The empresario Stephen F. Austin was very successful in signing up Americans to settle Texas in 1821, even though the pioneers had to swear allegiance to Spain and that they were Catholic! Both of these allegiances to Spain were easily sworn by Americans, but impossible for the Spanish government to confirm on a continuing basis, Texas being huge and Mexico City over 800 miles away. San Antonio had beautiful Catholic missions that were well attended, but Texas was so scarcely populated that most Texans from either country held only very informal services in their home involving a few neighbors and no pastor or priest available to anyone! However, I am betting that bears, mountain lions, Indians, and rivers with no bridges inspired heartfelt prayers from every settler.
The Spanish government thought that these empresarios would tempt Spanish Catholic families to settle in Texas and build the population that would be loyal to…..Spain, but the Spanish population that wanted to settle in Texas were already here. Americans that came to Texas in the 1820’s were loyal to Spain and accepted Spanish law.
Texas was desirable to the pioneer’s because the cost of the land was about 1/10th the cost in the United States or a little over 12 cents an acre. There was a depression in the United States and many pioneers came because they needed a fresh start. The empresarios had been given huge tracts of land by the Spanish government and their job was to bring pioneers to Texas.
Many pioneer women did not want to leave the home they had because they would not have the safety, convenience and comforts of such things as a stove for cooking, comfortable beds for sleeping and most of all, a house with a roof instead of a wagon for a home. The wagons were about the size of the inside of a suburban today, but were so crowded with trunks for clothes, flour, cornmeal, sugar, coffee, seeds and ammunition that no one slept in the wagon on a regular basis. Come to Coryell Museum and see our pioneer wagon display, pioneer home, and schedule a live presentation by “The Pioneer Woman” in costume. You will have a much deeper appreciation for our life in the 21th century.
As a young man, Austin was a scholarly lawyer and was continuing to study law in another state, and was not previously involved with his father’s business of acquiring a land grant. He had no intentions of becoming a pioneer, farmer, rancher, Texas Ranger, soldier, or empresario. Austin was in the process of continuing his study of the law when his father asked him to join him in acquiring land from Spain about 1821. Moses Austin died before he could bring any settlers to Texas, but out of respect and love for his father, Stephen continued his father’s project. He used his skills as a lawyer, surveyor, and considerable administrative abilities to keep the land grant thru the turmoil of Mexico’s independence from Spain as well as several complete changes in that government. During this time he was jailed by the Mexican government for 18 months with no charges filed. He went on to successfully settle more than 1,000 pioneers in Texas, most of them from the United States.
Austin’s land grant was located between the Brazos and Colorado Rivers, an area that makes up 19 Texas counties today. His plantation, Peach Point, was at the mouth of the Brazos River on the Gulf Coast (now Brazoria County). A few years after acquiring the plantation he sold it for $300 to his sister and her husband.
Austin died in 1836, not at the Alamo or in battle, but near West Columbia, Texas, from pneumonia at age 43. He died with no heirs and left his estate to his sister Emily Austin Perry. If you want more information on Stephen F. Austin search for Austin’s Colony on the internet which was originally published on the George Ranch Historical Site.