Stephen F. Austin

Stephen Fuller Austin was born on November 3, 1793, in Wythe County, Virginia, but spent much of his youth in southeastern Missouri. He graduated from Transylvania College in Kentucky. After returning to Missouri, he was associated with his father in various ventures, including land speculation and lead mining. In 1814, Austin was elected to the first of several terms in the Missouri Territorial Legislature, then served as a circuit court judge.

His father had secured a land grant in Texas from the Spanish government in early 1821, but died that June before settling it. Stephen Austin inherited the grant, but had to persuade the Mexican officials to honor a grant conferred by the ousted Spaniards. In 1822, he managed to claim a large tract between the Colorado and Brazos rivers and began settling Americans there.

In all, more than 1,200 families were brought to the area through Austin's efforts, earning him the title “Father of Texas." During these years, Austin worked to cool the desires of settlers who wanted to break away from Mexico. He hoped to resolve outstanding issues and spur Texas to become a separate state within Mexico. He traveled to Mexico City in March 1822 and remained until April 1823 to ensure the maintenance of his interests in Texas.

In 1833, Austin again traveled to Mexico City in an effort to win broadened self-governing powers for his settlement. He was kept waiting by President Antonio López de Santa Anna, so in 1834 he sent home a letter that urged the Texans to act on their own. Santa Anna learned of this advice and had him thrown into prison for treason.

In 1835, Austin was released. He returned to Texas to head a volunteer force in the Texan Revolution, where he was soon elected commander in chief. He directed a campaign against San Antonio, Mexico's military headquarters in Texas and was conducting a siege of the city when he was appointed one of three commissioners to the United States. Dispatched to Washington, D.C., his instructions were to seek recognition if independence was declared, raise material aid, and try to enlist volunteers.

When he returned to Texas in June 1836, the Texas Revolution was largely over. Austin lost a bid for the Texas presidency to Sam Houston in 1836, but was appointed the independent nation's secretary of state. He was serving in that capacity when died on December 27, 1836, in Columbia, Texas.

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Lone Star Nation: How a Ragged Army of Volunteers Won the Battle for Texas Independence - and Changed America by H.W. Brands.
H.W. Brands's Lone Star Nation: How a Ragged Army of Volunteers Won the Battle for Texas Independence--and Changed America is not a complete history, ...