Description

    Historic Stephen F. Austin Petition re Settlement of 1821 Joseph H. Hawkins Partnership Agreement Signed: "Stephen F. Austin," "Edmund H. Martin," "Edmund St. J. Hawkins," "W.H. Wharton," "John Austin" (twice), "A.W. Breedlove," and "A. Brigham," three pages, 7.75" x 9.75", front and verso. Brazoria, November 8, 1832 (signed by Wharton and assisting witnesses Breedlove and Brigham on December 16, 1832).

    In 1814, Joseph H. Hawkins was elected to represent Kentucky in Congress, completing the term of Henry Clay who had resigned to become one of the commissioners negotiating the end of the War of 1812. Hawkins did not seek reelection and after serving the remaining 11 months of Clay's term, returned to his law practice. In 1819, Hawkins moved to New Orleans. Stephen F. Austin arrived in New Orleans in November 1820, seeking a fresh start after a series of financial misfortunes in Missouri and Arkansas. It was no better in New Orleans; employment was nowhere to be found. In January 1821, he happened to meet Hawkins, by then a prominent attorney, who had heard of Austin from his younger brother, Littleberry Hawkins, one of Austin's classmates at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. Hawkins not only gave Stephen a job, but took him into his household and lent him money. In letters to his mother, Austin called Hawkins "my adopted brother," declaring, "a better or truer friend never existed." Austin wrote home that Hawkins would let him use his law books and provide him instruction until he was ready to practice law. Stephen began an 18-month course of legal study, including the French language. He had no intention of being part of his father Moses Austin's Texas plans, but he knew that if his father asked him to go to Texas, he would. Hearing of his son's friend, Moses Austin wrote to Hawkins, offering him to an interest in his Texas settlement venture. Joseph Hawkins was immediately enthusiastic and convinced Stephen to come with him to Texas. In July 1821, Stephen was at Natchitoches, Louisiana, expecting to accompany his father to San Antonio when he learned of his death. On November 14, 1821, Joseph H. Hawkins and Stephen F. Austin formalized an agreement by which Stephen acknowledged receipt of $4,000 and agreed to give Joseph half the premium lands he would receive in the colony. Hawkins then recruited settlers, chartered ships, and purchased supplies, eventually depleting his assets and leaving himself deeply in debt. Before realizing any profit from the Texas venture, Joseph Hawkins died in New Orleans in 1823, leaving a widow and five young children. In 1828, Austin received title to the land but before Stephen could share the lands with Joseph's widow, George-Anne Hawkins, she died, leaving five minor children as heirs. By 1832, Joseph's eldest son, Edmund St. John Hawkins, who had immigrated to the colony, reached majority age, a precondition for receiving title to land under Mexican law. Stephen F. Austin fulfilled his obligations and deeded to the Hawkins heirs over 42,000 acres of land, all in present-day Brazoria and Wharton Counties. About 32,000 acres of the land was in the very heart of the most productive (and valuable) part of Austin's colony and the rest lay in nearby areas almost as choice. Austin didn't have to give away prime land, but he did, revealing much of his character and his deep feeling for the children of his "brother." Offered here is the document by which Stephen F. Austin took the first step to repay his obligation to the children of the man whose encouragement and financial backing made his colonization of Texas possible.
    In full, "The petition of Stephen F. Austin for himself and Edmond H. Martin as the agent of Mary Jane, Hasborne B. [sic, Norbourne] and Thomas Hawkins the said Mary Jane, Hasborne B. [sic, Norbourne] and Thomas being Children and heirs of Joseph H. Hawkins late of the jurisdiction of Austin respectfully state that the partnership concerns heretofore existing between Joseph H. Hawkins late of the city of New Orleans deceased & Stephen F. Austin in relation to lands & other matters in Texas being about to be settled & finally closed it becomes necessary that each of the heirs should be represented in said settlement. That George Hawkins one of the Heirs of the said Josseph (George) is absent in the United States of the north and not represented in Texas and therefore your petitioners pray that William H. Wharton may be appointed curator to the said George Hawkins vesting him with the necessary legal powers to represent the said George & your petitioners as in duty & c." Signed by Stephen F. Austin, Edmund H. Martin, and Edmund St. J. Hawkins. Continuing, "Wm. H. Wharton appears & accepts the trust & is willing to act." Signed by W.H. Wharton as Curator for George Hawkins, beneath which John Austin, alcalde of Brazoria Municipality, attests that "The facts in the forgoing petition being known to my satisfaction it is by reason thereof and of the law ordered adjudged and decreed that William H. Wharton be appointed curator to the said George Hawkins to represent him in the matters & things set forth in the forgoing petition." He adds that "before the assisting witnesses appeared Wm H. Wharton on the 16th day of December 1832 and signed the above." From the Department of Bexar, Jurisdiction of Austin, John Austin appoints Wharton: "That William H. Wharton having the qualifications required by law I do by virtue of the powers in me, vested by law appoint the said William H Wharton curator to George Hawkins in absentee hereby vesting in the said William H Wharton all the powers and privileges legally appertaining to that trust" which "the assisting witnesses [Breedlove and Brigham] signed the 16th day of December 1832." In 1836, William H. Wharton became the first Texas Minister to the United States. A.W. Breedlove was a 2nd Sergeant of Capt. Patton's Company at the Battle of San Jacinto. Asa Brigham, elected Brazoria alcalde in 1835, was a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence. The children of Joseph H. Hawkins received their land in 1833. Norbourne Hawkins joined the Texas Army and was killed in the Goliad Massacre in 1836; he was only 16. Edmund also died in 1836 and George died in 1837. The estates of Norbourne, Edmund, and George were all probated in close succession in Brazoria County in 1837. Thomas and Mary Jane each inherited half of their brothers' land. Mary Jane came to Texas in 1839 but, after her husband died, returned to Kentucky. She gradually sold off her massive tracts of Texas property. Thomas moved to Texas and was a planter in Brazoria County until his death in 1850. The second and third conjoined pages of the document are matted with a color photocopy of the first page and framed to 33" x 30". The document is lightly soiled. It is in apparent fine condition. From the collection of Darrel Brown.


    Fees, Shipping, and Handling Description: Framed - with Glass, Medium (view shipping information)

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    December, 2007
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