Austin’s First Born

Presbyterian minister Amos Roark took a census of the new Capitol City, prior to Austin being incorporated on December 27, 1839. It was more of a marketing plan for the Presbytery than an official census. Regardless of his motive it gives a good description of Austin and its earliest settlers, during the Republic of Texas.

Rev. Roark counted 75 families: 5 with no religious affiliation, 10 Baptist, 10 Catholic, 11 Episcopalians, 10 Lutherans, 17 Methodists and 12 Presbyterians. Only the Presbyterian and Methodist Churches were finished; other congregations worshipped in members homes, some held services at the wood planked capitol building on a hill at the northwest corner of Hickory (now Colorado) and East Eighth.

He tallied 856 full time residents; 550 adult men, 61 women of which 6 were young maidens, the rest children. The minister targeted 20 gamblers and 4 lawyers in need of salvation. He noted there were 6 inns, 6 gaming houses, 9 saloons and a billiard parlor.

There was little night life as few could afford candles at nine dollars a pound. Venison, turkey and buffalo meat were abundant at the Eberly Inn. Paying $75.00 a month room and board at the Eberly was Senator Anson Jones of Brazoria County and Lorenzo Van Cleve. Both bachelors served in the Texas Army during the revolution. Each bought city lots nearby to build their home and business; Jones an MD, Van Cleve a master craftsman, would make furniture for Dr. Jones’ new home on Pecan Street.

The doctor was engaged to Mary McCory; Van Cleve was courting 19 year old Margaret Smith. They would be the second and third couple to marry of the six recorded during 1840. Mary McCory-Jones gave birth to Sam Houston Jones on February 26, 1841. The boy was named Sam Houston Jones at birth, but after a fall out with President Sam Houston, the parents changed the boy’s name to Samuel Edward Jones. Margaret Smith-Van Cleve had Elnora Van Cleve on April 14, 1841. They were the first recorded births in Austin.

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