Austin’s Three Hundred

1833 map of Coahuila and Texas

Above is an 1833 map of Coahuila and what we now know as Texas—the pink area on the gulf was the land reserved for Austin’s colony. This land belonged to Mexico at the time, not the United States or Texas.

Above is a photo I took of a map of Austin’s Colony through glass when I visited Washington-on-the Brazos in 2013. The most obvious squiggly line coming up from the lower right is the Brazos River near which most of the plantations settled. You can also see how many rivers and streams cover the area, nothing like the dry plans most people think of when they consider West Texas. In many ways, East Texas is more like Louisiana, with moss-covered live oaks, rolling hills, mosquitoes and, at the time, even an alligator or three.

After Mexico’s revolution from Spain in 1822, Stephen Austin went to Mexico City and received a grant affirmed by the new government.

The first colonists had actually arrived in December 1821 on New Years Creek and stated it was a “never failing rock bottom creek that lies in a gentle valley with wood and water readily available.”

Most of the three hundred settled along the west side of the Brazos River. Each family engaged in farming was to receive one labor (about 177 acres) and each ranching family one sitio (about 4,428 acres). Each family’s sitio was to have a frontage on the river equal to about one-fourth of its length. Most of the labors were arrange in three groups around San Felipe de Austin, which form the nucleus of the colony.

Many were farmers and many had substantial means before they arrived.

My main character’s papa, Paien Villere (At What Cost, Silence?), arrived on his tract, or sitio, from Virginia with his overseer, his wife Isabella, and his few slaves in July 1824.

In 1830 a Mexican decree temporarily stops colonization in Texas, California and other territories.

Mexico also tried to prohibit slaves, but influential settler Austin reasoned that the success of his colonies needed slave labor and the economics it produced to lure more whites to the area, and he used his relationships to get an exemption from the law in the Austin Colony.

In 1832 Paien’s first son Lucien is born and Isabella dies in childbirth. The slave Rosanne Hayes take over the house and raises Lucien.

In 1833 Austin returns to Mexico City to present a petition for separate statehood, but was kept in prisons for most of two years. The petition was denied.

In 1835 Texas secedes from Mexico.

Why I Wrote the Texian Trilogy

Why historical? Why Civil War? Why Texas? Why Survivors?

I have always loved history. I love a story that makes me feel I am in that place and time. That’s one of the reason I read. When I read, I’m gone. Don’t talk to me. Knock me on the head if you want my attention.

Three-year-old me "reading" the funnies in 1946.

I have been a Civil War buff since junior high or middle school. What a grand tragedy was the American Civil War. A fairly new country ripped apart. Families split, brother against brother. Romantic South versus industrial North. The slave question and so much more. Ripe for all kinds of drama and character development. Much has been written about the eastern states, less about the western theater, and little about Texas’s involvement. While researching the web I discovered the (now deleted) diaries and journals of Terry’s Texas Rangers. After reading those journals, I found my main character and only needed to flesh him out.

In researching Texas, I discovered Stephen Austin’s Three Hundred, southern families who, with the permission of Mexico, began settling along the Brazos River in 1822. I now own a copy of Austin’s Old Three Hundred, The First Anglo Colony in Texas, as written by their descendants, and edited by Wolfram M. Von-Maszewski. I’ll add a few of the more fascinating gems from this later, citing the book, of course. The two plantation families in my novel, one growing cotton, the other tobacco, are members of this dainty group.

With my husband at the time I traveled by RV to Texas and Louisiana where At What Cost, Silence takes place—beautiful country. 

Pond and bluebonnets, Washington County, East Texas

Recalling my childhood friend Billy, who was bullied for wearing his mom’s dresses and heels, along with my own personal experience combined with the former to motivate me to write this particular story.

Last, but definitely not least, perhaps I should have written my memoir first, in order to understand why I write at all. But Mary and I survived throughout all those years in our stories and, darn, if here with Mary’s help isn’t a story that is actually making it to publication!

Years of research, writing, and editing later, I have At What Cost, Silence, a draft of the following novel, War and Preservation, and have begun scenes of the third and final novel.