From the Annals of the Empresarios – In 1821, New Spain awarded Moses Austin of Missouri a grant to settle 300 families in Texas. Although Anglos had previously travelled to and settled in Texas, this agreement began the process of Anglo-American colonization of Texas. Moses Austin never acted on the grant as he passed away after his initial success in obtaining permission. The task fell to his son Stephen F. Austin who was recognized as his successor. The success of the Mexican War for Independence put the grant at risk. But a special decree issued in April 1823 allowed the younger Austin to begin the colonization that resulted in 300 families settling in Austin’s Colony near San Felipe.
Photo of Moses Austin statue from tshaonline.org
From the Annals of the Founding Fathers – In 1793, Stephen F. Austin was born in Virginia. Austin often referred to as the “Father of Texas”, was actually following in the footsteps of his father Moses Austin. Austin was raised in Missouri, but educated back east gaining a degree from Transylvania University and then studying as a lawyer. He was pursuing a legal career in New Orleans, when his father traveled to Texas and received an grant that would allow him to bring 300 American families to Texas. Moses Austin caught pneumonia soon after returning to Missouri. He left his empresario grant to his son Stephen. Though Austin was reluctant to carry on his father’s Texas venture, he was persuaded to pursue the colonization of Texas by a letter from his mother written two days before Moses Austin died.
At the age of 24, Austin led a party of potential settlers to San Antonio covering 300 miles in about 4 weeks. Austin sought a reauthorization of his father’s grant. While in transit, Austin learned Mexico had declared its independence from Spain, and Texas had become a Mexican province rather than a Spanish territory. Jose Antonio Navarro, a San Antonio native with ambitious visions of the future of Texas, befriended Stephen F. Austin, and the two developed a lasting association. Navarro, proficient with Spanish and Mexican law, assisted Austin in obtaining his empresario contracts. With a reauthorized grant, Austin began to explore the area between San Antonio and the Brazos River to find a suitable location for a colony – eventually settling on San Felipe in present day Austin County.