Texas History: Moses Austin


Moses Austin was a dreamer. Much of his adult life was spent looking for the land of promise. But he never quite attained his goal. Whenever he got close to fulfilling his dream, he would lose it all. All, that is, except his final vision for Texas.

Born in 1761, Moses realized his first success in the American lead industry. To support the families of miners, he founded the town of Austinville, Virginia. But circumstances reversed themselves, so Austin moved to his next land of promise. He settled just beyond the Mississippi River in Potosi, Spanish territory (later Missouri). Predictably, circumstances changed again. So, Moses established another town, Herculaneum, Missouri, as a shipping center for his newest lead business.

Eventually, Moses Austin accrued a fortune that would be equal to just under $4 million in today's currency. To hold his wealth, Austin opened a bank that unexpectedly went into failure in the Panic of 1819. Again, he found himself bankrupt, and looking for another land of promise.

Undaunted, Moses Austin was determined to lead a group of settlers into a new land of promise, Spanish Texas. After obtaining permission from the Spanish colonial government, Moses became gravely ill and realized his physical limitations.

The elder Austin then commissioned his son, Stephen, to lead the settlers into Texas. Moses wrote on May 22, 1821 (according to the Austin Papers, University of Texas): "I can now go forward with confidence and I hope and pray [Stephen] will discharge your doubts as to the Enterprise." But Stephen hesitated.

Then Mary Austin (mother of Stephen) wrote to Stephen on June 8, 1821 (Austin Papers): "[Moses] called me to his bedside and with much distress and difficulty of speech beg(g)ed me to tell you to take his place and if (G)od in his wisdom thought best to disappoint him in the accomplishment of his wishes and plans formed, he prayed him to extend his goodness to you and enable you to go on with the business in the same way he would have done."

As history records, Stephen embraced the vision of his father and welcomed to his first colony the settlers who became known in Texas history as the Old 300 colonists. His bravery and wisdom changed Texas forever. Interestingly, Stephen, not Moses, is remembered as the “Father of Texas.”

On this Father’s Day, be reminded of the power of passing the vision on to the next generation. As Christians, we must tell our children about the mission of Christ. The Scripture says, “We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done… to teach their children, so that the next generation would know them… and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God.” (Psalm 78:4–7 NIV).

This Father’s Day, Dad, share your vision with your children. It will make a difference.

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