Biography is not given its rightful place in literature. It has a more intimate relation to History than is assigned by common judgment; for, after all, the life of any nation is written in the lives of those who have shown themselves in some respects superior to their fellows. History is to a great degree but the sum of individual action, and the work of the historian consists in connecting many fragments of personal experience and effort, in such a way as to form a narrative harmonious and instructive. Of no Commonwealth, in ancient or modern times, is it so true as of Texas, that its history can only be thoroughly understood through intimate acquaintance with the lives of those who made the State. A romantic interest clothes the entire theme. In the pioneer days its men were brave, and its daughters were their fit companions and helpmeets. Through all the struggle incident to its progress from a Mexican State to its position in the Federal Union, its sons exhibited many of the noblest traits of character. In the late war, its soldiers won the love of their brethren, while their valor compelled the respect of their foes. In this latter regard the work is of interest, for the reader will remark that space has been allotted to many whose names do not appear in the official reports of either the Confederate or Federal departments. This has been done as simple justice to both the dead and the living.
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Biographical Encyclopedia of Texas
SOUTHERN PUBLISHING COMPANY
Biographical Encyclopedia of Texas
Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck
86450 Altenmünster, Loschberg 9
To The Reader. 1
The Biographical Encyclopedia Of Texas. 2
BIOGRAPHY is not given its rightful place in literature. It has a more intimate relation to History than is assigned by common judgment; for, after all, the life of any nation is written in the lives of those who have shown themselves in some respects superior to their fellows. History is to a great degree but the sum of individual action, and the work of the historian consists in connecting many fragments of personal experience and effort, in such a way as to form a narrative harmonious and instructive.
It is in this view that the following biographies of those who have taken prominent parts in the progress of Texas are compiled. The aim has been to preserve in convenient shape that which might otherwise be lost. The historian, in the magnitude of his task, is in danger of overlooking many things in individual lives and actions which, in their aggregate, go to make up the true chronicle. In these narratives are recorded events whose remembrance could have been in no other way preserved. This work may therefore be of value to him who shall hereafter assume the more pretentious labors of sober History.
Of no Commonwealth, in ancient or modern times, is it so true as of Texas, that its history can only be thoroughly understood through intimate acquaintance with the lives of those who made the State. A romantic interest clothes the entire theme. In the pioneer days its men were brave, and its daughters were their fit companions and helpmeets. Through all the struggle incident to its progress from a Mexican State to its position in the Federal Union, its sons exhibited many of the noblest traits of character. In the late war, its soldiers won the love of their brethren, while their valor compelled the respect of their foes. In this latter regard the work is of interest, for the reader will remark that space has been allotted to many whose names do not appear in the official reports of either the Confederate or Federal departments. This has been done as simple justice to both the dead and the living. Here we have sought to embalm the memories of the dead, and to give the living their just meed of praise.
AUSTIN, STEPHEN F. “In the eye of reason and of truth,” says Bancroft, “a colony is a better offering than a victory.” If this be true—if it be true that the man who lays in the wilderness the foundation of a State, is more entitled to the gratitude and respect of mankind than he who defends or destroys institutions once established, then the name of Stephen F. Austin is one which ought to occupy a high place in the estimation of the present age and of posterity. Whenever the story of his life shall be truly written, if indeed it ever shall be, it will be seen, and admitted by all, that he was in truth the man who first ed American enterprise into what was then a vast wilderness; that he was the man who first planted a colony in Texas, and who nursed it through a feeble infancy; who toiled for it and suffered for it, and who stood by it under all manner of discouragements until it grew to strength and vigor. It will be then seen how completely he sacrificed all considerations of personal case and of personal aggrandizement to the accomplishment of the great object of his ambition. It will then be seen that he knew no day of rest from the moment, when in early manhood he entered the wilderness with a dozen followers, to the close of the eventful year 1836, when, in the midst of unremitting toil, he bowed his head and died. It will then be seen that he was a man of eminent talents, of rare virtues, and of gentlemanly accomplishments; that he was forbearing, patient, and constant; that he was prudent in counsel, courageous in action, and amiable in private life; and, to crown all, that he was, in every sense of the word, an honest man, whose word was always as good as his bond. It is well known that the idea of planting a colony of North Americans in the Territory of Texas, originated with Moses Austin, the father of the subject of this sketch. Moses Austin was a native of Durham, in the State of Connecticut. He came of a highly respectable family, received a liberal education, and was regularly bred to the business of merchandise. He was a man of uncommon sagacity, and of an enterprising character. He began life as a merchant, in the city of Philadelphia. He afterwards removed to the city of Richmond, in Virginia, and subsequently purchased the lead mines known as Chissel's mines, on New river, in Wythe county, in that State. Here he engaged extensively in mining, and in the manufacture of lead. He introduced artisans from England, and established the first manufactory of shot and sheet lead that was established in the United States. A little village grew up around him at New river, which was called Austinville, at which place Stephen F. Austin was born, on the 3d day of November, 1793.
In the year 1797, the enterprising disposition of Moses Austin led him to explore that portion of Upper Louisiana, now embraced within the limits of the State of Missouri, which has since become so celebrated for its mines of lead. He had been informed by some adventurous travelers, of the richness of these mines, and having succeeded in procuring the necessary passports from the Spanish Minister at Washington, he resolved to visit that section and see for himself. The result was that he determined to remove his family to Upper Louisiana and to engage in working the richer mines of that country. He procured a concession from the Spanish Government of a league of land, including what was called the Mine-a-Burton. In pursuance of his determination, he removed his family and a number of laborers to the Mine-a-Burton in the year 1799. This was at that time a perilous adventure. Parties of miners had been in the habit of going there in the summer to dig ore, which they transported on horseback to St. Genevieve, which was forty miles distant. There were no families residing near the mines. In fact there were no families nearer than St. Genevieve. The Osage Indians were hostile, and Austin experienced in his new home all the vicissitudes of a frontier life. It was amid such scenes as are always presented by a new settlement in the wilderness, surrounded by savage enemies, that the mind of Stephen F. Austin received its earliest permanent impressions. It was in the midst of a thriving community of hardy and enterprising men, where industry was subduing the wilderness, and where civilization was beginning to diffuse its refinements, that his character was formed. It will be seen that he was trained in a school admirably fitted to qualify him for the difficult part which it afterward became his duty to perform.
In the year 1804, being then in the eleventh year of his age, Stephen F. Austin was sent to Calchester Academy, in Connecticut, to pursue his academical studies. He remained in that institution, which was then in high repute, for one year. Thence he removed to an academy at New London, where he remained until 1808. He then returned to the West, and became a student of Transylvania University, at Lexington, Kentucky, where he devoted himself for two years to his studies, and was distinguished among his fellow students for his intelligence and gentlemanly deportment, acquiring here the friendship of James Hawkins and the Crittendens. In the year 1813, at the age of twenty, Stephen F. Austin was elected to the Territorial Legislature of Missouri, from the county of Washington, and was regularly re-elected until the year 1819, when he ceased to reside in the Territory. While he was a member of the Territorial Legislature, he became acquainted with Thomas H. Benton, who was a member of the same body. Mr. Benton always respected him as a man of character and talents, and they maintained a friendly and political correspondence during Austin's life. During these years from 1800 to 1817, Moses Austin had conducted an extensive and profitable business in mining, and the manufacture of shot and sheet lead. He had made very valuable improvements on his property, and had acquired considerable wealth. His house, (Durham Hall) had become the center of the thriving and enterprising community which had formed itself around him. He here dispensed a liberal (Virginia) hospitality and had before him a cheering prospect of spending the evening of his life in graceful and prosperous ease, when misfortune suddenly came upon him. He was a large stockholder in the Bank of St. Louis. In the years 1817 and 1818 that institution became embarrassed and involved him in financial ruin. He was one of the principal sufferers. He saw that he was in the hands of merciless speculators and that the greater part of the accumulation of twenty-five years of toil would be swept away. Instead of bowing before the stroke, he retained a firm mind and a resolute heart. He sent for his son Stephen, stated to him the condition of his affairs and proposed to him the idea of forming a colony in Texas. After mature deliberation they came to the determination to take the necessary steps for that purpose, and if successful in their application to devote all their means and energies to its final completion.
The title of Spain to the Territory of Texas, about this time was established by the treaty of February 22nd, 1819, between the Governments of Spain and that of the United States, called sometimes the Monroe treaty and sometimes De Onis treaty. It became necessary for Moses Austin to apply to the authorities of Spain for permission to plant his colony. He resolved to make the application in person. As a preparatory measure Stephen F. Austin commenced a small farm at Long Prairie on Red river, in the Territory of Arkansas, to be used as a recruiting place for the colonists on their way to Texas. He remained in the Territory of Arkansas during part of the years 1819 and 1820. In the meantime he received the appointment of Circuit Judge in that Territory. In the fall of 1820 Moses Austin left Missouri and proceeded to Little Rock, Arkansas where he met his son Stephen. It was decided to give up the farm, and that Stephen should go to New Orleans and await the result of the application of his father to the Spanish authorities and in the meantime prepare the way for the introduction of colonists by water via New Orleans. After a very fatiguing, and hazardous journey through an entire wilderness of country from Sabine to San Antonio, he reached the latter place in the month of November and presented his application to Governor Martinez. Governor Martinez had received orders from the Spanish commanding general at Monterey not to permit North Americans to enter Texas.
Moses Austin was ordered to leave at once, and but for his meeting Baron de Bastrop, whom he had known in the United States, would have been compelled to have obeyed the order. Bastrop invited him to his house, and induced the Governor to give him a hearing, the result of which was, that the Governor became interested in Austin, and granted his request—to recommend to the commanding general, Arredondo, his application to colonize three hundred families. Governor Martinez said to Austin, “If you live to return, you may count on my assistance in every way that duty and circumstances will permit.” On Austin's return from San Antonio he was robbed and deserted by those in whose company he had been traveling, and was exposed to great suffering before he reached a hospitable roof on the Louisiana side of the Sabine, where he was confined by severe sickness for three weeks, his weak condition required him to rest at Natchitoches. Here he partially recovered—writing his son Stephen what had transpired—and returned to Missouri where it was not long before he heard from Governor Martinez of the success of his application which was approved by the Spanish authorities on the 17th of December. He set to work to close up his affairs with the Bank of St. Louis, but here he was in the hands of merciless men who demanded the pound of flesh. He finally closed up his business as best he could and was nearly ready to leave for Texas, when he was prostrated by the lingering sickness that had clung to him since his return. It was written in the book of God's Providence, that the brave old man should be spared the trials and sufferings incident to the further prosecution of such an enterprise as he had conceived. He was taken to his bed about the 1st of June, at the house of his daughter, Mrs. James Bryan, since so well known in Texas as Mrs. James F. Perry. He died in the arms of his wife and daughter on th 10th day of June, 1821, in the fifty-seventh year of his age. The family of Moses Austin consisted, at the time of his death, of his wife, who survived him about three years, of his daughter, Mrs. Bryan, of his son, Stephen F., who was then in New Orleans, and of a younger son, James Brown Austin, who was then at school in Kentucky, and who was afterward well known in Texas. When on his death bed, Moses Austin declared it his earnest desire that his son Stephen should carry forward the enterprise of colonization.
With a hope of meeting his father on his return from San Antonio, Stephen F. Austin on the 1st of February had gone from New Orleans to Natchitoches, he arrived there after the father had left. He met there several persons who had agreed to go with his father to Texas on his return; from these, and his fathers letters to him he learned the particulars of his trip to and from San Antonio and his future plans. He returned to New Orleans to await intelligence from his father. In the meantime in the law office of his friend Hawkins he assiduously devoted himself to increase his legal knowledge. In the month of June he heard from a friend in Natchitoches of the arrival there of Don Erasmo Seguin, the commissioner sent by Governor Martinez to meet Moses Austin and to conduct him into the province of Texas. Stephen Austin deemed it best to hasten to Natchitoches to meet the commissioner fearing his father's delay. He again left New Orleans on the 18th of June for Natchitoches, by the way of Red river. Not, hearing from his father, he decided after some delay to leave with the commissioner for Texas. Before he reached the Sabine he learned of the arrival of letters for him at Natchitoches, and returning was informed by them of the death of his father. He was now in the twenty-eighth year of his age. He felt that the hopes of the family were centered on him. He resolved to accept the trust that his father in his dying moments had bequeathed to him and to make for his dear and aged mother, a new home, under a milder sun, where, if she could not forget the pleasant years spent at the old hall at Polosi, she might at least enjoy at the hands of an affectionate and dutiful son, those comforts and observances with which it was once the pride of a tender husband to surround her.
The Commissioner Seguin and his companion, Don Juan Martin de Veramendi received Austin kindly and said to him that he would be received as the successor of his father. In company with Don Erasmo Seguin and his escort, with his followers, consisting of fourteen colonists, he crossed the Sabine into Texas on the 16th day of July, 1821. The party reached the Guadalupe on the 10th day of August, when Seguin sent three of his men to inform his family of his coming. On the morning of the 12th, these men returned and imparted the stirring news of the Declaration of Mexican Independence. On Austin's arrival at San Antonio he was welcomed by Governor Martinez, as the representative of his deceased father. He made preparations at once for the exploration of the country and selection of a suitable locality for his colony. Moses Austin had the opinion that the gulf coast watered by the Colorado and Brazos rivers was best suited for his purpose. After a careful examination Stephen F. Austin came to the same conclusion, and determined to plant his colony on those rivers. He now returned as speedily as possible to New Orleans, and began his operations for the introduction of families into the province of Texas. Hawkins entered heartily into Austin's views and assisted him. Unfortunately about this time Hawkins began to feel the pressure of pecuniary embarrassments, and was not able to render that efficient aid that Austin so much needed. By their joint efforts, however, they fitted up a small schooner called the “Lively.” She sailed the 20th of October, 1821, having on board eighteen men with all the necessary provisions, arms, ammunition and farming utensils. They had direction to ascend the Colorado river until they found a suitable place, when they were directed to build cabins, to plant corn and to erect necessary defenses against the attacks of hostile Indians. Austin left New Orleans the next day after the “Lively” sailed; he proceeded by land to Matagorda bay, where he expected to meet those who passed over in the schooner. As he passed on to Natchitoches he collected a party to accompany him. He had already made publications in the newspapers, setting forth the outlines of his enterprise on which he had entered and inviting colonists to join him. He set forth the terms on which colonists would be received, the amount of land that would be granted to them and all other necessary particulars. The fame of Austin's enterprise had gone forth throughout the Southwestern States, and many persons were already approaching the frontier of Texas to offer themselves as colonists. Austin's agents informed them how they should enter Texas and conduct themselves until they could be formally received as colonists and put into possession of their lands. With a small company Austin pushed on to meet the passengers of the “Lively;” but when he reached the mouth of the Colorado no traces were to be seen of them or the schooner. Austin remained near the mouth for some time searching the shores of the bay until he despaired of seeing the schooner when he took his course up the Colorado. On reaching La Bahia (Goliad) crossing he had the happiness to meet his brother, James Brown Austin, who had come to join him. Together they proceeded with twenty men to San Antonio, which place they reached about the 15th of March. Another vessel was fitted out by Hawkins with supplies and emigrants for the new colony, but the navigation of the gulf coast was then but little known, and this second vessel was obliged to land her cargo on the beach where it was plundered by the Carankawae Indians. These first attempts to introduce emigrants and supplies by way of the gulf were disasastrous. It was the 21st of February, 1821, that the Independence was declared by Iturbide and confirmed by the Mexican Cortez. Governor Martinez doubted whether the new government would sanction his acts in relation to Austin's colony. He therefore advised Austin to go on at once to the city of Mexico to procure recognition of his rights, etc. He therefore set out with one companion on a perilous journey of one thousand two hundred miles to the capital of Mexico, which place he reached after a variety of adventures. Most of the way he traveled on foot disguised as a destitute soldier of the late revolution, as all the highways were infested with robbers. He found the government torn with factions, which resulted in the proclamation of Iturbide Emperor. Austin endeavored to procure such measures as the necessities of his colony required, but before the passage of the colonization law that had been long under discussion in Congress, Iturbide dissolved that body by violence, substituting the “Junta Instituyente” in its place. This body passed a colonization law and promulgated it on the 4th of January, 1823, and it received the sanction of the Emperor on the 18th of February following, and then, Austin thinking that at last he had accomplished his object, was preparing to leave on the 22nd of February, when he discovered indications of another revolution on foot headed by Santa Anna, and fearing it would result in destroying what had been done, he determined to await the changes threatening Iturbide; the storm, that was about to burst upon his head, hung, as Burke said of the terrible army of Hyder Ali, “like a black cloud on the declivities of the mountains.” The Emperor was dreaming of absolute power and of forming a dynasty; and the birth of an Imperial Prince was made the occasion of the most splendid fetes and of the greatest rejoicings on the part of the pleasure-loving people of the capital. On the 2nd of February the army that was besieging Vera Cruz, revolted, and joined the forces of Santa Anna, and the leaders published another plan, called the “Plan of Casa Mata,” which was in substance as the plan before published by Santa Anna. And now the cause of the revolutionists received accessions from every quarter. Vivanco, the Captain-General of Pueblo, declared in favor of the Congress Party, and was elected Commander-in Chief of the “Liberating Army” as the Republican forces now styled themselves. On becoming an Emperor, Iturbide had not ceased to be a gallant soldier, and he now (when it was too late) saw the full extent of the danger which threatened him. Early in February he took command of the army in person, and marching out of the city, established his camp at the village of Istapaluca, about four leagues from the capital, on the road to Pueblo, Vivanco was approaching along the Pueblo road with a superior force. The Emperor's troops deserted in great numbers, and he saw plainly that he could not rely upon them. He now consented to a cessation of hostilities, and commissioners were appointed on both sides to consider the terms of an accommodation. The commissioners soon came to an understanding, the substance of which was that the Emperor should retire to Tacubaya, three leagues from the capital—that Congress should convene as soon as the members could assemble in the city—and that all parties should submit unconditionally to whatever the Congress should decide. It was agreed that neither party should have any troops in the capital, and that the necessary guards to keep order should be placed under the direction of the local civil authorities, until Congress should meet. This arrangement was, of course, fatal to Iturbide. The Congress convened, and on the 16th day of March decreed that the Sovereign Constituent Congress of the Mexican nation was in legal session, and that its deliberations were free from military or other forcible restraint; and they also decreed that the executive power which had existed in Mexico from the 19th of May, 1822, until the date of the decree, had ceased to exist.
On the 19th of March the Emperor tendered his resignation of the crown and Government. On the 31st of March Congress decreed that the executive power of the nation should be provisionally entrusted to three individuals, and that they should be officially styled the “Supreme Executive Power.” On the same day Congress proceeded to elect three individuals who were to exercise the functions of the Supreme Executive of the nation. The choice fell on Guadalupe Victoria, Nicolus Bravo, and Pedro Celestino Negrete. Two other persons were elected supernumeraries to act in the event of the absence of any of the three. The other branches of the Government were now reorganized. On the 8th of April, Congress decreed that the coronation of Don Augustin Iturbide was an act of violence and was therefore null and void. They also decreed that the resignation of the crown tendered on the 19th of March would not be considered by Congress; and that the hereditary succession was a nullity, and that all acts of the Government from the 19th of May 1822, until the 28th of March, 1823, were illegal, and were subject to be revised, confirmed, or revoked by the Government now established. This decree showed that Austin had acted wisely in waiting upon the revolutionary movement. With zeal and energy quickened rather than abated by the numerous causes of discouragement which had transpired, he set himself to the task of procuring from the new Government, a confirmation of what the former Government had done in his behalf. He had made so many friends of influence in the Mexican capital, that he was able to secure the attention of Congress at a very early day after the machinery of the new Government had been gotten into operation. On the 11th of April, Congress passed a decree, referring Austin's memorial to the Supreme Executive Power to be confirmed by that body unless the Executive should see proper to interpose objections. This decree on the 11th of April also suspended the operation of the law of the 4th of January, 1823, until Congress should further declare its will on the subject. On the 14th of April, the Supreme Executive Power published, a decree, by virtue of the Act of Congress of the 11th of April, confirming in full the power granted to Austin by the imperial decree of the 18th of February. This decree of the 14th of April, was transmitted to the Captain-General of the Internal Provinces within whose commandery the province of Texas was embraced; and a copy of it was also delivered to Austin.
Thus after a years’ detention in the capital of Mexico, Austin had succeeded in obtaining from all the Governments that had strutted their brief day upon the stage of Mexican politics, a confirmation, in effect, of the grant originally made by the Spanish authorities to his father, and such enlarged powers as were necessary for the plantation, growth, and government of his colony. Although at the time, it seemed probable that his protracted absence would prove fatal to his enterprise in Texas, there can be no doubt that the year spent in the capital of Mexico was, in view of his future success, the most profitable of his life. It enabled him to acquire, not only a knowledge of the language, but a knowledge also of the people and jurisprudence of the country, with which he was to maintain the most intimate and delicate relations. And, what was to him an element of great future strength and influence, it enabled him to make friends of many of the most enlightened and distinguished men in Mexico, and to inspire them with confidence in his own character and abilities. Without these advantages, it is almost certain that he would have failed in his enterprise, notwithstanding his other eminent qualifications for the task he had assumed to perform.
Austin set out from the capital, on his return to Texas on the 18th of April, 1823. On his arrival at Monterey he presented to the Commanding-General of the Eastern internal provinces, Don Philipe de la Garza, a petition, praying for specific instructions and copies of laws, for the local administration of the new colony. The imperial decree of the 18th of February, committed the Government of the colony to Austin, in general terms. He was desirous to have his powers, in this respect, more particularly defined. The Commanding-General De la Garza, referred Austin's petition to the “Deputacion” of the provinces, which body was then in session. The Deputacion passed a decree, declaring in substance, that Austin's powers for the administration of justice, and for the civil government of the colony and the command of the militia, were ample, by virtue of the imperial decree of the 18th of February. The decree of excellent Deputation provided further, that Austin's rank as an officer in the militia should be that of Lieutenant-Colonel—that he could make war on the Indian tribes who were hostile—that he could introduce supplies into the colony by way of the harbor of Galveston; and, in general terms, that he was invested with all the necessary powers for the civil and military government of his colony; which powers he was expected to exercise to the best of his abilities and as justice might require until the Government was otherwise organized. He was required to render to the Governor of Texas, a report of his proceedings from time to time, and to give that officer information of any important event that might occur.
Austin arrived safely in his colony in July, and found that many of the emigrants had returned to the United States, and that many had stopped near the Sabine. He found along the Brazos and Colorado, about one hundred settlers, anxiously awaiting his return. These were men, many of whom were unlettered and ignorant of the refinements of fashionable life, but with hearts under their buck-skin coats, as stout and true, as beat under the steel corslets of Cœur de Leon and Bayard. There were many single men among them, who had been allured by the adventurous life of the pioneer, to connect themselves with the settlement. They took their posts on the out-skirts of the colony. They worked and slept with their trusty rifles by their sides. They filled every post of danger. They were ready in every desperate emergency, and were the more ready when the emergency was the more desperate. They exposed and inured themselves to danger, until the war-whoop of the Carankawæ had no more terror for them than the chattering of the gray squirrel on the branches of the oak.
Don Luciana Garcia was now the Governor of Texas. On the 16th of July, he appointed Baron de Bastrop to act as Commissioner on the part of the Government, to take the necessary measures, in conjunction with Austin, to put the settlers in possession of their lands, and to deliver to them their titles. On the 26th of July, the Governor, by an official act, gave the name of San Felipe de Austin to the town which was to be laid off as the capital of the new colony. The Governor said that, in giving this name to the contemplated capital, he wished to testify his respect for Colonel Austin by uniting his name with the name of his own patron saint, San Filipe. The event proved that the saint was likely to carry away the honors from the Colonel; for the town was commonly called San Felipe. Austin even complained jocularly, that he was near losing his rightful name of Stephen, in consequence of the Governor's compliment; for many persons supposed that the town had been called after the Colonel, and therefore concluded that his name was Philip (Felipe) and he frequently received letters thus addressed.
Before the Baron de Bastrop and Austin entered upon the business of designating the lands for the colonists, the latter published an address to the settlers, in which he informed them, as briefly as possible, of the state of affairs—of what had been done and of what remained to be done. Alluding to the obstacles that had opposed themselves to the prosecution of his enterprise during his late visit to the city of Mexico, he told them that he had felt in honor bound, never to abandon those who had embarked with him. “I have persevered,” he said, “through all the difficulties created by the political convulsions of the past year, and now have the satisfaction of announcing that every necessary authority relative to the granting of titles and settling the colony has been obtained.” Austin proceeded as expeditiously as was consistent with his multiplied duties to establish regulations for the civil and military government of the colony, and for the administration of justice. Under these regulations, and courts established by him, justice was administered in the colony until the 1st of February, 1828, at which time a Constitutional Alcalde was elected, the Ayuntamento established, and the former provisional government under Austin was superseded. Whether we view Austin as the hardy and bold pioneer, braving all the dangers of a wilderness far out of the reach of civilization and all the most common comforts of civlized life, enduring with the humblest laborer of the little band, living for months upon wild horse flesh, without bread or salt, or as the skilled negotiator in the capital of Mexico, or as a civil governor and military commander of the people, using his power judiciously and beneficially, without the aid of a single soldier or a dollar from the government, prudently and sagaciously, with his own private means and his own great heart and mind, working out the problem to which he had devoted his life—in each and every place we find him equal to the requirements, and his efforts crowned with success. After the settlement of his first contract for three hundred families, which extended from the Lavacca to the dividing waters of San Jacinto and Trinity, he made three others contracts, in all for twelve hundred families; and a fifth contract in conjunction with Samuel M. Williams, which, owing to his long absence and imprisonment in Mexico and the revolution, was not completed.
In 1827, in consequence of the “Fredonian War,” he inhabitants of Eastern Texas would have been expelled from the country but for the earnest efforts of Austin. Yoakum says: “If he who by conquest wins an empire receives the world's applause, how much more is due to those who, by unceasing toil, lay in the wilderness the foundation of an infant colony and build thereon a vigorous and happy state.” Surely there is not among men a more honorable destiny than to be the peaceful founder and builder of a new empire. Such was that of Stephen F. Austin. Although Austin's powers were almost absolute, he governed with parental mildness. His soul was absorbed in the great business of the successful completion of his enterprise. He was esteemed by each colonist not so much as a ruler as a father and friend. By example and precept he inspired them with love of order and industry. True, he was often annoyed by bad men, intruders into the colony; yet his forbearance even in such cases was great. When he found it necessary to use strong measures, and inflict wholesome lessons of punishment or restraint, he did it with great regret.
In 1832, in consequence of the troubles between the settlers and Mexican troops stationed in Texas, Austin returned from Saltillo, where he was attending the session of the legislature of Coahuila and Texas as the representative of Texas, and in the language of the historian of the time, “For the express purpose of effecting some amicable settlement of the whole affair. * * * * * And he now assumed the friendly office of mediator between the contending parties, and they thus extricated themselves from impending ruin by receiving the olive branch obtained by the influence and passed to them through the hands of Colonel Austin.” On this occasion Austin was welcomed back by the people with every demonstration of joy, with balls, speeches, firing of cannon, etc., at the mouth of the Brazos, Brazoria and San Felipe. He was met by an escort six miles from San Felipe and conducted into town, where he was received and addressed by William H. Jack, Esq., in behalf of his fellow citizens. * * * * * “Such a boon then, as is due to him who faithfully discharges his duties we grant to you with the assurance that the man whom the people have delighted to honor still has our most unbounded confidence. The occasion of your unexpected return to Texas will long be remembered.
“The present is an epoch in the political affairs of our country on which the pen of the historian will dwell with peculiar pleasure. * * * * * In conclusion, I can not perhaps better express my own feelings and those of your common countrymen, than by saying well done, good and faithful servant, thou art welcome, thrice welcome to thy home and to thy friends, and may health and happiness always attend thee.” Colonel Austin replied, and was then received by the Mexican troops captured at Velasco, whom he had addressed in Spanish and who then fraternized with the people. Yoakum says, in speaking of the period of agitation that followed, and that resulted in a convention of the people at San Felipe de Austin in 1833:
“In the midst of all these scenes Colonel Austin was calm. His object was to consummate his great work. He desired that his colony should live and grow and prosper, at the same time he wished it to be free, and although he foresaw, as did all men of discernment, that a people of the elevated and independent character of his colonists could not and would not long live in subjection to the changing, antiquated system of government followed by Mexican statesmen, yet, before the separation came he wished to see his people in their manhood able to grapple with an enemy who would not easily surrender so great a prize.”
The conduct of a wise politician is ever suited to the present posture of affairs; often by giving a part he saves the whole, and by yielding in a small matter secures a greater. His judgment did not at that time favor the movement for the separation, but he yielded and directed when he could not lead. And when selected to lead where none would follow, he bore himself the true man and patriot, and alone marched to the dungeon, for the sacrifice was demanded and made for the good of Texas. When the true history of Texas shall be written, then will the exalted character of Austin be known. In 1833, when the representatives of the people of Texas met in convention in the town of San Felipe to frame a constitution for Texas, and to adopt an address to the general government of Mexico, of which William H. Wharton was President, Sam. Houston, David G. Burnet and Stephen F. Austin were members—on whom did the convention and the people of Texas rely to go to the city of Mexico to beard the lion in his den, to obtain the admission of Texas into the Mexican Confederacy? Whom but Stephen F. Austin? Foote says “He was known to combine all the neccessary energy, fidelity and address suited to such a mission.” Stiff says, speaking of Austin at this time, “he was the man on whom the God of nature had fixed his seal of nobility; a man endowed with every social and moral virtue; a man that any people might have delighted to honor.” The same author says: “Having planted the first colony, and being a man of uncommon fidelity and enterprise, his intercourse with the government was for many years marked by a scrupulous regard for the settlers and rigid compliance with engagements, and he secured, in return, the unlimited confidence of the immigrants as well as the different officers of the government, from whom he could obtain any favor which it was in their power to confer.” Edwards says, speaking of this occasion: “Colonel Stephen F. Austin, who had been for many years the representative in the general legislature, was chosen by a large majority to represent the country on this momentous occasion. That the reader may be acquainted with Colonel Austin's character, in a few words, he was a man, take him all in all (politically speaking for the well being of Texas) for whom but few countries in these annals of settling can produce a parallel!”
Foote says when Colonel Austin reached his place of destination he lost no time in presenting the memorial. His own account of the result of his labors in Mexico is as follows: “Many months passed away and nothing was done with this petition except to refer it to a committee—where it slept and was likely to sleep. I finally urged the just and constitutional rights of Texas to become a State, in the most pressing manner. * * * * * It was my misfortune to offend the high authorities of the nation; my frank and honest exposition of the truth was construed into threats. * * * * * I was arrested at Saltillo, two hundred leagues from Mexico, taken back to the city and imprisoned for one year—three months of that time in solitary confinement without books or writing materials, in a dungeon of the former Inquisition prison. At the close of the year I was released from confinement, but detained six months in the city on heavy bail. It was nine months after my arrival before I was officially informed of the charges against me, or furnished with a copy of them. The constitutional requisites were not observed, my constitutional rights as a citizen were violated, the people of Texas were outraged by this treatment of their commissioner, and their respectful, humble and just petition disregarded.” The same author says Colonel Austin reached his home early in September, 1835. During the period of his detention in Mexico, strong popular excitement had been enkindled in the colony, which was every moment growing more intense and rapidly spreading to all parts of the province. * * * * * Such was the nature of the crisis that had been attained when the arrival of Colonel Austin in Texas, as above narrated, assembled a vast concourse of the colonists about his person, all eager to hear from his own lips the story of his sufferings, and to receive from one so highly venerated those sage and honest counsels which their knowledge of his character authorized them to expect. The Texans had hitherto postponed all decided action in avengement of their grievances in anticipation of this interview, as well as apprehension, altogether reasonable, that any demonstrations of hostility on their part toward the Mexican government, if too openly made ere their beloved chief had been able to release himself from the durance in which he was then involved, might expose him to serious inconvenience, if indeed his valuable life should not be thereby compromised. * * * * * On the 8th of September Colonel Austin met in the town of Brazoria more than a thousand of his colonists, whom he addressed. He said: “I can not refrain from returning my unfeigned thanks for the flattering sentiment with which I have just been honored, nor have I words to express my satisfaction on returning to my more than native country, and meeting so many of my friends and companions in its settlement. I left Texas in April, 1833, as the public agent of the people for the purpose of applying for the admisson of this country into the Mexican Confederation as a State, separate from Coahuila. The application was based upon the constitutional and vested rights of Texas, and was sustained by me in the city of Mexico to the utmost of my abilities; no honorable means were spared to effect the objects of my mission and to oppose the forming of Texas into a Territory, which was attempted. I rigidly adhered to the instructions and wishes of my constituents so far as they were enumerated to me. My efforts to serve Texas involved me in the labyrinth of Mexican politics, I was arrested and have suffered a long persecution and imprisonment. I considered it to be my duty to give an account of these events to my constituents, and will, therefore, at this time merely observe that I have never in any manner agreed to anything or admitted anything that would compromise the constitutional or vested rights of Texas. These rights belong to the people and can only be surrendered by them. * * * * The revolution in Mexico is drawing to a close. The object is to change the form of government, destroy the federal constitution of 1824 and establish a central or consolidated government. The States are to be converted into provinces. * * * * * With these explanatory remarks I will give as a toast The constitutional rights and the security and peace of Texas—they ought to be maintained; and jeopardized as they now are, they demand a general consultation of the people.
Edwards speaking of this period says: “Colonel Austin has proved himself both in point of talents and sound judgment perfectly qualified for the arduous undertaking he took in hand by the general confidence of all the intelligent and worthy part of the settlers in his colony, by being the mover either directly or indirectly of the whole North American and Irish emigration to the country; by having more power with the Mexican government than any other empresario in the province, and by being the only man in Texas who has been and is now calculated to save it from destruction. Yoakum says, “in the first days of September, Stephen F. Austin after a detention so long and painful in Mexico, returned to Texas. The old pioneers who had come with him to the country gathered around and received him as one risen from the dead. Such demonstrations of regard were fully reciprocated by Austin. He was a general lover of his race, and especially of those for whose happiness he had devoted the best energies of his life. If there was any one desire nearer to his heart than all others it was, to see his colonies prosper. He was greatly distressed to find Texas in her then unsettled condition. I fully hoped, said he, to have found Texas at peace and in tranquility, but regret to find it in commotion, all disorganization, all in anarchy and threatened with immediate hostilities. This state af things is deeply to be lamented. In a few days Austin was placed at the head of a Central Committee of “Public Safety” at San Felipe, and a fresh impulse given to the revolutionary correspondence of the committees.” At this period (continues Yoakum,) “Texas had no head, but the nearness of danger enabled the people to act energetically without one.
By common consent, however, San Felipe was adopted as a sort of center of action, and Stephen F. Austin was looked to for orders and advice.” In the mean time Mexican soldiery were arriving at San Antonio, and Texans were hurrying to Gonzales (the Lexington of the revolution) and were in such force as to hold Ugartachea (at San Antonio) in check. These troops needed everything, and to obtain these Austin used his private means his credit and his influence. Yoakum says, “as a temporary head was requisite to give directions to these hasty and energetic movements, the committee of San Felipe proposed that one member from each of the committees’ of safety should be appointed to repair without delay to San Felipe and form a permanent council. The proposition was immediately accepted, a council was organized, and R. R. Royal chosen President. This plan of organization came from Austin, who, up to this time was obliged to act as a kind of natural chief which was a responsibility he did not wish to assume. The appointment of this council enabled them to dispense with the services of Austin at San Felipe, that he might be employed in the army where he was greatly needed, for the rivalry of local favorites threatened to disperse the volunteers. Earnestly was he entreated to leave San Felipe and go to the army by the first men of the country. Finally, Peter W. Grayson, Patrick Jack. Miller, J. E. Wallace, John Linn, J. W. Fannin, jr., and others, addressed him a note by express, urging him to come to the army immediately. His health greatly impaired by his long confinement in prison at Mexico, and his unremitting and arduous labors to place Texas in a position for defense and government since his return, did not prevent him from going, now he hesitated no longer for the appointment of the Council removed his only objection. He arrived at Gonzales on the evening of the 10th of October, and on the next day by unanimous vote was elected Commander-in-chief of the “Army of the People.” He at once ordered a thorough organization. He appointed his staff and on the 15th the army took up its line of march for San Antonio. Goliad was captured. The battles of Salado, Conception, “Grass fight” and other engagements ensued, and the enemy under General Cass was driven in and closely besieged in San Antonio. The army was kept together by the voluntary consent of the men, and was governed only by such regulations and orders as were made and issued by General Austin. He knew that their patriotism, and their confidence in him was the only power he could rely on to enforce military authority over the men; he knew that Texas had no government, no articles of war, and that command and obedience in the army depended upon his tact and judgment, and their confidence in him, and their good strong common sense and love for their country. He knew in spite of all his efforts and self-abnegation that intrigue was rife in camp, and at San Felipe. Hence he was exceedingly anxious for the meeting of the consultation, and formation by it of a Provisional Government; he urged this upon the members who were in and without the army. They met at San Felipe and organized on the 3d of November, by the election of Branch T. Archer, President; (Austin was elected a member of the Consultation, but of course could not attend). On the 13th General Austin, Branch T. Archer and William H. Wharton were appointed Commissioners to the United States of America. On the 14th the Provisional Government was placed in a state of complete organization by appointment of Henry Smith Governor; J. W. Robinson Lieutenant Governor; and a council. Sam Houston was made a Major General of the regular army with authority to command other troops thereafter raised. Austin having decided to accept the mission to the United States, only remained with the army until he felt that he could leave without disintegrating it. On the 18th of November he says, “some prudence will be necessary to keep this army together should I leave at once.” On the 24th he ordered a general parade of the army, he announced his determination to withdraw from the army to obey the call of the government to go on the mission to the United States. He explained the importance of continuing the siege of San Antonio and urged upon the soldiers to remain and and organize anew. “After concluding his address the Adjutant General, was ordered to call upon the troops to volunteer to remain before San Antonio and to organize at once for the purpose, when only four hundred and five promptly turned out and pledged themselves to remain, the election being ordered to take place immediately for Commander-in-Chief. Gen Edward Burleson was elected without opposition, none having been allowed to vote but those who were pledged to remain. On the morning of the following day the Commander-in Chief took leave of the army. “After the departure of General Austin, the besieging army before San Antonio came near being broken up, says Yoakum.” General Austin reached San Felipe on the 29th of November. On the following day he paid his respects to the Governor and Council, and awaited his instructions to depart for the United States.
On the 30th of November he made a report to the government, and on 3d of December the Council desired his views upon calling a convention with plenary powers. His reply can be found in Foote's history, volume 2, pages 151 to 157 inclusive, favoring such a convention. At length the government permitted Austin to leave, having detained him that he might give counsel and information. The Commissioners were instructed to procure men, arms, munition and supplies generally, and to approach the government of the United States in regard to Independence or annexation of Texas. A resolution of grateful acknowledgment for Austins past services, of sympathy for his sufferings and broken health of affection and confidence was unanimously passed by the Council on December 11th, 1835. The close of the resolution was in the following words. * * * * * And that we congratulate our country upon being possessed of such an agent to represent us among the free sons of the North, in whose aid we repose the strongest hopes in our present struggle for freedom and existence. And that we extend to him the hand of parting love and greeting with hopes of his success and speedy return to the bosom of his grateful countrymen, and that a copy of this resolution signed by the officer and members of the General Council be presented to General Austin before he parts from us to accomplish the wishes and hopes of his friends.
J. W. ROBINSON,
Lieutenant Gvernor, etc.
E. M. PASE, Secretary, etc.
The Commissioners proceeded on their mission. In New Orleans they contracted two loans amounting to $250,000. Austin pledged his private fortune to effect this, seventy thousand dollars were advanced. Foote says, it is unnecessary to declare here what is already known to the world, that they exerted themselves in an extraordinary manner to fulfill the duties of their mission, and were successful to an extent possibly beyond their own expectations at setting out. I can not refrain, though, from presenting in this place a few extracts from the very able address delivered by General Austin in the city of Louisville, as it places the Texan struggle for independence upon its true ground. Yoakum says: “The interest felt for Texas by the people of the United States, and the material aid by them furnished were greatly increased through the influence of the distinguished agents sent there. General Austin was particularly successful; his long services in Texas and his known thoughtfulness and simplicity of character gave great weight to all that he said. * * * * * His address at Louisville, which was widely published, presented the claims of Texas upon the civilized world for sympathy and aid in such manner as to bring both. He did wonders for his country, a Franklin in patience and prudence. He left Washington City (on his return) on 24th of May and in a letter to Houston (June 16, 1836,) says, “I am of the opinion that our independence will be acknowledged and that Texas will be admitted into the United States if they are regularly asked for.” Austin returned to Texas in the first days of July, and visited Santa Anna in Columbia. He and Santa Anna wrote to General Jackson on the subject of mediation of the United States Government. Austin wrote General Gains, (and to Houston) stating that Gains should establish his headquarters at Nacogdoches and recommended Houston to use his influence for effecting that object. The Texan army had grown to 2,300 strong. Having but little to do each one was engaged in his own projects. General Rusk doubtless did what he could to preserve order but there were too many who wished the command.”
These troops were volunteers from the United States (The Texans had returned to their homes.) Great discontent existed among them, and serious disturbances were apprehended. President Burnet and General Austin were censured by them because they were disposed to protect and treat with Santa Anna. At this time came the presidential canvas. Austin was spoken of for this office, “the report was current but neither contrived or cultivated by himself. He was thought of because he was worthy. Even the love of fame, that fine incentive of generous minds; could neither betray him into ostentatious display, of virtue nor induce him to practice those specious arts that cause applause and often supply the place of merit. In struggles of this nature he knew that victory may be obtained without glory and that defeat is certain disgrace.” When spoken to on the subject he said influenced by the great governing principle that had regulated his action since he came to Texas, to serve Texas in any capacity the people might think proper to employ him—he should not decline the highly responsible and difficult one now proposed if he should be elected.”
His friends before the election saw that the army and the new emigrants would vote for Sam Houston; they generally gave up the election as a foregone conclusion in favor of Houston. In the organization of the government he was offered the position of Secretary of State or minister to the United States. Influenced by his love for Texas and the earnest wishes of the leading men of Texas, he accepted the position of Secretary of State. Although, as he said to his friends, his broken health and his own interests required repose from public life. But the same notions that influenced him to serve the county as Commissioner to Mexico at his own expense, to accept command of the army and to leave it before San Antonio for the Mission to the United States, now induced him to take the office of Secretary of State in Houston's cabinet. His assiduous and arduous labors in the organization of the government brought to a close his eventful and useful life. The Texas Telegraph, the only newspaper published at that time in announcing his death said:
“THE PATRIARCH HAS LEFT US.
“We perform a most painful duty in announcing the death of General Stephen F. Austin, who departed his life on the 27th inst. at half-past 12 o'clock P. M., at the house of Judge McKinstry. His friends and relatives have sustained an irreparable loss; his country just merging into existence, the best and tenderest of fathers; the sons and daughters of Texas have now full cause for mourning with one solitary consolation—that they will meet the just man above.”
GENERAL ORDERS, WAR DEPARTMENT,
Columbia, December 27th, 1836.
THE FATHER OF TEXAS IS NO MORE! The first pioneer of the wilderness has departed! General STEPHEN F. AUSTIN, Secretary of State has expired this day at half-past 12 o'clock, at Columbia. As a testimony of respect to his high standing, undeviating moral rectitude, and as a mark of the nation's gratitude for his untiring zeal and invaluable services, all officers, civil and military are requested to wear crape on the right arm for the space of thirty days. All officers commanding posts, garrisons or detachments will, as soon as information is received of this melancholy event cause twenty-three guns—the number of counties in the Republic—to be fired, with an interval of five minutes between each, and also have the garrison and regimental colors hung with black during the space of mourning for the illustrous dead.
“By the President:
“WILLIAM S. FISHER,
“Secretary of War.”
His remains were accompanied by the President and Cabinet, the officers of the Government and the military to the family burying ground at Peach Point, Brazoria County. And hero now by the side of his beloved sister EMILY, marked by a plain marble slab is the grave of
“THE FATHER OF TEXAS.”
Austin was gentle and persuasive in manner; just, sincere and frank in intercourse—faithful and true in all engagements. His colonists beheld in him their founder, law-giver, judge, military commander and empresairo. They relied on him in prosperity and in trouble, they had perfect confidence that he would sustain them in every emergency; their trust was never misplaced, and this self sacrifice and devotion to their interests have not been suspassed. His life was dedicated to his great work of founding and building up an empire. No allurements, no temptations of personal wealth or ease could shake his purpose or withdraw him from his beloved Texas. When in the city of Mexico for the last time, and before his imprisonment a wealthy foreign company (originated for speculative purposes) desirous of purchasing from Mexico all of the public lands in Texas, offered Austin one milion of dollars for his interest in Texas, if he would withdraw his opposition to making Texas a Territory; his reply was, never will I desert my colonists, or prove untrue to the people of Texas. He continued his opposition to, and defeated the plan of making Texas a Territory. He loved Texas with his whole heart and watched over and protected her interests with long and arduous services—services so exalted and beneficial that they can bear comparison with those of the noblest characters of Ancient or Modern times; indeed history furnishes few such characters. His temperance, continence and probity might claim to be compared with the best and purest of his race” and these virtues were ever present with him, whether amidst his friends in Texas or in the council or courts or dungeons of Mexico.” Circumstances inseparable from the settlement and growth of a new country, and from changes of government have had the effect to distract the minds of men from inquiry into his character and services. But history will one day adorn her page with a delineation of his high and spotless character, and with the story of his long, arduous and successful services to his country. His fame will grow as the State which he founded is destined to grow in prosperity and influence. And when the Capital which bears his name shall have become a proud city, and when all the hills that rise around it, and the noble plains that are spread out before it shall wear the splendid and blooming aspect which the plastic hand of art and industry creates, then the name of the pioneer who opened the way for civilization, and for social refinements to enter when all before was wild, and rude and desolate, will have been placed on the bright roll that bears to future ages the names of the worthies of the past.
BURNET DAVID G., one of the Presidents of the Republic, was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1788. In 1813 he became a citizen of Ohio, and in 1817, engaged in mercantile business in Natchitoches, Louisiana. He now for several years on account of poor health led a wandering life with the Comanches on the frontiers of Texas. On his restoration to good health he returned to Cincinnati, Ohio, where for some months he read law. In 1826 he became a citizen of Texas, and obtained an empressario contract. His home was on the San Jacinto river; and in 1833 he represented his constituents in the Liberty Convention. As a member of this convention, he drew up a very able memorial to the Mexican Government, showing the advantage and necessity of Texas having a separate State Government from Coahuila. He also introduced remarkable resolutions strongly denouncing the African slave trade. In spite of the opposition of Monroe Edwards and his friends these resolution passed. He in 1834 was appointed District Judge for the Brazos department, and regularly held his court at San Felipe. At the organization of the government ad interim, March 16th, 1836, he was elected President of the Young Republic. In 1838 he was elected Vice President of the Republic. On account of the illness of President Lamar, he administered the duties of the Presidential office the greater part of his term. During Governor Henderson's administration Burnet was Secretary of State. In 1866 he was elected to the United States Senate, but was not admitted to his seat. He died in the family of Mr. Preston Perry, of Galveston, on the 5th of December, 1870. Colonel A. M. Hobby, in a biography of Judge Burnet says: “Judge Burnet was distinguished by an honorable and active participation in the event of a revolution, the character of which his humane and generous influence impressed and his enlightened policy guided; and was a sincere and ardent friend of the human race, but above all distinguished by the more eminent qualities of inflexible political purity and personal virtue. These we believe are universally admitted as absolutely unquestioned, and alone should entitle the possessor to independent and durable renown; and when we add to these his unaffected indifference to wealth and fame; noble aspirations and tender charities; sympathy for the oppressed, generosity to the fallen; love of goodness and truth; and a mind incapable of harboring sentiments of envy, mischief or wrong, we have a character indeed so rare, that the thoughtful and the just, will pronounce it almost perfect.”
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