The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 37, July 1933 - April, 1934

Henry Austin

HENRY AUSTIN
WILLIAM IAN80M HOGAN
1. FIRST FORTY YEARS
Among the colonists who sought land in Texas before 1836,
none had a more adventurous past than Henry Austin. Cabin
boy on a sealing and trading voyage to China, commander of
vessels which had reached the Persian Gulf, merchant and com-
mission agent in New England and central Mexico, captain of a
steamboat in which he had navigated the Rio Grande--these pur-
suits and more, he had followed with varying degrees of success.
He spent the last twenty years of his life in Texas engaged in
an incessant struggle to wring a fortune from the wilderness.
His activities there, although not of a spectacular nature, served
to support and extend the work of the empresario Stephen F.
Austin, his first cousin.
He was a member of a New England family of better than
ordinary economic station in life. His father, Elijah Austin,
was a merchant-shipowner, "well known to the mercantile com-
munity of New Haven and New York," who opened in 1790 a
new phase of American commerce with China, a trade which
chiefly involved the exchange of southern Pacific sealskins for
Cantonese tea.1 On November 7, 1776, Elijah Austin had mar-
ried Esther Phelps, of Richardson and Phelps lineage, and "edu-
cated in the then only boarding school for young ladies in New
England."2
It was only natural that this successful merchant and his wife
should furnish their large New Haven home in a fashion al-
1Memorandum of Stephen F. Austin, in D. G. Wooten (ed.), Compre-
hensive History of Temas (Dallas, 1898), I, 440; K. S. Latourette, History
of Early Relations between the United States and China (New Haven,
1917), 39; "Diary of Ebenezer Townsend, Jr.," in Papers of New Haven
Colony Historical Society, IV, 3. In sending out two ships to the Falkland
Islands and South Georgia and thence to Canton, Elijah Austin acted on
information obtained from the voyage of the vessel States, which had
made a voyage to the Falkland Islands in 1785, and returned to New York
with .sealskins. These furs were reshipped to China in the Eleonora.
But Austin's ships made the first "direct sealing voyage to Canton."
201d Family Records, Mary Austin Holley Papers, University of Texas;
F. A. Virkus, Abridged Compendium of American Genealogy (Chicago,
1926), I, 413.

185

Texas State Historical Association & Barker, Eugene C. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 37, July 1933 - April, 1934. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101094/. Accessed July 10, 2014.