Stephen was born 12 March 1834 in Bond County, Illinois. It is believed but not documented that Stephen was the son of John Austin, a farmer in Bond County. At this point little is completely known about Stephen´s family except that he had brothers and sisters. Stephen does have a brother who is 10 years younger than he is, by the name of Andrew J. Austin.
Between the years of 1856 and 1862 Stephen was married to Lousia. They had 2 sons, James Charles born in 1858 and John born in 1861. Stephen and Lousia were farming in Bond County, Illinois. It was with just a young family that Lousia dies.
Stephen having two small sons, soon remarries. On 21 July 1864 Stephen and Sarah Ann Ray were married. Sarah Ann is the daughter of John and Elizabeth Ray. She is 20 years old at the time.
About six months later Stephen enlists in the Union Army on January 1, 1865 in Alton, Illinois. He is a private in Company I, regiment 144 of the state of Illinois infantry. At this time he is 30 years old and is described as follows: "This soldier has black eyes, black hair, dark complexion and is 5 ft. 10 inches high."
Stephen wrote the following about his experience in the Civil War: "While in the service in St. Louis, Missouri, I first taken Arasypalis in my legs and then on my forehead and eyes the Dr. shaved my head and painted with Iodine which got in my eyes and nearly ruined my eyesight and I never could see good since that time." Stephen was discharged August 24, 1865 having served 8 months and 17 days.
After the Civil War he and Sarah and his two boys went to Hartville, Wright, Missouri to live and farm. He later relates this story: "I had a severe case of Black Jaundice while in Missouri... for first 2 years I could not perform any manual labor. The first year in Missouri 1868 I plowed till the blood ran down my legs into my shoes, had to do or starve and ever since that time, my boys had cultivated my crop."
This is a letter written about Stephen by his brother, Andrew J. Austin. Andrew was 53 and living in Old Ripley, Bond, Illinois at the time he wrote this to the U.S. Pension Office. "Stephen Austin is my brother who enlisted either in 1863 or 1864 and served one or more and was mustered out at the end of the war. He was a sound man when he enlisted and on his return from the army he had a running sore on one of his legs between the knee and the ankle I lived within one quarter mile of him for two years in the state of Missouri in the later part of 1867 to the beginning of 69 his leg was still sore all that time, the sore would seem to heal at times and then break out and be a running sore. I consider inability to perform was fully one half. Andrew J. Austin"
They lived in Hartville, Missouri for about 5 years and while living there they had three children: William Anthony, Mahala, and Early.
Stephen returned to Illinois in 1873 where Mary Caldonia was born. Later that year he moved his family by wagon to Eastland, Texas where he farmed. Sarah Ann gave birth to three more children: Magdalena, Charles Edward and Rosa.
During the summer of 1880 Sarah Ann Ray Austin dies in Eastland, Texas. Stephen once again is left with 9 small children to raise alone. The youngest, Rosa is two. Because of this Stephen remarries a third time to Sallie C. Griffin on December 19, 1880 in Eastland, Texas. She was also known as Sarah Catherine Floyd. Sallie had a son, Joe Griffin, by a previous marriage.
In 1888 Stephen and his family went to Idaho where he searched for gold. Besides mining he also fished for the government. They didn´t stay long in Idaho and had returned to Eastland by 1890.
In 1891 they moved to Dickens, Texas, where Stephen helped set up the town of Dickens. On 10 May 1892 he bought a lot for $5.00 from John A. Askins. He bought and sold a number of pieces of land.
April 1, 1893 Stephen became a Dickens County Commissioner of Precinct 1 and held that position through 1899. As a federal soldier, he received a pension of $12 a month.
Stephen suffered with his legs all his life and also had digestive problems. Throughout his life he tried many remedies such as Burnt Allium, Red Bud and many other poultices to reduce the swelling in his legs. Benjamin F. Brock, a neighbor wrote that he had seen Stephen in bed many times with his sore legs.
Stephen Austin died on June 2, 1904 in Dickens. He was 70 years old and the cause of death was Cystitis and Prostatitis.
Source: "Dickens County, Its Land and People", Dickens County Historical Commission, ©1986
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