January 3, 1823
Stephen F. Austin receives a grant of land in Texas from the government of Mexico.
Austin’s Colony was the first legal settlement of North American families in Mexican-owned Texas. Led by the Empressario, Stephen F. Austin, an initial grant for three hundred families–the “Old 300”–in 1821 opened up Texas to a flood of American immigrants, as many as 30,000 by the time of the Texas Revolution in 1835. This colonial period that brought Anglo and African settlers from the United States into contact with the governmental and ranching traditions of Spain and Mexico helped set the course for much of Texas’ history in the 19th century–and was only overshadowed later by the discovery of oil in Texas in the 20th century.
The settlement of Austin’s colony from 1821 to 1836 has been called the most successful colonization movement in American history. Many of the historical events of Southeast Texas owe their origin to this colony. Fort Bend County was one of the most heavily populated areas of the colony.
Stephen F. Austin’s father, Moses, laid the foundation for this colony in Texas during late 1820 and 1821, but died before being able to implement his plans. Stephen, although hesitant at first, decided to finish what his father had begun. Austin travelled to San Antonio de Bexar, where he was declared the rightful heir to his father’s grant. Austin was issued an empressario contract to settle three hundred families in Spanish Texas. The Spanish demanded the settlers be, among other things, loyal to the offical government and religion of Spain. Both the government and Austin realized the necessity of having colonists of reputable character, and both made this a prerequisite for immigration. Soon after gaining this contract, the eleven-year war for Mexican Independence ended successfully, and the new Mexican government affirmed Austin’s contract to settle Texas with families from the United States.
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