Moses Austin

Moses Austin (1761–1821), was the founder of the American lead industry and the first man to obtain permission to bring Anglo-American settlers into Spanish Texas. He was married and had five children, one of them Stephen F. Austin. Austin moved his company to Richmond, Virginia where he started the Moses Austin and Company.

In 1789 Austin got a contract to roof the Virginia capitol in lead, and since the state promised to pay five percent above market price if Moses used Virginia lead, he gained control of Virginia’s richest lead deposit. As a result, he made friendships with people in important positions. Sales were soon down due to depressed conditions and Austin joined others trying to increase the money supply in circulation by founding the Bank of St. Louis. The bank failed in 1819, and Austin was in financial trouble.

Austin developed a plan in 1819 for settling an American colony in Spanish Texas. After the Adams-Onis Treaty clarified Spanish title to Texas, Austin went to San Antonio looking for permission to bring his colonists. He was refused by Governor Antonio Maria Martinez, but a chance meeting with the Baron de Bastrop turned things around for him. Bastrop liked Austin’s enthusiasm for his colonization plan, and the baron brought him back to the governor to request permission for Austin to establish the colony. On December 26, 1820 Governor Martinez approved and forwarded the plan to higher authority.

On his trip out of Texas, Moses got pneumonia from four weeks of wet and cold weather. Shortly after he got home, he heard that he was given permission to build his colony. He ignored his bad health and focused on his colony. Austin lived for two more months. Right before he died, Moses told his wife that he wanted his son, Stephen, to build the colony.

Source: Moses Austin
Copyright © Texas State Historical Association

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