The ‘Father of Texas’ is born, 225 years ago today

 

Stephen F. Austin

The ‘Father of Texas,’ Stephen F. Austin

By Tara Ross

On this day in 1793, Stephen F. Austin is born. He would come to be known as the “Father of Texas.”

Perhaps there is a twist of irony in that title? When Austin first heard of an opportunity to set up a settlement in Texas, he wasn’t so crazy about the idea.

To the contrary, it was Stephen’s father who originally wanted to go to Texas. Moses Austin’s personal finances had suffered following the Panic of 1819, and he was looking for new opportunities. He decided to seek land grants in Texas. Unfortunately, Moses passed away in the middle of the process. Thus, it was left to Stephen to take over where his father had left off.

It wasn’t easy! Ownership of Texas had changed. Although Moses had worked out a deal with Spain, the Mexican government did not want to honor it at first. Stephen traveled to Mexico City and lobbied in person, and he was eventually given permission to move forward. He was an “empresario,” with civil and military authority over the first Anglo-American settlements in Texas. More empresarios would follow, but Austin was the most successful of them, bringing as many as 1,500 families to the area. He was well-respected, and other empresarios sought his advice. As such, he found himself constantly mediating between Texan settlers and the Mexican government. You can imagine this got tricky! For instance, when Mexico banned further Anglo-American immigration into Texas in 1830, settlers were unhappy. Many had long thought that Texas would be purchased by the United States, but such a move now seemed less likely. They wanted the ban lifted. In fact, they generally felt that they should have a bigger say in their own governance. They wanted Texas to be its own state.

By 1833, matters were getting serious. Settlers wrote a list of grievances and a proposed Constitution for a new state of Texas; they elected Austin to take these items to Mexico City. Austin was worried that the move was too aggressive, but he went anyway. He ended up getting arrested for suspicion of trying to incite an insurrection. (Oops!) He wasn’t freed until July 1835.


‘War is our only resource. There is no other remedy but to defend our rights our country and our selves by force of arms. To do this we must be united.’


Austin was slow to get on board with the cause of Texas independence (he preferred conciliation with Mexico), but once he was on board, he did not turn back. As chairman of a Committee of Safety, he wrote: “War is our only resource. There is no other remedy but to defend our rights our country & our selves by force of arms. To do this we must be united.”

Austin commanded Texan forces during the Siege of Bexar, but he spent much of the (relatively short) 6-month Texas Revolution in the United States, seeking support for the “Texian” cause. When Austin returned home, he discovered that his influence had been eclipsed by that of Sam Houston, the victor at the Battle of San Jacinto. Both men were candidates in the first presidential election. Houston won. Austin came in a distant third.

Austin died only 8 months after Texas had won her independence, possibly weakened by a disease that he’d contracted during his imprisonment in Mexico. Upon hearing of Austin’s death, President Sam Houston declared: “The father of Texas is no more. The first pioneer of the wilderness has departed.”

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Tara Ross is a mother, wife, writer, and retired lawyer. She is the author of The Indispensable Electoral College: How the Founders’ Plan Saves Our Country from Mob Rule,Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College, co-author of Under God: George Washington and the Question of Church and State (with Joseph C. Smith, Jr.), & We Elect A President: The Story of our Electoral College. She is a constitutionalist, but with a definite libertarian streak! 

 

Remember Goliad!

Goliad Execution

Today is another dark day in the history of Texas. The Alamo had fallen just two weeks before and now Goliad fell on Palm Sunday, 1836, and all Texans within were executed.  But as Tara Ross says below, San Jacinto was just around the corner. Read now, Tara’s stirring account of the Battle of Goliad, and REMEMBER GOLIAD!

By Tara Ross

© 2013-2018 by Tara Ross

On this day in 1836, the Goliad Massacre takes place. Most of you have heard “Remember the Alamo!” Did you know that “Remember Goliad!” was another battle cry used by Texans?

The events at Goliad occurred just two short weeks after Texans were defeated at the Alamo.

Colonel James Fannin was then at Goliad, building reinforcements around the presidio there. When the Alamo fell, Fannin received orders from Sam Houston to withdraw. But Fannin was in a bit of a bind. Against orders, he had sent some of his soldiers to help with other expeditions. He awaited their return, and he seemed oblivious to the danger that was so quickly approaching him: Mexican General Jose de Urrea was marching toward his position with 1,000 men.

Fannin did eventually attempt a retreat, but he procrastinated too long—with fatal results.

As Fannin’s men attempted a go, they were met by Urrea and his men. A two-day battle ensued. The Texans took losses, but held their own on the first day. And to their credit, they did not attempt to escape in the middle of the night, when they could have, because they did not want to leave their wounded behind. But the next day, Mexican reinforcements arrived and the Texans were overwhelmed. Fannin surrendered on March 20, on the condition that his men be treated as prisoners of war.

Now Urrea was the one with a problem. He was not authorized to agree to such terms. The Mexican Congress had passed a law requiring that captured Texans be treated like pirates—i.e. they were to be shot. Fannin and his men were marched back to Goliad. Accounts vary, but apparently many of them thought that they would be treated honorably like prisoners of war.

Urrea wrote Mexican General Santa Anna, asking for clemency, but he apparently failed to mention that he’d agreed to Fannin’s terms. Santa Anna wrote back with an order that the Texans be executed. Not trusting Urrea to comply, he then ordered Col. José Nicolás de la Portilla to perform the execution.

Finally, on Palm Sunday, March 27, those Texans who could walk were marched out of Goliad. They were told various stories about where they were going. Less than a mile out, the guards stopped the captives and began firing at close range. Those who were too wounded to march were executed, separately, behind the presidio. Roughly 340 men were massacred that day. A little less than 30 men escaped. A few, such as doctors, were spared because of the services that they could provide.

Fannin was among the last to be shot. He had just a few requests: He did not want to be shot in the face, he wanted his personal belongings to be sent to his family, and he wanted a Christian burial. He was denied every one of these requests.

The Alamo and Goliad were dark days for the Texan effort. But the Battle of San Jacinto was just around the corner! Texans were mere weeks away from earning their independence.

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If you enjoy these history posts, please know that it is important to LIKE, SHARE & COMMENT. This site’s algorithm will weed these posts out of your newsfeed if you do not interact with them. (I don’t make the rules! Just following them.) 😉

Gentle reminder: History posts are copyright © 2013-2018 by Tara Ross. I appreciate it when you use the Facebook “share” feature instead of cutting/pasting.

#TDIH #OTD #AmericanHistory #USHistory #liberty#freedom #ShareTheHistory

 

 

 

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