The Family of Stephen F. Austin

Stephen Fuller Austin was born in 1793 in Virginia to Moses Austin (1761-1821) and Maria “May” Brown (1768-1824). Stephen was one of five children, three of whom lived to adulthood. The two oldest siblings died as infants: Anna Maria (1787-1787) and Eliza Fuller (1790-1790). Next to be born was Stephen, then Emily (1795-1851) followed by James (1803-1829).

Moses Austin, their father, was born in Durham, Connecticut and was one of at least about thirteen children. Moses married Maria Brown in 1787 and for many years was known to have been in the lead mining business in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Richmond, Virginia. Ultimately those businesses failed and in 1797, Moses relocated his family to the area that became Missouri, though at the time was still a property of Spain. The Louisiana Purchase occurred a few years later in 1803, adding the area to the United States. There Moses was again in the business of mining.

Moses prospered in Missouri for a number of years before a bank and business failure led him to look to Texas to make a new start. Being somewhat familiar with Spanish laws and customs, in the years leading up to around 1820, Moses began to consider trying to found a new colony of like minded people in Texas, which was somewhat sparsely inhabited at that time.

Moses was not successful at first in receiving the approval of the governor, but he was persistent and eventually obtained permission to settle 300 families in Texas. He set about with his son Stephen to organize the project, but took sick, possibly from exposure on his long trips, and died on June 10, 1821. Stephen F. Austin completed the settlement and it was successful in placing about 300 families in the area that presently lies west of Houston. Austin worked hard to make the project successful and lived to see it, though he died in 1836 while serving as secretary of state of the new Republic of Texas.

His brother James Elijah Brown Austin was the head of one of the families in the colony. James had married Eliza Martha Westall. Together they had one son, Stephen Fuller Austin II, who was born in 1829 and died at about age 8. James E. B. Austin had contracted yellow fever and died while on a business trip to New Orleans at the age of 26 on August 24, 1829. James E. B. Austin’s property became the core of the Osceola Plantation. His widow Eliza first married Zeno Phillips. After Phillips died, she then married widower William Green Hill. Hill had served in the Texas Army in 1835 and 1836 and had participated in numerous battles including the Battle of Concepción, the Grass Fight and the Siege of Béxar. Eliza had a daughter Sarah Olivia Phillips with Zeno Phillips and a son Charles Norfleet Hill with William Green Hill. Eliza passed away in 1847, Zeno Phillips had passed earlier in 1835 and William Green Hill died in 1860.

Charles Norfleet Hill (1846-1902) married Q. B. Cash (1835-1933). They had several children, one of whom also named Charles Norfleet Hill (1887-1942) was sheriff of Harris County for a number of years until he died in a tragic incident characterized as a murder-suicide that took place in the sheriff’s office. Both he and a constable or deputy succumbed to gunshot wounds.

Stephen F. Austin’s sister Emily Margaret Brown Austin (1795-1851) inherited her brother Stephen’s property upon his death in 1836. She was first married to James Bryan (1789-1822) in 1813. James Bryan was in the mining and real estate business. Emily and James had at least five children: Stephen Austin Bryan who was born and died in 1814, William Joel Bryan, Moses Austin Bryan, Guy Morrison Bryan and Mary Elizabeth Bryan. The town of Bryan, Texas appears to be named for William Joel Bryan who had donated land for the Houston and Texas Central Railroad as it came through Brazos County, as opposed to having been named for the father James Bryan or the famous lawyer and presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925), both of whom are sometimes noted to be the town’s namesake.

After James Bryan’s death, Stephen’s sister Emily married James F. Perry (1790-1853) in 1824. Together they had at least six children: Stephen Samuel Perry, Emily Rosanna Perry, Eliza Margaret Perry, James Elijah Perry, Henry Austin Perry and Cecelia Perry. Emily’s property became the Peach Point Plantation.

Moses Austin came from a large family. He had a brother, Elijah (1751-1794). Elijah Austin had a daughter named Mary Phelps Austin who was married to Horace Holley who died in 1827. Though for economic reasons she apparently never made Texas her permanent residence, she obtained land from her cousin Stephen F. Austin in the Galveston area. Mary Austin Holley was a poet and author and later wrote Texas: Observations, Historical, Geographic and Descriptive and dedicated it to her cousin Stephen. Her volume is called the first book in English devoted entirely to Texas.

It is not unusual to think of Moses and Stephen Austin as being the main focal points of the Austin family, but as the above comments note, there were many other interesting family members either descended from them or related by marriage to one of Stephen’s two siblings.

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