Unit 5: Mexican National. Section Three Notes - Americans Settle in Texas. Moses Austin.
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Section Three Notes - Americans Settle in Texas
Moses Austin was a wealthy bank owner and land investor until the financial “Panic of 1819”. This depression caused many people to lose all their money and everything they owned, including Moses. In an effort to make his fortune back, Moses Austin decided that he would try to establish a colony in Texas for profit.
In December of 1820, Moses Austin arrived in San Antonio. He hoped to meet the governor and ask for permission to settle a colony in Texas. Since he was a U.S. citizen, the governor was suspicious of Moses and he sent him away. On his way out of town, he met an old friend, Baron de Bastrop, who helped him convince the governor to approve Austin’s plan.
As they headed back to Austin’s home in Missouri, Moses Austin and the slave traveling with him, Richmond, were attacked by a fellow traveler. They had to walk the rest of the way, and both men became gravely ill. Moses Austin later found out that he would be allowed to bring 300 Catholic families to Texas, but he feared he would die before that happened. He asked his son Stephen to take his place.
After his father’s death, Austin traveled to Texas to meet with Governor Martínez. He was escorted by ErasmoSeguín, the alcalde of San Antonio, and Baron de Bastrop. While there, he found out that since his father’s death, Mexico has won its independence from Spain. He would have to make a new agreement with the young Mexican government. He spent part of the time in Texas exploring land for his colony.
While waiting for approval from the Mexican government, Austin decided to set the terms for his new colony. There were rules for the colony though, such as no drinking, gambling, or profane language. He expected the people of his colony to respect Mexican laws, traditions, and religion.
Heads of households could receive 640 acres of land, while married men could get an extra 320, plus 160 acres for each child in the family. An extra 80 would be added per slave for a slaveholder. They could receive extra land for bringing devices like cotton gins. He charged 12.5 cents per acre and would write up a land title for the owner.
What Austin offered was better than anything in the United States, where land was much more expensive and had to be paid for upfront and with cash. This was impossible for most people. Most saw Austin’s requirements as reasonable, even though they had to become Mexican citizens and Catholic to own land in Texas. The people of Austin’s colony settled along the Brazos and Colorado Rivers, and Austin helped the people adjust to frontier life as best he could.
Not long after arriving at his colony, Stephen was called back to Mexico City to finalize his contract. While in Mexico, he formed strong ties with Mexican officials, which helped his colony succeed. But when Austin was away, many problems began to emerge in his colony. Their crops were ruined from a drought, people were starving, and they were often being attacked by the Karankawa and Tonkawa Indians. Austin created a militia to fight the Indians and helped to set up a colonial government, which promoted a mixture of Spanish and U.S. law.
By 1824, Austin nearly fulfilled his contract by having 297 families in his colony. They became known as The Old Three Hundred. Most were from the southern United States and were very well educated. Jane Long, the wife of filibuster Dr. James Long, was one of the Old Three Hundred. She survived many hardships and become one of the most well known women in Texas for her spirit and resilience. She is now known as the “Mother of Texas.”
In 1824, Austin founded San Felipe de Austin along the Brazos River, which would be the capital of his colony. It soon became the heart of his colony and the second-largest business center in Texas, after San Antonio. Because of the success of his first colony, Austin was given permission to create four more between 1825 and 1831.
Because of the success of Austin’s colony, the Mexican government tried to encourage more immigration into Texas with the National Colonization Law of 1824. Then the state of Coahuila y Texas passed their own State Colonization Law of 1825. It allowed empresarios, or businessmen who promoted settlement, to bring more people into Texas. For every 200 families an empresario brought, they would receive 67,000 acres of land!
Martin de Leon was a Mexican empresario who
settled 200 families in South Texas. His colony
was located between the Lavaca and Guadalupe
Rivers. He and his wife founded the town of
Victoria in 1824.
Green DeWitt was an American empresario like
Stephen F. Austin. He is important because he
settled 166 families in Texas near present-day
Twenty five other colonies were established in Texas by other empresarios, such as Ben Milam and Haden Edwards. Some of them were European, such as Arthur G. Wavell of Scotland, and Irishmen John McMullen and James McGloin, who founded San Patricio (meaning St. Patrick in Spanish). Other famous empresarios include David G. Burnet and Lorenzo de Zavala, who established colonies in East Texas.
In all, the Mexican government gave contracts to 40 empresarios, which brought about a population boom of almost 20,000 people in Texas by 1830. Stephen F. Austin is the most famous and important of all the empresarios. In just 10 years, he brought 1,500 families to Texas. He was intelligent and soft-spoken, and won the respect and trust of Mexican officials and American Indians. He is now known as the Father of Texas!