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Austin’s Colonists

The story of Texas begins with a Connecticut-born three-time financial loser.

In an unceasing, life-long quest for wealth, Moses Austin tried his hand at dry goods in Pennsylvania, mining in Virginia, and banking in what would come to be known as the state of Missouri. 

Austin’s dry-goods business never took off; his bank in St. Louis failed; and he became a fugitive from justice when mounting debts forced his sudden exit from the lead mines of southwestern Virginia, a livelihood into which he had married.

Moses Austin’s marriage to the former Mary Brown did last and was a union which produced three children. One of Austin’s offsprings was Stephen F. Austin, who ultimately succeeded where his father had failed. Or, more exactly, brought to reality his father’s dream of settling Texas.

Less than a year after the Panic of 1819 closed the doors of Moses Austin’s financial institution near the banks of the Mississippi River, he envisioned leading a band of frontiersmen and speculators into the unsettled part of New Spain north of the Rio Grande River known today as the State of Texas. In that quest, Austin trekked to what today is San Antonio. There, he made a persuasive presentation to the provincial governor, Antonio Maria Martinez. Although h was initially turned down, Moses was ultimately awarded a land grant and permission to settle 300 Anglo-American families in the Texas region.

Within a year, though, Austin was dead and Martinez was removed from power. Mexico gained its independence from Spain in the fall of 1821. Three months earlier, Mary Austin conveyed her husband’s deathbed wish to son Stephen that he continue his father’s quest to colonize Texas. Reluctantly, Austin agreed, traveling back to San Antonio and securing a final land grant from the new Mexican government. 

That territory stretched from the Gulf Coast to the Brazos River.


Henry Mayo has lived in the College Station area his entire life. He grew up working for his father’s surveying and engineering company, Joe Orr, Inc., which he leads today. He has been an active member of many local organizations, including chair of the Brazos County Historical Commission and past president of the Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History. He is highly regarded as a local and state history expert, writes a regular local history e-blast, and serves as a tank commander in World War II battle reenactments.