Mountains. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" due to its status as the first English colonial possession established in mainland North America and "Mother of Presidents" because eight U.S. presidents were born there, more than any other state. The geography and climate of the Commonwealth are shaped by the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Chesapeake Bay, which provide habitat for much of its flora and fauna. The capital of the Commonwealth is Richmond; Virginia Beach is the most populous city, and Fairfax County is the most populous political subdivision. The Commonwealth's estimated population as of 2018 is over 8.5 million.

Wythe County, Virginia County in the United States

Wythe County is a county located in the U.S. state of Virginia. As of the 2010 census, the population was 29,235. Its county seat is Wytheville.

Furnace device used for heating in industry

A furnace is a device used for high-temperature heating. The name derives from Latin word fornax, which means oven. The heat energy to fuel a furnace may be supplied directly by fuel combustion, by electricity such as the electric arc furnace, or through induction heating in induction furnaces.

Moses Austin house in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, April 2007 Vholifield-austinmoseshouse01.jpg
Moses Austin house in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, April 2007

The Austin brothers soon incurred debts, causing the collapse of the company. After the Virginia lead business failed, Moses skipped out to avoid imprisonment and the consequences of debt, which was then customary for debtors in the U.S. under traditional English law (now being developed for U.S. federal and state codes), and looked toward the rich lead deposits in Missouri, then a part of upper Spanish Louisiana. [4] In December 1797, Austin and a companion traveled to investigate the Spanish mines. In 1798, the Spanish colonial government granted to Moses one league (4,428 acres). In return he swore allegiance to the Spanish Crown and stated he would settle some families in Missouri. Stephen remained behind to salvage the Virginia business, creating a rift between the two brothers that would last for much of the rest of their lives. The state of Virginia seized much of the property Moses owned and broke up the various operations, which were later purchased from the state at great discounts by Thomas Jackson and his partners.

Missouri State of the United States of America

Missouri is a state in the Midwestern United States. With over six million residents, it is the 18th-most populous state of the Union. The largest urban areas are St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, and Columbia; the capital is Jefferson City. The state is the 21st-most extensive in area. In the South are the Ozarks, a forested highland, providing timber, minerals, and recreation. The Missouri River, after which the state is named, flows through the center of the state into the Mississippi River, which makes up Missouri's eastern border.

In 1803, Missouri came under the jurisdiction of the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase. Austin became founder and principal stockholder in the Bank of St. Louis, but the bank failed in the Panic of 1819, causing him to lose his entire fortune. He again sought help from Spain. In 1820, Austin traveled to the Presidio San Antonio de Béxar in Spanish Texas and presented a plan to colonize Texas with Anglo-Americans to Governor Antonio María Martínez. In 1821, the governor asked Austin's friend, Erasmo Seguín, to give him the news that he had been awarded a land grant and permission to settle three hundred families in Texas. On Austin's return trip, he became ill, and he died in June 1821, shortly after arriving back in Missouri. His son Stephen F. Austin carried out his colonization plan several years later, and led the three hundred families to what became the first Anglo-American settlement in Texas.

In 1885, the legality of Austin's Spanish property claims were settled posthumously by the U.S. Supreme Court in Bryan v. Kennett .


Moses Austin had many relatives who helped settle Texas, including Stephen F. Austin and Emily Austin Perry (daughter), Moses Austin Bryan (grandson), and others. Moses Austin should be distinguished from his grandson Moses Austin Bryan. James Bryan was his first son-in-law; James F. Perry was his second son-in-law. The Missouri State Archives reflect that Moses Austin lived in a mansion called Durham Hall, named for his birth town of Durham, Connecticut. [5]

Settlement in Texas

Motivation To Settle

Displays the new border established by the Adams-Onis Treaty, making Texas part of Spain. Adams onis map.png
Displays the new border established by the Adams-Onís Treaty, making Texas part of Spain.

Moses Austin attempted various economic ventures before his plans to settle in Texas came to fruition. Austin failed to successfully maintain the St. Louis Bank and his financial situation suffered from unfavorable shipment deals. Austin's desperation reached a climax in 1820 when a Missouri sheriff threatened to break down his door to collect past debts. Austin's son, Stephen F. Austin, also continued to seek employment in Mississippi and Arkansas to help his poor financial situation. In November 1820, Austin learned that the United States passed the Adams–Onís Treaty with Spain, which situated present-day Texas in New Spain's territory. Moses Austin hoped the Spanish government would permit free trade with the United States so he left for Texas to try and begin a new economic venture. [6] Mary Brown Austin, Moses Austin's wife, wrote to her cousin explaining Moses's plans to colonize Texas in order to provide for their family. [7]

Negotiations With Spain

Monument of Baron de Bastrop, Austin's business partner in Texas. Baron de Bastrop.png
Monument of Baron de Bastrop, Austin's business partner in Texas.

Austin's primary intention was to create a trading venture on the coast of Texas to allow the United States to trade with New Spain. On December 23, 1820, Austin arrived in San Antonio to begin negotiations with the Spanish government to establish a trading post. After some difficulty on his own, Austin paired with a Spanish interpreter, Felipe Enrique Neri, Baron de Bastrop, who agreed to join Austin and plan a settlement called "Austina" which would be located somewhere on the coast of Texas. On December 26, 1820, Austin and Felipe Enrique Neri, Baron de Bastrop presented a formal petition to Governor Antonio María Martínez. They requested permission to bring three hundred families to a port in Texas. Most importantly, Austin insisted that the settlers were former subjects of Spain and would be willing to defend the land against foreign enemies. [8] Austin convinced Spain to reinstate the empresario system in Texas, which resulted in permission to begin a new settlement in Texas. This outdated reward system granted tracts of land to immigrants who pledged their allegiance to the Spanish crown. Therefore, Austin's settlement was contingent upon its allegiance to the Spanish Crown. [9]

Plan For Settlement

After returning from successful negotiations in San Antonio, Austin returned to Missouri to recruit settlers for his new settlement. In April, he created a “Form of Contract for Emigration to Texas” which detailed the obligations of each member joining the settlement in Texas. Austin required emigrants to help build community structures. He also ordered the settlers to own a “Spanish carbine”, a type of gun, to protect the settlement. Austin's relationship with the settlers he recruited was not one of mutual respect, but rather he employed the settlers. Austin contracted his settlers to work from their departure in May, until the following January. In return, Austin guaranteed transportation along with the necessary tools and provisions to begin the settlement. [10] Although Moses Austin died prior to his planned departure, his son, Stephen F. Austin, continued his efforts to colonize Texas. Austin triggered such a substantial movement of people into Texas, the land became inundated with Americans. Austin's push to settle Texas contributed to the Texas Revolution in 1836 which foreshadowed Texas's integration into the United States in 1845. [11]


The tomb of Moses and Maria Brown Austin Tomb of Moses Austin p2.jpg
The tomb of Moses and Maria Brown Austin

Moses Austin died of pneumonia. His tomb is located in Potosi, Missouri. [12]

A statue of Moses Austin located in San Antonio, Texas Moses Austin Statue.jpg
A statue of Moses Austin located in San Antonio, Texas

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  1. Fossey, W. R. (1978). "Toward the Vision of Austina: the Life of Moses Austin". East Texas Historical Journal. 16 (2): 3. Retrieved 6 October 2016.
  2. Gracy II, David B. "Moses Austin". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved November 13, 2013.
  3. The Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association. Texas State Historical Association. 1907. pp. 343–.
  4. Edmondson (2000), p. 56.
  5. "Durham Hall". Missouri State Archives - Photo Collections. Retrieved 6 October 2016.
  6. Bacarisse, Charles A. 1959. "Why Moses Austin Came to Texas." Southwestern Social Science Quarterly 40: 16.
  7. Austin, Mary. "A Letter from Mary [Mrs. Moses] Austin." The Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 10, no. 4 (1907): 343-46.
  8. Bacarisse, Charles A. 1959. "Why Moses Austin Came to Texas." Southwestern Social Science Quarterly 40: 16.
  9. Lamar, Howard R. "Land Policy in the Spanish Southwest, 1846-1891: A Study in Contrasts." The Journal of Economic History 22, no. 4 (1962): 498-515.
  10. Austin, M., Barker, Eugene C, & Austin, Stephen F. (1924). The Austin papers. Govt. print. off.
  11. Gordon, L. “The American Pageant - A History of the Republic” Journal Of American History 80, no. 4 (1994): 1397-407.
  12. "Moses Austin Tombstone". Missouri State Archives - Photo Collections. Retrieved 6 October 2016.

Further reading

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