Stephen Austin was responsible for settling thousands of American colonists into Texas. At the time, the area was part of Mexico. Austin also played a large role in activities that led up to the Texas war for independence from Mexico. He is often called the father of Texas. Austin, the capital of Texas, was named in his honor.
Stephen Fuller Austin was born on November 3, 1793, in Austinville, Virginia. His family moved to Missouri when he was 5 years old. There his father set up a lead-mining business and a general store. Austin went to Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. Then he returned home to work in his father’s businesses.
Role in Colonizing Texas
Economic troubles brought hard times to many Americans in 1819. Austin’s father lost his wealth. He decided to make a fresh start by bringing American families into a territory of Mexico called Texas. Austin’s father obtained permission from the Mexican government, but he died soon afterward, in 1821. Austin took over his father’s task. During the next ten years he brought more than 5,000 settlers into Texas.
For a while Austin tried to work with the Mexican government to address the needs of the American colonists. By the early 1830s, however, many colonists wanted to make Texas a separate Mexican state with its own government. Austin was unable to convince the Mexican government to allow that. Austin then wrote a letter to Texans telling them not to wait for approval. The letter told them to go ahead with their plans for a separate government. Mexican officials discovered Austin’s letter. He was thrown in prison until 1835.
Role in Texas Independence
In 1835 the Texas colonists began a fight to gain their complete independence from Mexico. Austin went to the United States to get help. In 1836 he returned to Texas. By then Texas had won its independence at the Battle of San Jacinto. Sam Houston defeated Austin for the presidency of the new republic. Houston appointed Austin secretary of state. Austin’s health broke down soon afterward. He died on December 27, 1836, in what is now West Columbia, Texas.