On November 3, we celebrate the birthday of Stephen F. Austin, "The Father of 
Texas." Remembering his birthday provides a time to reflect on the life of our founder 
and the importance of his contributions to Texas history, and ultimately U.S history. He 
lived only forty-three years, but the significance of his achievements in the successful 
settlement and independence of Texas shaped our country's history forever. Who was 
Stephen F. Austin and how did he become "The Father of Texas?"

Stephen Fuller Austin was born in Wythe County, Virginia on November 3, 1793, 
the eldest of three surviving children born to Moses and Mary (Brown) Austin. In 1798, 
Moses Austin moved his family westward to the lead mining areas of southeastern 
Missouri, which was then in Spanish territory. There, Stephen's father established the 
town of Potosi and prospered with a lead mining business and general store. 

At the age of eleven, Stephen was sent to Connecticut, where he received formal 
education at the Bacon Academy. He then studied at Transylvania University in 
Lexington, Kentucky, and upon graduation at age seventeen, returned to Missouri to 
work in his father's businesses. As a young man, he served in the territorial Missouri 
legislature and was instrumental in helping the Bank of St. Louis to acquire a charter. 
When the bank failed during the Panic of 1819, the Austin family suffered great financial 

Stephen looked south to Arkansas for a new beginning. There, he was active in 
business and ran for the office of delegate to the U.S. Congress, but was defeated. In 
1820, he was appointed to be a circuit judge by the territorial governor of Arkansas. He 
served in this position only two months before moving on to New Orleans, Louisiana to 
study law. During this time, Stephen's father had traveled to San Antonio, where he 
obtained a land grant to bring three hundred families to settle in Spanish Texas. As an 
empresario, or colonization agent, Moses Austin hoped to rebuild his fortune. However, 
he died in 1821 before he could begin the venture. He left his land grant to his son, 
Stephen, with a dying request that he complete the mission. At first he was reluctant, but 
with the persuasion of his mother, Stephen F. Austin abandoned his own plans and 
pursued his father's dream and the colonization of Texas.


Only twenty-eight years old, Austin traveled to San Antonio to obtain permission 
from Spanish officials to carry out the colonization venture of his father's grant. Once 
received, he explored areas of the Texas coastal plain and selected a site between the San 
Antonio and Brazos Rivers for his colony. He then traveled back to New Orleans to 
recruit colonists with the promise of land and a climate well suited to American 
agriculture. As the first settlers began to arrive in 1821, Austin learned that Mexico had 
declared independence from Spain and furthermore, the newly formed Mexican 
government would not recognize the grant made to his father by Spain. Instead, they 
wanted to regulate colonization with general immigration laws. Austin rushed to Mexico 
City and finally succeeded in obtaining a contract with the government to settle the 300 
families. Known in Texas history as "The Old Three Hundred," they constituted the first 
legal Anglo-American settlement in Texas. Austin had thus completed the contract and 
fulfilled his father's dream. Under subsequent immigration laws of 1825, 1827, and 
1828, Stephen F. Austin received contracts to settle an additional 900 families. 

As the new Republic of Mexico opened Texas to additional settlement, the 
number of empresarios increased. Austin was the most successful, and was viewed as 
their leader. He was the official representative of the Anglo settlers in the legislature of 
the Mexican state of Coahuila y Texas. He provided leadership in the demanding work 
of the empresarios, who were responsible for both civil and military authority within their 
colonies. In addition to attracting colonists, Austin worked to develop a land system for 
permanently recording the details associated with issuing, surveying, preparing titles, and 
maintaining documents. The roots of the Texas Rangers can be traced to the small-armed 
groups Austin organized to protect the colonists. He promoted trade and the 
establishment of ports for the fast growing colonies. Austin also worked to maintain 
good relations with the central Mexican government.

By the early 1830's, however, friction between the central government and the 
Anglo settlers was growing because of tariffs and immigration laws. The Texans held 
two conventions, one in 1832 and one in 1833, to express desires for reforms. Austin 
presided over the conventions, and in April 1833, traveled to Mexico City and presented 
the petition with some success. On his way home, however, he was arrested and jailed in 
Mexico City for almost two years. Released in July 1835, Austin returned and, for a 
short time, served as the military leader of the Texans. He then represented the 
provisional Texas government to seek help from the United States in the Texas 
Revolution. Texans won their independence at the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 
1836. While Sam Houston, leader on the battlefield, was elected the first president of the 
Republic of Texas, Stephen F. Austin served loyally in Houston's cabinet as secretary of 
state until his untimely death on December 27, 1836. When he learned of Austin's death, 
Sam Houston issued an official statement declaring, "The Father of Texas is no more; the 
first pioneer of the wilderness has departed." 

Stephen F. Austin was originally buried in the Gulf Prairie Cemetery in Brazoria 
County. His body was moved to the Texas State Cemetery in Austin, where a re-burial 
took place on October 20, 1910. His headstone contains the following inscription: 
Stephen Fuller Austin, "The Father of Texas", was born in Wythe County, Virginia, 
November 3, 1793 and died in Brazoria County, Texas, December 27, 1836. Wise, 
Gentle, Courageous, and Patient. He was the founder of a mighty commonwealth. 
 Stephen F. Austin's birthday is one of twelve Texas Honor Days designated by 
The Daughters of the Republic of Texas. The D.R.T. is the oldest women's patriotic 
organization in Texas and is dedicated to the preservation and education of Texas history.