Stephen F. Austin led the colonization of Texas. Born in 1793 in Virginia, his family moved to the lead mining region in present-day Missouri when he was five. Well educated, Austin’s family sent him to Yale University to study when he was ten years old. He graduated from Transylvania University in Kentucky in 1810. When he returned from Kentucky, he took over the family mining business.
Becoming the “Father of Texas”
From 1813–1819, Austin served on the legislature of the Missouri Territory. In 1820, after the mining business failed, he sought new opportunity in Arkansas Territory. Later that year, he moved to Louisiana to study law. In 1821, Austin’s father died near San Antonio, Texas. Austin traveled to San Antonio in the hopes of reauthorizing a land grant in Texas that had been given to his father. Austin then explored areas of the Gulf Coast of Texas in between San Antonio and the Brazos River in the hopes of finding a suitable place for starting a colony. Austin advertised the opportunity for settlement and land in Texas in New Orleans. In December of 1821, the first colonists came from Louisiana to Texas. By 1832, the area had 11,000 colonists. Despite the colony’s explosive growth, Austin was not making much money, and the Mexican authorities that gave him the land had become less cooperative as America continued in its efforts to buy Texas from them. In 1834, Austin was arrested by Mexican authorities for insurrection. In the meantime, the Texans demanded tariff reform, removal of immigration restrictions, and a new state government. The Mexican government refused, and Texas proclaimed its independence. The war that followed resulted in Texas becoming an independent republic in 1836. Austin served as secretary of state and is known as “The Father of Texas.”