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Southeast Missouri had a key role in the road to Missouri statehood in 1817-1821. The events leading to statehood, and some of the events, people, and lifeways in the area may be unfamiliar to many modern-day Missourians. Currently, Missouri is celebrating its Bicentennial, and this program aims to summarize the events leading to statehood, some of the factors affecting Missouri’s entry into the Union, and how people lived and worked during that time 200 years ago.Every Friday morning at 6:42 and 8:42 a.m. and Saturday morning at 8:18 a.m., Bill Eddleman highlights the people, places, ways of life, and local events in Southeast Missouri in 1821.The theme music for the show ("The Missouri Waltz") is provided by Old-Time Missouri Fiddler Charlie Walden, host of the podcast "Possum’s Big Fiddle Show."

Missouri Bicentennial Minutes: Death of Moses Austin, Frontier Entrepreneur

Public Domain
Portrait of Moses Austin made before his death in 1821.

This week we commemorate the death of Moses Austin, who succumbed on June 10, 1821 at the home of his daughter, Emily Bryan, in Ste. Genevieve. Austin was born in Durham, Connecticut October 4, 1761.

After his experience with lead mining in Virginia, Austin read of the potential in Spanish Louisiana, and traveled to southeast Missouri in 1796. He visited Mine á Breton, now Potosi, and requested this land from the Spanish government. The Spanish granted permission to immigrate, and Austin led a group to Missouri in June 1798. Austin began development at Mine á Breton, including construction of a mansion, Durham Hall.

The new mine prospered, and Austin profited from lead mining, renting land, and selling merchandise. He pioneered new technologies, and expanded transportation routes. However, beginning in 1807, Austin experienced financial setbacks including lower lead prices, delays in selling shipments, loss of workers, the War of 1812, and the Panic of 1819. His debts led to imprisonment for debt and the government seizing Mine á Breton.

Austin’s finances crumbled, and he began to think of leaving Missouri. He traveled to Spanish Texas and petitioned its governor to allow settlement by 300 American families. Contracting pneumonia on the return trip, he spent weeks recovering. Upon returning, he found his colonization petition approved.

Austin never recovered from ill health. He tried to settle his finances, but could barely reach Emily’s home. He delegated the colonizing of Texas to his son Stephen F. Despite his dying in debt, we remember him for development of Potosi and Herculaneum, improvements in transportation and trade networks, and mining innovations. Mostly, we commemorate him for Texas settlement.

Bill Eddleman was born in Cape Girardeau, and is an 8th-generation Cape Countian. His first Missouri ancestor came to the state in 1802. He attended SEMO for two years before transferring to the University of Missouri to study Fisheries and Wildlife Biology. He stayed at Mizzou to earn a master of science in Fisheries and Wildlife, and continued studies in Wildlife Ecology at Oklahoma State University.
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