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Austin, Stephen Fuller

AUSTIN, STEPHEN FULLER (1793-1836), American pioneer, was born in Austinville, Wythe county, Virginia, on the 3rd of November 1793. He was the son of Moses Austin (1767-1821), a native of Durham, Connecticut, who in 1820 obtained from Mexico a grant of land for an American colony in Texas, but died before he could carry out his project. The son was educated in New London, Connecticut, and at Transylvania University, Lexington, Kentucky, and settled in Missouri, where he was a member of the territorial legislature from 1813 to 1819. In 1819 he removed to Arkansas Territory, where he was appointed a circuit judge. After his father's death he obtained a confirmation of the Texas grants from the newly established Mexican government, and in 1821-1823 he established a colony of several hundred American families on the Brazos river, the principal town being named, in his honour, San Felipe de Austin. He was a firm defender of the rights of the Americans in Texas, and in 1833 he was sent to the city of Mexico to present a petition from a convention in Texas praying for the erection of a separate state government. While there, despairing of success for his petition, he wrote home recommending the organization of a state without waiting for the consent of the Mexican congress. This letter falling into the hands of the Mexican government, Austin, while returning home, was arrested at Saltillo, carried as a prisoner back to Mexico, and imprisoned for a year without trial. Returning to Texas in 1835, he found the Texans in armed revolt against Mexican rule, and was chosen commander-in-chief of the revolutionary forces, but after failing to take San Antonio he resigned the command, for which he had never considered himself fitted, and in November 1835 went to the United States as a commissioner to secure loans and supplies, and to learn the position the United States authorities would be likely to take in the event of a declaration of Texan independence. He succeeded in raising large sums, and received assurances that satisfied him that Americans would look with great favour on an independent Texas. Returning to Texas in the summer of 1836, he became a candidate, rather reluctantly, for the presidency of the newly established republic of Texas, but was defeated by Samuel Houston, under whom he was secretary of state until his sudden death on the 7th of December 1836.

See A Comprehensive History of Texas, edited by D.G. Wooten (2 vols., Dallas, 1898).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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