The Austin Lyceum was granted a charter on February 5, 1841, the first ever issued for a learned society in the Republic of Texas. E. Lawrence Stickney, President presided over the first meeting of the Austin Lyceum. Stickney was also Secretary to the Republic of Texas Treasury. George William Bonnell was a charter member and President Sam Houston an honorary member. The learned men of the new capitol city of the Republic of Texas started meeting in October of 1839, months before Austin was officially incorporated.
By April 1840, membership had grown to 42, mostly professional men. The meetings consisted of lectures and debates on current affairs. Membership fees and dues were assessed for the purpose of establishing a library.
On April 15, 1841, the organization abruptly surrendered its charter to the Secretary of State and dissolved the entity. All monies acquired would go to the family of Travis County Judge, James W. Smith, who had been killed by Indians on January 21, 1841. The popular Judge’s son Fayette was captured during the attack, which was his ninth birthday. Lyceum members hoped that the widow Angelina Smith might be able to ransom her son with the money. Word had been received that a boy matching Fayette’s description was seen headed toward Santa Fe with the Comanche’s.
Thanks to the Lyceum, William Smith, the brother of Judge Smith, hired Tonkawa Indians to guide him. They made it to Santa Fe before the Comanche’s; Fayette’s uncle missed him by just days. William alerted people about his captured nephew before heading back to Austin by way of the Santa Fe Trail. A Taos merchant named John Rowland paid $60.00 silver in ransom for Fayette and returned him to his family.