Almost Yesterday: The Missouri Origins of Texas

Feb 3, 2021

It seems like Almost Yesterday that the territory Americans know as Texas began – from its origins in Southeast Missouri.

In 1796 a young man from Connecticut left his home and moved west in response to stories of vast quantities of lead in the Missouri country.  With a large land grant from the Spanish government, Moses Austin initiated the Missouri lead industry and established a number of mining communities with essential roads, bridges, stores, mills, and labor.

The geographic center of this early Missouri mining industry was in the vicinity of Potosi, named for the Bolivian mining center of Potosi.  The outlet for the tons of lead produced in this region was Herculaneum on the Mississippi River and by 1817 a very wealthy Moses Austin turned his mines over to his son Stephen and moved to Herculaneum.

The economic panic of 1819 significantly impacted the Austin wealth and in 1821 Moses Austin traveled to Spanish Texas where he received permission to bring 300 American families to the area, the first grant permitting Americans to move into what would become Texas. But, on his return to his home in Missouri, Austin became ill and died.  Today Moses Austin rests in the City Cemetery in Potosi, Missouri.

Following the death of his father, Stephen F. Austin took over the grant and by 1825 had 300 American families identified in Texas history as “The Old Three Hundred,” into the Mexican province of Coahuila. By 1829 Austin had an additional 900 families in the region, and American Texas was born. In 1836 -  the year of the Alamo - “The Father of Texas,” Stephen F. Austin died and is buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin.

It was in 1821 that the American migration that resulted in the origins of Texas began and it originated in Southeast Missouri.

It seems like Almost Yesterday.