The Partnership of Stephen F Austin and
Joseph H. Hawkins
STUDENTS OF EARLY TEXAS HISTORY MAY BE VAGUELY FAMILIAR WITH
the name of Joseph H. Hawkins. A prominent New Orleans attorney,
Hawkins in 1820o met the penniless Stephen F. Austin, who had recently
moved from Arkansas Territory in search of a fresh start after having
failed in a variety of business ventures. Hawkins took a keen interest in
the young man and became his friend and mentor. Several months lat-
er, when Austin's father, Moses, obtained permission from the Spanish
authorities in Mexico to introduce American settlers into Texas,
Hawkins offered to invest in the enterprise. Moses accepted the offer, in
which Hawkins agreed to provide financial support in return for half of
whatever lands and profits Austin might realize from Texas colonization.
When Stephen Austin inherited the project following his father's death,
he and Hawkins formalized the agreement. The result was a partnership
which successfully inaugurated the Anglo American colonization of
Beyond this broad outline, the story of the Austin-Hawkins partner-
ship has been poorly understood and rarely told. Most of what has been
written on the topic has been based upon an incomplete command of
the historical sources or has been colored by either a pro- or anti-Austin
bias. The following account of the Austin-Hawkins relationship will re-
solve much of this confusion and shed light on an important aspect of
the American colonization of Texas. It will also provide fresh insight in-
to the character of the often-enigmatic Stephen F. Austin.
When Austin moved to New Orleans in the fall of 182o, it was the ac-
tion of a man in near-desperate financial straits. For a decade he had be-
come increasingly involved in the management of his father's failing
* Gregg Cantrell is associate professor of history at Sam Houston State University. He is the
author of Kenneth and John B. Rayner and the Limits of Southern Dissent (University of Illinois Press,
1993) and is currently writing a biography of Stephen F. Austin. Grants from Sam Houston State
University and the National Endowment for the Humanities helped make this article possible.
The author also wishes to thank James E. Crisp, Sally Hawkins, Joseph W. McKnight, and
Thomas Primrose for their helpful comments.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 99, July 1995 - April, 1996. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101217/. Accessed July 23, 2014.