School History

  • Mary Austin Holley (1784-1846), was born in New Haven, Connecticut, on October 30, 1784. During her life, she became an accomplished author and teacher.
    Mrs. Holley moved to Louisiana and became a teacher after her husband died in 1829. Once her cousin, Stephen F. Austin was settled in Texas, she communicated with him concerning the possibility of gathering her family around her in Texas.
    Stephen F. Austin made arrangements to reserve land for her on Galveston Bay, and in October 1831 she visited the Austin colony. As a result she wrote Texas: Observations, Historical, Geographical, and Descriptive, in a Series of Letters Written during a Visit to Austin's Colony, with a View to a Permanent Settlement in That Country in the Autumn of 1831, which was published in Baltimore in 1833. During her first Texas visit she also planned a book to be called "Travels in Texas" and composed a "Brazos Boat Song," illustrated with a vignette of Bolivar House, which was her Texas residence.
    Back in Louisiana, Mary Holley continued her teaching, made plans for a future in Texas, and planned a biography of Stephen F. Austin. In May of 1835, she traveled back to Texas where she remained for a few months. Her manuscript diary of that trip, like her charming family letters, is a valuable picture of the Texas scene. She continued to give good publicity to Texas and to arouse sympathy for the colony during the period of the Texas Revolution. The ladies of Lexington met in her home to sew for volunteers for the Texas army.
    Her book Texas, a history, was at the press by May 1836 and on the market by November 1836. It was the first known history of Texas written in English. After its publication, Mrs. Holley began to work for Texas annexation. Despite her sorrow over the death of Stephen F. Austin, she traveled back to Galveston. During her trip, Mrs. Holley wrote letters to her daughter describing the changes made with the establishment of the Republic of Texas. On this trip she also made a number of pencil sketches of the Houston area, thus providing the earliest pictorial documentation of the first Capitol building, the homes of several prominent citizens, and the Long Row. She made a trip to the North in 1838-39, was back in Galveston in November 1840, and then for the third time returned to Lexington. On her last Texas visit in 1843 she interviewed old settlers and secured material for a biography of Stephen F. Austin to go into a new edition of the History of Texas. In 1845 she decided to return to her teaching. She died of yellow fever on August 2, 1846, and was buried in the Donatien Augustine tomb in the St. Louis Cemetery at New Orleans. Her books and her long series of family letters are invaluable accounts of early Texas.