Stephen F. Austin

Photograph of Stephen F. Austin

1793 - 1836

Stephen Fuller Austin, born in southwestern Virginia, is often called the Father of Texas. He can also be called the Father of the Texas Rangers as he founded the earliest precursor of the famous law enforcement organization.

In 1820, during the last year of Spain’s control of Mexico and Texas, Moses Austin, obtained a commission as an empresario (a settlement agent) to bring settlers to Texas. Moses Austin died before he could carry out this new venture and his son, Stephen F. Austin decided to continue with his father’s plans. He arrived in Texas in August of 1821.

The new government of Mexico was in turmoil and, after canceling and then reinstating his commission, warned Austin that he must be responsible for the conduct of his colonists and provide for their defense.

Following clashes with the Karankawa Indians, Austin formed two companies of “men. . . to act as rangers for the common defense” and paid for their services himself. The first company was formed in May of 1823 under the command of Moses Morrison and responded to raids along the Texas coast by Tonkawa and Karankawa Indians.

In August 1823, Austin asked for an additional ten men to supplement the Morrison company. These two companies are regarded as the predecessors of the modern Texas Rangers. In 1835 a council of colonial Texas representatives created a “Corps of Rangers” to protect the frontier, formalizing the militia that Austin created.

Austin commanded troops during the siege of Bexar in the Texas Revolution (October 1835 - April 1836) and lived to see the creation of the Republic of Texas. He died of pneumonia on December 27, 1836, at the age of forty-three.

Suggestions for further reading:

  • Eugene C. Barker, Annual Report of the American Historical Association, “The Austin Papers” pt. 1, 1919
  • Eugene C. Barker, The Life of Stephen F. Austin: the Founder of Texas, Austin, 1925
  • Darren L. Ivey, The Ranger Ideal Volume 1: Texas Rangers in the Hall of Fame, 1823 – 1861, UNT, 2017
  • Vertical Files, Texas Ranger Research Center, Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, Waco, Texas