Emily Austin Perry: Wikis


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Emily Austin Perry was an early settler of Texas[1] and sole heir to Stephen F. Austin.[2] She achieved significant political, economic and social status as a woman in Texas at a time when women often were not equal to men.

Emily Austin Perry, Courtesy of the Brazoria County Historical Museum


Early life

Emily Austin Perry (1795–1851) was born as "Emily Margaret Brown Austin," to Mary Brown Austin and Moses Austin on June 22, 1795. Her birth city of Austinville, Virginia[3][4][5] was named after her father and uncles. Her siblings included Stephen Fuller Austin[6][7] and James Elijah Brown Austin.[8]

When Emily was almost three years of age, in 1798, Emily moved with her family to Potosi, Missouri,[9] then located in Upper Louisiana. Moses Austin’s company mined for lead[10][11] in Potosi just as they had in Austinville.[12]


Emily attended Mrs. Beck's Boarding School[13] in Lexington, Kentucky from October 1804 until December 1808,[14][15] then two years at the Hermitage Academy[16] located on the Hudson River to further her education.[17]

First marriage and children

Emily married James Bryan (1788–1822) in Potosi. The two lived with Emily’s parents at their home called Durham Hall, in Missouri, from 1813-1814. In 1815, they moved to Hazel Run, Missouri, and also later to Herculaneum, Missouri. Emily and James Bryan had five children:[18]

  • Stephen Austin Bryan was born on July 17, 1814 in Durham Hall, Missouri. He died on August 12, 1814 in Durham Hall, Missouri.
  • William Joel Bryan was born on December 14, 1815 in Hazel Run, Saint Genevieve, Missouri. He died on March 13, 1903.
  • Moses Austin Bryan was born on Sep 25, 1817 in Herculaneum, Jefferson County, Missouri. He died on March 16, 1895 in Brenham, Texas.
  • Guy Morrison Bryan was born on January 12, 1821 in Herculaneum, Jefferson County, Missouri. He died on June 4, 1901 in Austin, Travis County, Texas.
  • Mary Elizabeth Bryan was born on July 5, 1822 in Herculaneum, Jefferson County, Missouri. She died on August 4, 1833.

James Bryan (Emily’s first husband) died on July 16, 1822, in Potosi, Missouri. Emily supported her family by taking in boarders[19][20] and teaching at a school in Hazel Run, Missouri.[20]

Second marriage and children

On September 23, 1824, Emily married her second husband, James Franklin Perry.[15] Emily and James Franklin Perry had six children:

  • Stephen Samuel Perry (Born June 24, 1825 in Potosi, Missouri; died September 5, 1874 in Brazoria, Texas).[21]
  • Emily Rosanna Perry (Born September 24, 1826 in Potosi, Missouri; died December 6, 1827 in Potosi, Missouri).[22]
  • Eliza Margaret Perry (Born January 3, 1828 in Potosi, Missouri; died January 3, 1862 in Austin, Texas.[23]
  • James Elijah Brown Perry (Born May 17, 1830 in Potosi, Missouri; died February 14, 1831 in Chocolate Bayou, Texas.[24]
  • Henry Austin Perry (Born November 17, 1831 at Chocolate Bayou, Texas; died September 10, 1853 in Biloxi, Mississippi).[25]
  • Cecilia Perry (Born December 10, 1835 at Peach Point Plantation; died June 8, 1836 at Peach Point Plantation[26]

Of her eleven total children, six would live to adulthood. On June 7, 1831, the family, composed of Emily and James Perry, four Bryan children, and Stephen Perry, began the long move from Potosi, Missouri, to Texas.[15]

First year in Texas: San Filipe de Austin and Chocolate Bayou

Emily and most of her family (including Samuel Stephen and Eliza Margaret) arrived at San Felipe de Austin, Texas, on August 14, 1831.[27] Her son, Moses Austin Bryan, had arrived in Texas some months before his parents, on January 2, 1831.[28]:96[29] Emily and the younger children remained in San Filipe de Austin for several months, and then the family lived for about one year on the Chocolate Bayou producing sugar and cotton.[30]

Remaining years in Texas: Peach Point Plantation

Emily, her husband, and children settled in Jones Creek, Texas, in present day Brazoria County, Texas and developed Peach Point Plantation also known as "Peach Point"; Emily domiciled at Peach Point until she died in 1851.[15]

Rutherford B. Hayes

Emily interacted with Rutherford B. Hayes during his visit to Peach Point Plantation in 1848. Hayes wrote in a letter that Emily was, "an excellent motherly sort of woman, whose happiness consists in making others happy."[31] Hayes also wrote in a letter to his mother that, "instead of having the care of one family, [Emily] is the nurse, physician, and spiritual adviser of a whole settlement of careless slaves. She feels it is her duty to see to their comfort when sick or hurt."[32] Some historians argue that Emily's relatively/comparatively favorable treatment of slaves can be generalized to other holders of the time period, while others question whether this generalization is reasonable.

Sole heir to Stephen F. Austin

Emily was the sole heir to Stephen Fuller Austin following his death.[2] Everything was bequeathed not in James Perry's name and not to her sons, but to Emily, a woman, in 1836.[2] Transferred by bequest, all of Stephen F. Austin's possessions, property and land became Emily's separate property, and not community property. In fact, Emily was meticulous to ensure the Austin estate proceeds, books, and operations were not commingled,[28]:176 thus maintaining their legal characterization as Emily's separate property, rather than community property with her husband.


Accordingly, Emily was one of the largest Texas individual landholders and irrefutably the wealthiest woman in Texas.[17] Emily was actively involved in management of the Austin estate, including investments and land,[28]:164-5, 196-7 actively involved in a time where male signatures were still required on contracts and women could not vote.[33]

Support of land planning, railroads, and industry

Emily was very involved in the urban planning and settling land. For example, Emily was one of the founders of the San Luis Company, which managed the development of San Luis, including the initial sale of 450 lots, development of streets, building a bridge, and construction of a lighthouse.[28]:177

Emily raised capital and invested in the first attempt[28]:176 to build a Railroad in Texas: The Brazos and Galveston Railroad Company, chartered by the Congress of the Republic of Texas, on May 24, 1838.[28]:176[34] The rail was initially to go from Galveston Bay to the Brazos River, and later plans were for the rail to go from San Luis Island instead of Galveston Bay.[28]:176[35] Emily was the largest shareholder of the first railroad company in Texas.[17] Emily was at the helm of the development and planning of San Luis.

Emily not only owned the league of land which contained Dollar Point, Emily also managed the development of the town of Austinia, located within that league.[34] Austinia is known in the present day as Texas City.

Emily loaned money to Gail Borden (as in the founder/pioneer of Borden Milk Products) to buy his first herd of cows.[17]

Support of religion

Emily played a key role in founding the first Episcopal Church in Texas. In 1848, Emily donated to Peach Point visitor, Episcopal Bishop George Washington Freeman of Arkansas to help launch the Episcopal Diocese of Texas.[28]:201 In addition, Emily paid to underwrite Leonidas Polk's trip to Texas from Louisiana.[28]:201 Polk was the [Bishop] of the [Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana] and later served as a General in the Civil War, ultimately having Fort Polk named in his honor. Emily also donated the land on which the Union Church Building was originally built; this one structure served as a prayer center for Methodists, the Episcopalians, and the Presbyterians.[36]

Support of education

Emily paid Thomas J. Pilgrim to teach her children;[28]:115[37] Pilgrim started the all boys school, Austin Academy[38] in 1829, then the first school in Texas. Austin Academy had about 40 students.[38]

Emily deeded 1500 acres of land for the support and founding of Austin College.[28]:184 In addition, Emily directed monies owed by the State of Texas to the Austin estate to Austin College. Some sources indicate that Austin College was not just named after Stephen F. Austin, but also by[39] and/or for Emily who saw fit to donate the land.[28] Emily agreed to support her family friend and Austin College Founder Reverend Daniel Baker (who had been Pastor of the Washington, DC Presbyterian church attended by Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams); Emily supported Baker in his pursuit of expanding religious foundations and education in Texas.[28]:183

Ironically, some of the land provided by Emily to support Austin College was later built on by a different academic institution: Sam Houston State University. (The irony here is the friendly rivalry between Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston).

Geographic names

Emily's children and their progeny also played important roles in Texas history and the development of the State.[40] The surnames of Emily's first husband, James Perry, and her second husband, James Bryan, are each geographic names in Texas. For example, Bryan, Texas is the location of Texas A&M University; Perry's Landing[41][42][43] is located in Brazoria County.

James and Emily Austin Perry Papers

Professor of History, Light Townsend Cummins, of Austin College, the official Historian of the State of Texas at the time of this writing, points out that despite her important participation in and contributions to Texas history, there is no collection of letters archived under Emily's name; rather, the collection archived in the 1930s was titled for her husband and son, "the James F. and Stephen S. Perry Papers." Cummins, who has reviewed the papers housed at the Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin, notes that this collection includes "as much of Emily's letters, documents, and papers as those of her husband and son."[28]:227- FN5 Cummins points out that the archive was named in 1930s, and were they named under archiving standards in 2009, they would very likely instead have been called, "The James and Emily Austin Perry Papers."[28]:227- FN5


Emily is buried at Gulf Prairie Cemetery at the site of the present day historical marker in her honor,[44] and beside her brother, Stephen F. Austin.[45] (Stephen F. Austin's remains were moved to Austin, Texas in 1910).[46] An obituary at the time reflects that "Funeral services were performed by the Rev. Mr. Phillips, of the Methodist Episcopal church."[45]

Historical marker

In 1986, as part of the Texas Sesquicentennial, an historical marker was commissioned in recognition of Emily's contribution to Texas history.[47]

Austin-Bryan-Perry family reunion

Each year, descendants of the Austin, Bryan, and Perry families from across the country gather in Jones Creek for reunion in celebration of Emily's life and her birthday.[48] The Daughters of the Republic of Texas, Volume 1, states that on her birthday more than 200 meet to "rise up and call her blessed,"[49] (applying to Emily the language from the poem, Eishes Chayil (אשת חיל), "A Woman of Valor,"[50] with which King Solomon concludes the Book of Proverbs).

Name variations

Emily is recorded in history by a variety of names which encompass her maiden name, first marriage name, second marriage name, a middle initial, and her mother's maiden name. These include:

In addition to the above, there are still other references to Emily by just her first name, as well as references without use of her given, marital or personal name (as chattel), i.e. "and wife" or "his wife," all of which are not here provided.

Penmanship style

Emily Austin had a unique penmanship style. Her penmanship style from letters and writings were reduced to a single typeset font for word processing purposes. The Emily Austin font has been used in actual published literature.[101]

Past family

Emily and her brother, Stephen F. Austin, themselves descended from several noteworthy people including: Moses Austin (father-- biography published by Trinity University Press)[102], Abia Brown (grandfather), Joseph Sharp (great grandfather), Isaac Sharp (great, great grandfather), Anthony Sharp (great, great, great grandfather-- biography published by Stanford University Press.[103] Accordingly, history records noteworthy social contribution in each generation of Emily's family dating back to the early 1600's.


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  26. ^ "Cecilia Perry". Brazoria County Historical Museum. http://www.bchm.org/gene/d0001/g0009955.html#I552. Retrieved 28 Feb 2010. 
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Further reading

  • Eugene C. Barker, ed., The Austin Papers (3 vols., Washington: GPO, 1924–28).
  • David B. Gracy II, Moses Austin: His Life (San Antonio: Trinity University Press, 1987).
  • Jones, Marie Beth (1982), Peach Point Plantation: The First 150 Years, Texian Press, ISBN 0963004204 
  • James Franklin and Stephen Samuel Perry Papers, Barker Texas History Center, University of Texas at Austin. E. W. Winkler, ed.
  • "The Bryan-Hayes Correspondence," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 25 (October 1921-April 1922).

See Also

  • Angleton, Texas
  • Freeport, Texas


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