December 26

This Day in History

Old West

Dec 26, 1820:

Moses Austin asks Spanish for Texas colony

Hoping to recover from bankruptcy with a bold scheme of colonization, Moses Austin meets with Spanish authorities in San Antonio to ask permission for 300 Anglo-American families to settle in Texas.

A native of Durham, Connecticut, Austin had been a successful merchant in Philadelphia and Virginia. After hearing reports of rich lead mines in the Spanish-controlled regions to the west, Austin obtained permission in 1798 from the Spanish to mine land in an area that lies in what is now the state of Missouri. Austin quickly built a lead mine, smelter, and town on his property, and his mine turned a steady profit for more than a decade. Unfortunately, the economic collapse following the War of 1812 destroyed the lead market and left him bankrupt.

Determined to rebuild his fortune, Austin decided to draw on his experience with the Spanish and try to establish an American colony in Texas. In 1820, he traveled to San Antonio to request a land grant from the Spanish governor, who initially turned him down. Austin persisted and was finally granted permission to settle 300 Anglo families on 200,000 acres of Texas land.

Overjoyed, Austin immediately set out for the United States to begin recruiting colonists, but he became ill and died on the long journey back. The task of completing the arrangements for Austin's Texas colony fell to his son, Stephen Fuller Austin. The younger Austin selected the lower reaches of Colorado River and Brazos River as the site for the colony, and the first colonists began arriving in December 1821. Over the next decade, Stephen Austin and other colonizers brought nearly 25,000 people into Texas, most of them Anglo-Americans. Always more loyal to the United States than to Mexico, the settlers eventually broke from Mexico to form the independent Republic of Texas in 1836. Nine years later, they led the successful movement to make Texas an American state.

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