Who were these original settlers of Austin’s Colony? When I visited Washington County a couple years ago, a found a book titled Austin’s Old Three Hundred that listed short biographies of most of these families. Here are a number of anecdotes from the book.
“To become a member of Austin’s original colony, someone had to swear to the settler’s good character. Austin’s rules of the colony provided that ‘no frontiersman who has no other occupation than that of hunter will be received—no drunkard, no gambler, no profane swearer, no idler.'”
Some arrived flush, others did not:
“In Texas in 1823 dress material or any kind of cloth sold for seven to ten dollars a yard, a cake of soap was a dollar and a quarter, buttons were a dollar a dozen, men’s socks were a dollar and a quarter a pair, and silk handkerchiefs were two dollars each. Few Texians could afford these things.”
“In his twentieth year, Jesse [Burnam} wrote, I married an orphan girl, named Temperance Baker, I made rails for a jack-leg blacksmith and had him make me three knives and three forks and I put handles on them. My wife sold the stockings she was married in made by her own hands, for a set of plates. I traded a small piece of land and then we were ready for housekeeping. We used gourds for cups.”
“[Col. Jared Ellison} Groce set out for Texas in the fall of 1821 with a hundred slaves as well as cattle, sheep, hogs, horses, and a caravan of fifty wagons. He was granted ten leagues of land by the Mexican government in 1824 ‘on account of the property ha has brought with him.’ . . . The first cotton in Texas was raised there and the first bale ginned in 1826. … Grace was the wealthiest of the Old Three Hundred and lived in a splendid home. In 1827 his daughter Sarah Ann graduated from a finishing school in New York. Servants bemoaned the fact the china was cracked and broken from the trip to Texas. A houseguest, Mr. White, who was a silversmith provided a solution. Mr. Groce had a large collection of Mexican silver dollars, which Mr. White converted to bowls, cups, and plates.” When Sarah married, the remaining silver dollars were converted to knives, forks and spoons by a New York silversmith.
There were dangers, even before the War with Mexico, known in Texas as the War for Independence:
“The Dyers settled on Irons Creek, near San Felipe. After they had a frightening encounter with Indians, the Dyers moved to present Ford Bend County. Dyer became manager of the Stafford Plantation in 1833.
“In the winter of 1826-27, when Elisha Flowers, his three-year-old son Romulus and neighbor Charles Cavanah went hunting together, Karankawa Indians massacred their families. . . . Polly Flowers, her infant daughter, and Cavanah’s wife and daughter were killed in the last recorded Indian raid in Matagorda County.
The Hollands were originally from Canada, came to Texas from Ohio and settled atop a hill overlookinig Ten Mile Creek in Washington County. “Francis served in the First Company militia, later was elected comisario on December 13, 1830, then a delegate from present Washington County to the Convention of 1833 at San Felipe. The cholera epidemic . . . took the life of Francis and Margaret Holland. Their son William, a lifelong invalid, died shortly after them.” Another son, Frank Holland was killed by Indians.
“Mary Crownover Rabb write that when she was in her first house in Texas, Andrew Rabb made a spinning wheel for her. She was very pleased and got to work making clothes for her family. She would pick cotton with her fingers and spin ‘600 thread around the reel every day,’ When she was lonely and frightened, ‘I kept my new spinning wheel whisling [sic] all day and a good part of the night for while the wheel was rowering [sic] it would keep me from hearing the Indians walking around hunting mischieaf [sic].'”
Through Austin, the Mexican government invited these colonists in hopes of settling this new territory but, as we now know, relations became more and more strained. By 1835 the situation had reached the breaking point.