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Death of Stephen F. Austin

Known as the Father of Texas, Stephen F. Austin, who succeeded his father Moses Austin as empresario of the Austin Colony, died on December 27, 1836. He had previously campaigned for the presidency of the new Republic of Texas but had overwhelmingly lost to Sam Houston. Houston and Austin had been competitors at times, but they also appear to have remained personally cordial, if not even friendly. Upon winning the election, Houston appointed Austin to be secretary of state. One of Austin’s primary duties was to seek recognition for the Republic of Texas from the United States.

In Light Townsend Cummins’ biography of Emily Austin Bryan Perry, “Emily Austin of Texas, 1795 – 1851” he says that Austin had been renting a room in Columbia (now known as West Columbia, Brazoria County, Texas) to make it more convenient to perform his duties as secretary of state. At the time, Columbia served as the capital of Texas. The room that Austin was renting was a side room of another residence. It had no stove or fireplace. Austin is believed to have suffered from a chronic respiratory condition and it is believed that in December, 1836 he took ill. A “norther” had hit the area, further aggravating his respiratory condition. His secretary and nephew by Emily, Moses Austin Bryan, had sought medical assistance for him and Austin came under the care of Dr. Branch Tanner Archer. After seeming to improve on Christmas Day, his condition again declined and late in the evening of December 27, 1836 in the company of family, friends and his doctor Archer, he died at the age of 43.

His sister Emily Austin Bryan Perry arranged for him to be buried at Gulf Prairie Cemetery, about seventeen miles to the southeast of Columbia, across the road from the Gulf Prairie Presbyterian Church. Emily’s daughter Mary Elizabeth (Austin’s 11 year old niece) had died three years earlier, possibly of cholera, and had been buried there. Numerous others in the Bryan family would later be buried there. Austin’s funeral appears to have been held at the grave site and was attended by Sam Houston along with Austin’s friends and family members. Among his remarks, Houston is said to have stated, “The father of Texas is no more.” Following Austin’s death, Houston declared a period of mourning.

Austin had a young nephew who was named for him. He was Stephen F. Austin II, the son of Austin’s brother James Elijah Brown Austin and Martha Elizabeth “Eliza” Westall Austin. His brother James had settled in the area on a plantation site just north of Columbia which fronted the Brazos River. James and his wife were engaging in agriculture on the land. He had been on a business trip to New Orleans and come down with yellow fever just as he was about to return to Columbia. He suffered for about three days before he passed away in New Orleans. James was only about twenty-six years old when he died in 1829, the same year in which his son Stephen F. Austin II was born.

James’ widow Eliza Westall Austin then married another colonist by the name of Zeno Phillips in 1830 and the couple had one daughter. Stephen F. Austin II came to live with the Perry family who resided not far away and began to go to school. Eliza’s husband Zeno Phillips died in 1835. The following year, Eliza married again, this time to William G. Hill to whom she would remain married and have a number of more children until her own death in 1847.

Austin’s brother in law, Emily’s husband James Perry, served as his executor. The exact disposition of the estate of Stephen F. Austin is unclear. Most accounts say that the bulk of Stephen F. Austin’s estate passed to his surviving sister, Emily. However, there is some mention of some portion of the estate that was to pass to his nephew, Stephen F. Austin II, though the youth passed away the following year in 1837 at age 8. Emily lived until 1851 and passed her property on to her son William Joel Bryan, from her first marriage to James Bryan (1789-1822).

As an aside, a 1951 West Texas newspaper article mentioned a watch that had been inherited by a Tahoka, Texas resident named Frank Bryan. Frank was a great grandson of Moses Austin Bryan, the nephew of Stephen F. Austin and son of Emily. The watch had originally been owned by the father of Stephen F. Austin, Moses Austin, and had been passed down to other family members after Stephen F. Austin’s death.

Image credit: texashistory.unt.edu

Austin’s remains were removed to the Texas State Cemetery in 1910. Texas governor Oscar Branch Colquitt commissioned a statue (pictured above) by the sculptor Pompeo Coppini to be mounted on a granite monument.

Governor James V. Allred authorized a granite marker at Gulf Prairie Cemetery for Austin’s initial grave site in 1936 in connection with the Texas Centennial. This site eventually fell into disrepair but it was restored in the 1990s by a Houston, Texas businessman. A rededication ceremony was held in 1994. Reenactments of the Austin funeral have been held in the past. One feature is a 23 gun salute, as opposed to the more familiar military 21 gun salute. This practice originated with Sam Houston who had ordered 23 guns to be fired to commemorate the number of counties that existed at the time of Austin’s death.

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Posted by on October 21, 2021 in republic of texas, sam houston

 

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Harry James

Trumpeter Harry Haag James was born on March 15, 1916 to Everett Robert James and Maybelle Myrtle James in Albany, Georgia. His father played trumpet and was working as a conductor for traveling circus bands. His mother also had a circus background, but as a performer. She had been an acrobat and horseback rider.

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Posted by on October 14, 2021 in biography, entertainers

 

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Marion Stegeman Hodgson, Winning Her Wings

Marian Stegeman Hodgson was born December 16, 1921 in Athens, Georgia. She earned her degree in journalism from the University of Georgia in the spring of 1941, not quite six months prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Around that time the federal government had instituted a flight training program called the Civilian Pilot Training Program, or CPT, and during her senior year, she was selected to participate. Part of the planning was to admit one female for every ten male trainees.

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Posted by on October 7, 2021 in aviation, biography, world war 2

 

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Ralph Fults

Ralph Smith Fults was born January 23, 1911 to Audy Barlow Fults and Sophia Delia Bush Fults in Anna, Texas in Collin County. The couple resided in North Texas as early as 1900, per the federal census. Audy Fults was a mail carrier in Collin County and Ralph was the third of eight children born to the couple. Shortly after Ralph was born, the couple moved the short distance to McKinney.

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Posted by on September 30, 2021 in bonnie and clyde, outlaws and crimes

 

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Sam Rayburn

Samuel Taliferro Rayburn was born January 6, 1882 on a farm near Kingston, Roane County, Tennessee to William Marion Rayburn and Martha Clementine Waller Rayburn. He was the seventh of their eleven children. His father, William Marion Rayburn, had served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. The Rayburns were a farming family. Sam was five years old when the family moved to Fannin County, Texas in 1887, settling on a forty acre farm where they raised cotton. He received his education in Texas. There was not enough money to pay for all of the siblings’ schooling and the family story was that Sam was sent off to college with $25 cash from his family. Rayburn enrolled at East Texas Normal College (later known as East Texas State and Texas A&M University-Commerce) and worked his way through the early days of his schooling by sweeping floors for $3 per month. While he was a student, he began to work as a teacher. Upon completing his Bachelor of Science degree, he enrolled in the law school at University of Texas in Austin. He did not earn a law degree, as far as we can determine, but upon completion of his studies, he was admitted to the state bar of Texas in 1908. His political career had begun two years earlier when he won an election to the Texas House of Representatives. Rayburn served two more terms before being elected in 1912 as a United States Representative.

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Posted by on September 23, 2021 in biography

 

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