TEXAS PROFESSOR VISITS POTOSI ON RESEARCH TRIP

Professor & published author Light T. Cummins of Austin College, Sherman, Texas visited Potosi on Tuesday July 18, 2006.  He is a Professor of History & has been a member of the Austin College faculty since 1978.  Professor Cummins is doing research in preparation for his writing of the biography of Emily Austin Bryan Perry. She was the daughter of Moses Austin a very prominent figure in early Washington County history.

Moses Austin settled in Washington County circa 1797.  He moved his wife & family here in 1798 where they resided in beautiful Durham Hall which Austin built & named after his birthplace in Durham, Connecticut. Moses received a Spanish grant (#430) for 7,153 arpents of land at Mine a Breton, Washington County & transformed lead mining & smelting into Missouri's first major industry. He sank the first mine shaft in Missouri & built the first reverbatory furnace west of the Mississippi River. As a condition of Austin's grant Austin provided many improvements for this area.  He & his 40 to 50 slaves & employees built bridges, roads, a store, a blacksmith shop, a flour mill, a saw mill, a shot tower, & turned out the first sheet lead & cannonballs made in Missouri.

When Washington County was organized 21 August 1813 Moses Austin donated 40 acres of land on the north side of Breton Creek for establishment of a county seat. John Rice Jones donated 10 acres. Lots & a public square were laid out & a new town evolved around Durham Hall.  The town was named "Potosi" in honor of a silver mining town in Bolivia. For all of his improvements of the area & his donation of the land for the county seat Moses Austin is credited with being the founding father of Potosi. The town of Mine Au Breton on the south side of the creek & Potosi on the north side consolidated in 1826 under the sole name of "Potosi". 

Moses Austin is not only credited with being the founding father of Potosi but also "The Grandfather of Texas."  In 1821 Moses Austin traveled to San Antonio where he received the first American grant for a colony in Texas.  After Moses' death in the same year his son Stephen took over the project of moving 300 families from Potosi to Texas thereby making Stephen "The Father of Texas."  Austin, the capitol of Texas, is named for Stephen F. Austin.

Emily Austin was one of three surviving children of Mary/Maria Brown & Moses Austin.  In 1824 Emily Austin Bryan married James Franklin Perry in Potosi, Missouri.  Emily was a strong & sturdy woman who bore eleven children by two husbands.  Emily & her husband, James Perry, & the children were among the families that migrated from Potosi to Texas with the Austin colonists.   They arrived in Texas in 1831.  In 1832 they settled in Brazoria County where Emily would become one of the social leaders of early Texas.  Stephen Austin chose the location for their home & his brother-in-law James supervised clearing the land. Stephen named their new home Peach Point Plantation for all of the wild peach trees growing there.  Now it is considered one of the oldest & most historic plantations in the Southwest. 

Emily was instrumental in the establishment of Austin College in Huntsville, Texas.  The College was founded in 1849.   Emily & James Perry deeded over valuable acreage to the College & also made financial donations to the College as well.  These gifts made to Austin College by the Perrys constituted some of the first major donations to the young school.  In 1876 the College moved to Sherman, Texas, however it's original building still stands in Huntsville.

Emily passed away 15 August 1851 at Peach Point Plantation & is buried in the nearby Presbyterian Cemetery within site of Peach Point.

Professor Cummins, while researching on the internet for his biography of Emily Austin, discovered the Carroll's Corner web site which hosts a page about Moses Austin & the settling of Potosi.  Subsequently he contacted Esther Carroll via email about his visit to Potosi.  Esther put together an itinerary & also contacted Jerry Sansegraw president of our local historical society.  On Tuesday, July 18th Esther & Gene Carroll & Jerry Sansegraw met Professor Cummins at the Super 8 Motel.  This began Mr. Cummins sightseeing tour of Potosi. 

The first place visited was Moses Austin's grave & the Mine Au Breton Historical Society Museum on Breton Street.  Next was Heritage Park  & the museum at the old Austin Store on Jefferson Street.   Professor Cummins also viewed the clay bread oven at Heritage Park & what is left of the original stone wall of Durham Hall on south Missouri Street.  A visit was also paid to the Perry Family Cemetery a short distance from Heritage Park.   The three hour tour culminated at Sweet Memories Sandwich & Ice Cream Shop where everyone enjoyed a delicious lunch & hearing of the latest antics of Harriet the resident ghost.

Before returning to Texas Prof. Cummins also visited the Washington County Library, the Desloge Library & the old Hazel Run Cemetery in St. Francois County where Moses Austin was originally buried before being re-interred in Potosi City Cemetery.


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Gene Carroll, Jerry Sansegraw & Prof. Light Cummins in front of Moses Austin's tomb.

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Prof. Light Cummins standing between the pictures of Moses & Stephen Austin at the Mine Au Breton Society Museum.


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Jerry Sansegraw showing Prof. Light Cummins what remains of the Durham Hall wall.


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Jerry Sansegraw, Prof. Light Cummins & Gene Carroll at the clay bread oven at Heritage Park.  At right is how Durham Hall originally looked. Note the stone wall underneath the porch & fence.


 

Carroll's Corner