In Their Own Words: Stephen F. Austin

In 1820–1821, Moses Austin applied for and was eventually granted a contract to settle families in Texas. Unfortunately, on his return trip to Missouri, he contracted pneumonia and would be unable to carry out his dream. His son, Stephen Fuller Austin, took up the cause, despite his lack of enthusiasm for his father’s colonization plan. In June 1821, Stephen F. Austin traveled to Texas for the first time and kept a journal of his travels. While on their way to San Antonio, Austin received the news that his father had died. Later in the trip, Austin and the others heard the news that Mexico had won its independence from Spain. The following selection from Austin’s journal details part of his journey from New Orleans to San Antonio in the summer of 1821.

Photo Credit: The State Historical Society of Missouri, Photograph Collection (029292)

On the 18th June 1821 started from New Orleans in the steam boat Beaver for the Province of Texas in company with Wilson late a Lieut. in the U. S. army, J Beard a saddler from St. Louis, & Doctor Hewitson.

On the 20th took in — — Little at the mouth of Red River one of my party — — Arrived at Nachitoches on the 26th and found Joseph E. Seguin and Berrimandi [Veramendi] and several other Spaniards from St. Antonio, who were waiting the arrival of my father to deliver him the confirmation of his grant from the Spanish Govt. Made an arrangement to go on with them. Purchased mules for the Trip, and other necessary articles —

On the 2d July Mr. Lovelace and par[t]y from Catahoula joined me, and on the 3d July the company all started from N. except Wilson the Spaniards and myself.

July 4, dined at Sibley; and in the evening attended a Ball.

July 5, was detained by one of the horses straying out of the way.

July 6 found the Horse that was missing and started, stayed at Capt Ivins Mo. the Capt. & his man Fryday, being both drunk had a furious quarrel, and parted 11 o’clock at night — buried a dead Cat that Quin had in the chimney corner for a nosegay — (Item, habit even familiarises man to the smell of Carrion) Suped on half a cup miserable Coffee & 1 biscuit — Slept on the floor (a dirt floor) —

July 7 came to where the company were camped near McGuffins, & found that a mule had left them, in search of which Wilson had returned to Town Spent this day in looking for the mules.

July 8 Wilson still out, Mr. John Lovelace very sick with fever — Wilson returned at night, no news of the mule — On the evening of the 8th heard of the runaway mule, & gave Spaniard 2.50 to bring him in, which he did in a few hours & no doubt had him tied out for the purpose of getting the reward — Swapped away Wilsons Horse & an old Grey (both of whom had given out) for a amule, & exchanged a french saddle for a Spanish one —

July 9. In the morning had a race of about two miles to catch the runaway mule, who outrun us all hobbled, tied head & foot & with a long Cabrass & bell on —

Mr. John Lewis too sick to proceed, & left us to return home to Catahoula — accompanied by [name omitted in original]

About 10 o’clock the company started from McGuffins to wit — Edward Lovelace, Neel, Gasper — Bellew — Henry Holsten, from Catahoula — Wm. Wilson from District of Columbia late Leut. U. S. Army — James Beard from St. Louis — William Little from St. Louis — Doctor Hewitson — — — Irwin — and W. Smithers from Indian and G. Bush from Nachitoches, the two last I emploied as hunters for the company during the trip & agreed to furnish them with ammunition and let them come into the settlement on an equal footing with the other settlers — Bush furnished a horse for himself & Smithers Wilson mounted on the Black mule Beard on Bay horse, Little on a brown mule, 3 mules for packs, I rode Little’s horse — left Thomas at Mc Guffins — 8 miles from McG. came to the first waters of Sabine — Smithers and Lovelace killed a deer, and we camped at Lanan creek 15 miles —

July 10 — At day light this morning Mr. Barnum (one of my company who we left at Nachitoches) overtook us and communicated to me the sad tidings of my Fathers death — — — this melancholy news came to Nachitoches in a letter to Dr. Sibley & Barnum stated that Sibley had forwarded letters to me which would overtake me at Camp Ripley on Sabine — I started on with a heavy heart and stoped at Camp Ripley, the Company crossed the Sabine & camped in the Province of Texas — I stayed this night at Forsythes —

July 11. I found that Bush was a worthless fellow and discharged him — Smithers agreed to remain at Forsythes — engaged 2 bushels of cold flour, & 50 lbs bacon — spent the day at Forsythes settling some business relative to Richmond —

July 12 not receiving the letters from Nachi — I determined to return after them 7 started back, got to Buckers —

July 13, went to Nachitoches to breakfast — and found that Dr. Sibley had forwarded the papers by Erasmo —

July 14 Started out again & overtook Don Erasmo & the other Spaniards 14 in number at the Lanan & camped with them — reed. letters from my friend Hawkins & one from Dr. Sibley and some newspapers. The unhappy intelligence of my Fathers death was confirmed beyond a doubt, he died on 10th June —

July 15 — Arrived at Sabine — Stayed at Camp Ripley where Wilson was waiting for me.

Monday July 16 Started from Camp Ripley and entered the Province of Texas. Stayed at Amberson’s (Boreg Creek) 8 miles, the first 4 miles fine timber & poor land — we then suddenly came to a open rolling country thinly Timbered soil about the color of Spanish Browne, & in some places redder — this red land is very productive and is covered with the most luxuriant growth of Grass I ever beheld in any country, almost any of it would produce as much hay as the best meddows. the country so far is well watered.


This selection taken from “Journal of Stephen F. Austin on His First Trip to Texas, 1821.” The Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association . Vol. 7, №4 (APRIL, 1904), pp. 286–307

The original of this journal is located in The Austin Papers, 1676, 1765–1889, Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.