Austin County Data
Austin County Neighbors
Colorado County, Texas
Fayette County, Texas
Fort Bend County, Texas
Waller County, Texas
Washington County, Texas
Wharton County, Texas
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About Austin County, Texas...
Austin County, with its rural and agricultural background, presents a series of inspiring views to the passer-through. Its rolling hills and almost idyllic farm settings can be breathtaking in their beauty and on closer inspection, the farm houses, and even the commercial buildings give the impression of a vital and tenacious pioneer spirit which managed to bring forth a civilized way of life from the wild land to which these settlers first came.
The area now known as Austin County was selected by Stephen Fuller Austin in 1823 as the site for his colony, the first Anglo-American settlement in Texas. It was Stephen F. Austin's father, Moses, who had originally obtained permission from the Mexican government in January, 1821, to bring three hundred families to Texas to establish a colony. However, before he could begin to carry out his colonization plan he became ill with pneumonia and died June 10, 1821. Prior to his death, Moses Austin had requested that his son be allowed to carry out this colonization plan, which Stephen F. Austin was permitted to do. Those families which followed Austin settled on the west bank of the Brazos River, above the mouth of Mill Creek. In 124 Stephen F. Austin was commissioned the political chief of the colony. In July, 1824 the general land office was opened at San Felipe de Austin, the unofficial capitol of the Anglo-American settlements in Texas. These early settlers usually built near streams where water could easily be found and an abundance of wood for building and fencing material, as well as where fuel would be readily available.
During the early years of settlement Indians were the greatest problem and danger faced by the colonists and it appears that the Karankawas were the most troublesome. Many women and children were killed while left unguarded as the men were working. During those early years there was plenty of wood, but no sawmills, so houses were built of logs. Most were one room with a dirt floor. One of these dwellings is described by a woman, one of the early settlers, who said, "Our house was a miserable little hut, covered with straw and having six sides, which were made of moss. The roof was by no means waterproof, and we often held an umbrella over our bed when it rained at night, while the cows came and ate the moss. Of course we suffered a great deal in the winter. My father had tried to build a chimney and fireplace out of logs and clay, but we were afraid to light a fire because of the extreme combustibility of our dwelling. So we had to shiver."
Early routes of transportation through Austin County consisted usually of wagon ruts or beaten trails marked by notched trees. Many were small roads joining colonies, but there were also a few major routes which extended to sizable towns or joined larger highways such as the San Antonio Road (El Camino Real). One main route that passed through San Felipe was the Atascosita Road, which connected Goliad with the United States. This road received its name from Atascosa (Spanish for "boggy") Spring near Liberty. Goods brought inland from the Gulf Coast were transported over the San Felipe Road, which ran to Harrisburg. The Brazos River was also used for transportation, but it was used less than the roads for its waters were often rapid during the rainy season and the water route was longer than the overland routes. However, even the main routes were dusty in the summer and often impassable during the winter because of flooding.
Austin County experienced three waves of settlement. First to arrive were the Anglo-Americans of Austin's colony who settled on the fertile land around the Brazos and its streams. Some of these early farmers wasted the land and due to poor farming practices they were left with once fertile soil that was no longer capable of cultivation. The Germans were the next large group to settle within Austin County. A few German immigrants came to Texas as early as 1821, but significant numbers did not begin to settle until 1830. These farmers were of a more economical mind and settled successfully on land the Anglos did not want. Czech immigrants were the next sizable group to settle in Austin County. Their first settlement neat Cat Spring was founded in 1848, but there were Czechs in Texas as early as 1833. Those Czechs who established their homes in Austin County were able to settle successfully on land left by the Germans.
White settlement was responsible not only for the development of the first town in Austin County, but also for those towns which were to later develop as a result of railroad expansion. The settlement of towns in Austin County began in 1823 when San Felipe de Austin was chosen as the headquarters of the colony by the first settlers. The city was named in honor of a saint and Stephen F. Austin. The name "de Austin" was removed by a legislative act of the Republic of Texas in 1840.
The town in its early stage of development is described in an article, A Trip to Texas in 1828 , by Jose Maria Sanchez, who said, "This village has been settled by Mr. Stephen Austin, a native of the United States of the North. It consists present of 40 to 50 wooden houses on the western bank of the large river known as Rio de Los Brazos de Rios, but the houses are not arranged systematically so as to form streets; but on the contrary, lie in an irregular and delusory manner...Its population is nearly two hundred persons, of which an occasional European. Two wretched little stores supply the inhabitants of the colony; one sells only whiskey, rum sugar, coffee; the other rice, flour, land, and cheap cloth. Having to repair several parts of the wagons, it was necessary to remain in the village, and it was with much regret that we noticed the river began to rise. The baggage was placed in the ferry boat, and boarding it, we started down the river in search of a landing...a drunk American held the rudder and three intoxicated Negroes rowed, singing continuously. This confusing singsong deprived us, by the irritation it caused us, of the pleasure we could have enjoyed seeing the immense woods that bordered the river. We traveled this way for about two leagues, and then we entered still on the same boat, through the midst of the flooded woods, until we reached the road we were to follow afterwards."
Godwin Brown Cotton published the Texas Gazette, the first newspaper in Texas in 1829 at San Felipe. He moved his press to Brazoria in the spring, 1832. Another paper The Telegraph and Texas Register was begun at San Felipe on October 10, 1835 by Gail Borden, Jr., Thomas H. Borden and Joseph Baker, a paper which would become the official voice of the government of the Republic of Texas when it was organized a few months later.
The first organized opposition to Mexican rule was expressed at the Convention of 1832 which was held in San Felipe. It was at this convention that delegates from the colonies met to discuss colonial problems. Another convention was called in 1833 and at this time a petition for statehood was drawn up to be delivered to the authorities in Mexico. The Consultation of 1835 met in San Felipe and it was at this time that San Felipe was made capital of the provisional government until the Convention of 1836 which met at Washington-on-the-Brazos.
San Felipe was burned in February, 1836 to keep it from falling into the hands of the approaching Mexican Army. The towns people fled their homes and left the area in what is known as the Runaway Scrape. After the Runaway Scrape and the end of the Revolution some of San Felipe's former residents returned. The city was rebuilt upon its original site and was incorporated under the Republic of Texas. Once the social and political center of Americans in Texas, as well as the cultural and economic center, San Felipe never regained its importance following the Revolution. It remained the County seat until the majority vote of the election of December 23, 1846 was cast in favor of moving the County seat to Bellville to a site suggested by the Bell family. In the early 1880's the Texas Western Railroad, a narrow gauge railroad which originated in Houston, passed within a half mile of the town and many of the businesses moved closer to the railroad, so the city was rebuilt for the third time. In 1880 the Santa Fe Railroad attempted to build tracks on the west edge of town, but the residents, fearing the noise and possible danger to their livestock, opposed it and it was moved to Sealy, followed by many businesses and families. It was this refusal to allow tracks to be built through the city which lead to the decline of San Felipe and to the growth of Sealy.
While a great deal has been written about the men who carved their homes out of the wilderness, very little has been written about the women who assisted and endured the many hardships of a frontier life. Working long days and into the night the women helped to cultivate the land, spent hours weaving so that their families would be sufficiently clothed, cooked the meals and carried out the every day maintenance of the house. Many devoted part of their day to the education of their children and were often involved in singing, literary, dramatic, or other societies. During the Civil War many of these women raised tobacco and other crops for sale while the men were gone so that they might support their families. The part the pioneer woman played in the settlement of the frontier is certainly not to be overlooked, and it must be noted that the women who settled with their families in Austin County were most important in shaping the history and way of life in Austin County as it now exists.
So it was that by the blending of these different, distinct cultures, and by the slow but sure Americanization processes, Austin County became what is it today -- a place of considerable beauty and some sadness for those empty buildings which, a hundred years ago, were worth the effort and love that first saw them built.
The county has a total area of 656 square miles, of which 646 square miles is land and 10 square miles (1.5%) is water. The population recorded in the 1850 Federal Census was 3,841. The 2010 census recorded 28,417 residents there.
Neighboring counties are Washington County (north), Waller County (east), Fort Bend County (southeast), Wharton County (south), Colorado County (west), and Fayette County (northwest). The county seat is Bellville. Other communities in the county include Brazos Country, Industry, Sealy, Wallis, San Felipe, Bleiblerville, Cat Spring, Kenney, Nelsonville, New Ulm, Rockhouse, Shelby, Welcome.
Austin County, Texas Records
Birth Records - The Texas Department of State Health Services has records from 1903 to present. Records for the last 75 years considered private and will only be provided to certain individuals. To obtain current information on who may obtain a record, how to submit a request and an official request form, see the Texas Department of State Health Services website or write to Texas Vital Records, Department of State Health Services, P.O. Box 12040, Austin, TX 78711-2040.
For older birth records you will have to write to the County Clerk of the applicable county. The existence of birth records prior to 1903 will vary widely from county to county. Local historical societies and genealogy collections in local libraries may be able to provide some information.
Death Records - The Texas Department of State Health Services has records from 1903 to present. Records for the last 25 years considered private and will only be provided to certain individuals. To obtain current information on who may obtain a record, how to submit a request and an official request form, see the Texas Department of State Health Services website or write to Texas Vital Records, Department of State Health Services, P.O. Box 12040, Austin, TX 78711-2040.
Marriage Records - The Texas Department of State Health Services can provide a verification letter of marriage for Texas marriages from 1966 to present. This is NOT a marriage license. To obtain a certified copy of a marriage license you must contact the County or District Clerk in the county or district where the marriage took place.
Local historical societies and genealogy collections in local libraries may be able to provide some information.
Divorce Records - The Texas Department of State Health Services can provide a verification letter of divorce for Texas divorces from 1968 to present. This is NOT a copy of the divorce decree. To obtain a certified copy of a copy of the divorce decree you must contact the County or District Clerk in the county or district where the divorce took place.
Local historical societies and genealogy collections in local libraries may be able to provide some information.