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San Felipe de Austin State Historic Site

Austin County, Central Texas South

29°47'40"N 96°6'17"W
On the Brazos River
at the crossing of Old San Antonio (Atascosito) Road
Present day Farm Road 1458 –
on the Northside of Interstate 10
2 Miles E of Sealy
17 Miles SE of Bellville, county seat
26 Miles E of Columbus
36 Miles SE of Brenham
47 Miles W of Houston
Population: 808 Est. (2016)
747 (2010) 868 (2000) 618 (1990)

Book Area Hotels:
Brenham Hotels | Sealy Hotels | Columbus Hotels
Attention: The dog-trot cabin and sign just off of I-10 is not the original site of the community. Proceed north, passing by modern residences (including many manufactured homes) until you see a simple two-story church on your right along with a period residence. On the left, before crossing the river, you will see the seated statue of Stephen Austin and the buildings which comprise the park. This is the site of the original community (and is actually Park Road 38).

  • San Felipe de Austin State Historic Site
  • San Felipe de Austin - History
  • San Felipe Texas church
    San Felipe Methodist Church
    Recorded Texas Historic Landmark
    TE photo, March 2008
    More Texas Churches
    History on a Pecan Shell

    The "unofficial" capital of Stephen Austin’s colony in 1824, the site was chosen for an existing ferry crossing of the Brazos River, fresh water (from wells) and the tall river bluff which offered a defense, should one be needed.

    The name was suggested by the Mexican governor, after his patron saint. By 1828 the town was thriving with two hundred people and a grid of streets, including four public plazas.

    Austin lived here for four years, tending to the business of his colony. In 1828 he turned over most day-to-day responsibilities of running the town to others.

    The town became a postal hub for outlying communities and was home to two newspapers – one of which (the Telegraph and Texas Register) was published by Gail Borden, surveyor, and (in later life) the inventor of condensed milk. (See Borden, Texas)

    The town was a virtual Who’s Who of early movers and shakers. A grist mill was in operation by 1830, followed by a lumber mill which supplied the planks for housing, furniture and wagons. Keel boats connected the colony to gulf ports and cotton farming was established. Cattle were driven to Nacogdoches.

    Prior to the Revolution, San Felipe was second only to San Antonio as a commercial center. Just before hostilities, it had a population nearing 600.

    After the fall of the Alamo, Houston’s army retreated through San Felipe. On March 30, 1836, the town was set afire to prevent it from aiding the approaching enemy.

    Weeks later, after the defeat of Santa Anna, residents returned to find cabins, stores and warehouses burned to the ground. While some rebuilt, the missing infrastructure prevented the town from assuming his previous role.

    Instead of a capital (unofficial or not) it settled on being the county seat of the freshly minted Austin County. That changed in 1846 when an election was held and Bellville was made county seat. Total transference was completed in 1848.

    In the mid-1870s San Felipe unwisely declined to let the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railroad pass through their town. A few years later the railroad bought a right-of-way through Sealy, giving that town a shot in the arm even while it drained population from San Felipe.

    The Texas Western Narrow Gauge Railway built through the area in 1882. Now well-aware of the importance of the railroad, the remaining residents of San Felipe wasted no time moving south (one half mile) to build alongside the rails. The line was discontinued and the population decreased accordingly. The population was only 206 by 1910.

    After WWII the population was still just 305 residents – and growth was slow. The 2000 census still showed less than 1,000 residents.
    Historical Marker :

    San Felipe de Austin

    First Anglo-American capital of Texas. Came into being on July 26, 1828, as capital of the Austin Colony, by decree of the Mexican government. Father of Texas Stephen F. Austin had begun under the 1821 grant from Mexico the settlement of more than 1,000 families. The original colony ran from the coast on the south to the old San Antonio Road on the north, and from the Lavaca River on the west to the San Jacinto River on the east.

    In this first American town in Texas lived Austin, William Barret Travis, Sam Houston, David G. Burnet and Jane Long. All settlers crossed its threshold for land grants. After the organization of other colonies, this continued to be the recognized center of Texas. It was capital of the Mexican Department of Brazos, site of the Conventions of 1832 and 1833 and the Consultation of 1835 where Texans aired grievances and tried to reach understanding with Mexico. The provisional government created with Henry Smith as governor in 1835 functioned here until it gave way to the convention declaring Texas independent of Mexico on March 2, 1836.

    San Felipe de Austin State Historic Site

    On the northern part of town.

    Several replica buildings have been erected around the old town site on the Brazos to form the San Felipe de Austin State Historic Site. Built in the late 1920s, the park was donated to the state in 1940.

    An obelisk and a (seated) bronze statue of Stephen F. Austin dominate the site while a rebuilt-well and the aforementioned buildings finish off the “infrastructure” of what is actually a 4,200 park.

    The bridge on FM 1458 crosses the Brazos over the site of the original ferry.
    Stephen F. Austin statue and obelisk
    Stephen F. Austin statue and obelisk
    Stephen F. Austin statue,  Stephen F. Austin State Park
    Stephen F. Austin in a heavily starched shirt
    More Texas Statues

    The statue of Stephen Fuller Austin was commissioned in 1938.
    The sculptor was Englishman John Angel (1881-1960)

    Centennial Marker:
    Stephen F. Austin
    Stephen F. Austin, Father of Texas, November 3, 1793-December 27, 1836. He planted the first Anglo-American colony in Texas, "The Old Three Hundred". In his several colonies he settled more than a thousand families. He was from 1823 until 1828 the actual ruler of Texas and thereafter its most influential leader. His own words are a fitting epitaph: "The prosperity of Texas has been the object of my labors -- the idol of my existence -- it has assumed the character of a religion -- for the guidance of my thoughts and actions" -- and he died in its service. No other state in the union owes its existence more completely to one man than Texas does to Austin.

    Erected by the State of Texas 1936 with funds appropriated by the Federal government to commemorate one hundred years of Texas independence.
    Stephen F. Austin statue, hand close up,  Stephen F. Austin State Park
    Stephen F. Austin statue detail
    More Texas Statues
    Stephen F. Austin portrait  Stephen F. Austin State Park
    A rather wind-blown portrait of Stephen Austin is mounted on the granite obelisk
    Historical Marker:

    Replica of Stephen F. Austin's Cabin

    Built in 1954, this structure is a replica of the only Texas home of Stephen F. Austin, "Father of Texas." The chimney contains bricks from original (1828) cabin. Other materials were made as authentically as possible. Austin (1793-1836) opened the Anglo-American colonization of Texas. His cabin, located in capital city of San Felipe, welcomed pioneers and statesmen of era; witnessed many crucial events leading to Texas Revolution.
    Recorded Texas Historic Landmark (1970)
    Log Cabin, Stephen F. Austin State Park
    Dogtrot cabin replica
    General Store museum, Stephen F. Austin State Park
    The J. J. Josey General Store Museum
    More Texas Stores | Texas Museums
    Josey General Store historical marker Stephen F. Austin State Park
    The J. J. Josey General Store historical marker
    Watch for snakes, Museum tour sign,  Stephen F. Austin State Park
    Free (if you bring in a snake).
    Rebuilt well in Stephen F. Austin State Park

    "A city may be moved - but not a well" - the I Ching
    The original community well, was rebuilt in 1928, before the park was donated to the state.

    Rebuilt well plaque, Stephen F. Austin State Park
    "Restored by the Sealy Chamber of Commerce - 1928"
    Early Roads to San Felipe historical marker,  Stephen F. Austin State Park
    "Early Roads to San Felipe" historical marker
    Historical Marker

    Early Roads to San Felipe

    During the mid-1820s, when Stephen F. Austin was founding this town, the only roads in the area were wagon ruts of beaten trails marked by notched trees. Within a decade, however, the village of San Felipe, one of the first Anglo settlements in Texas, had become a hub from which 8 or more roads projected.

    Many of these were small, intra-colony routes, but the main trails extended to major towns or joined "highways", such as the San Antonio Road (El Camino Real). A main route which passed through San Felipe was the Atascosita Road, connecting Goliad with the United States. It took its name from Atascosa (Spanish for "boggy") Spring near Liberty, which once was its main terminus. The Gotier Trace, another travel artery, was laid out about 1830 by pioneer James Gotier. It joined the northern and southern parts of Austin's colony and was used for decades. The San Felipe Road proper, which ran to Harrisburg, transported goods inland from the Gulf Coast.

    Even the main thoroughfares, however, were dusty trails in the summer and impassable quagmires in the winter, often flooded by knee-deep water. Not until well into the 20th century did Texas begin to develp her present, outstanding highway system.
    John Bricker memorial plaque, Stephen F. Austin State Park

    "Killed by a Mexican Cannon" - "Buried where he fell"
    Marker for Private John Bricker, native of Pennsylvania

    Brazos river bridge near  Stephen F. Austin State Park
    A view from under the bridge - the site of the original ferry.
    Brazos river  near  Stephen F. Austin State Park
    South bank of the Brazos River - with freshly sprouted bloodweed.
    Brazos river  view from bridge near  Stephen F. Austin State Park
    View of the Brazos River from the bridge
    Easter cross with fresh flowers

    A beautiful Easter Cross at
    the San Felipe Methodist Church
    TE photos, March 2008

    Stephen F. Austin State Park
    Deeded by the San Felipe de Austin Corporation in 1940

    Park Road 38
    San Felipe, TX 77473-0125
    (979) 885-3613

    Nearby Destinations:
  • On I-10 - Sealy | Columbus
  • On Hwy 159 - Bellville (Hwy 36) | Industry | Nelsonville
  • On FM 1094 - New Ulm | Fayetteville
  • On FM 237- Round Top | Warrenton | Oldenburg
  • On US 290 - Brenham | Burton | Chappell Hill | Giddings

  • The Road to Independence

    Related Story
  • Stephen F. Austin
  • Remembering Austin by Mike Cox
  • Texas Empresarios by Jeffery Robenalt

  • More Texas State Parks

    Book Area Hotels:
    Houston Hotels
    Sealy Hotels | Columbus Hotels | Brenham Hotels |
    More Hotels
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