When Spain conquered the Aztecs, the area that is now Mexico & Southwest United States became the crown jewel of it's empire & was named New Spain. The area north of the Rio Grande was not considered a valuable part of that jewel until 1685 when French explorer La Salle landed in Matagorda & began claiming the area for France. La Salle's men were repulsed by the local Indians & La Salle himself was shot by his own men. In order to prevent further encroachment from the French & Anglo adventurers, Spain embarked on a program of "missionizing" the local Indian tribes. The missions, working in tandem with their military arm, the presidio, would essentially convert the Indians into Spaniards & serve as a protective northern buffer to their southern empire. The missions were moderately successful but Spain still had one problem, population. There simply wasn't enough Spaniards & converted Indians to populate the vass area that continued to be plagued by Comanche raids.To solve this problem Spain employed a new technique, the empresario. Under this plan Spain agreed to relax its immigration policy & provide land grants to Anglo-American empresarios to colonize the sparsely populated area. In 1820 Moses Austin with the help of an old acquaintance Felipe Enrique Neri Baron de Bastrop, convinced Governor Antonio Maria Martinez to accept his plan to colonize Texas. Austin became the first such empresario to be awarded a colonization contract which allowed him to bring 300 families to the area. Before he could enact his plan, Moses died & the contract went to his son Stephen F. Austin who would become "The Father of Texas". Moses' agreement was with Spain, but by the time Stephen inherited the contract Mexico had won it's independence & Texas would be a Mexican province under the rule of self-appointed Emperor Augustin de Iturbide who rescinded the colonization idea. In 1823 Iturbide was deposed & with the Constitution of 1824 Mexico became a federation of states & after numerous delays, Austin's contract was honored. Between 1824 & 1828 Austin awarded titles to 297 heads of households which would become known as "The Old 300". By 1834 the population went from 3,500 with most being Mexican to 37,800 with only 7,800 being Mexican.
Born in Virginia & raised in Missouri, The Father of Texas, Stephen Fuller Austin, led the first legal anglo colonization of Texas by bringing 300 families, known as "The Old 300", from the United States. He would devote the best part of his life to the cause of Texas, traveling to Mexico on her behalf & to the United States for support that would never come. He served as Houston's Secretary of State until his untimely death on December 27th, 1836, a mere eight months after the Battle of San Jacinto. His last words were, "The independence of Texas is recognized! Don't you see it in the papers?"
Mission San Juan Capistrano
Mission San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo
Monument & statue commemorating the site of Stephen F. Austins first colony. Stephen F. Austin State Historic Site, San Felipe, TX
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