James Austin, brother of Stephen F. Austin and one of the Old Three Hundred, son of Moses and Maria (Brown) Austin, was born in Missouri on October 3, 1803. From 1811 to 1817 he attended an academy in Washington, Connecticut. He joined his brother Stephen in Texas in December 1821, established residence, and became entitled to land grants from the Mexican government. On August 19, 1824, he received title to three leagues on the west bank of the Brazos River, encompassing Eagle Nest and Manor lakes; a labor in what is now western Brazoria County; and another labor that later became part of Waller County. Austin returned to Missouri in May 1824 to bring his mother and sister Emily (later Emily Austin Perry) to Texas, but in 1825 he was forced to return to Texas alone.
Shortly after his return he formed a partnership with John Austin and engaged in the coasting trade and merchandising. In 1826, when the proposed constitution for the state of Coahuila and Texas threatened to abolish slavery, Austin lobbied in Saltillo for a continuation of the institution and was instrumental in gaining a modification that recognized those slaves already in Texas. He also brought to Texas 300 Spanish horses from Saltillo in 1826. In 1827 he helped to put down the Fredonian Rebellion. Austin married Eliza Martha Westall on March 20, 1828; they named their son, born in February 1829, Stephen F. Austin, Jr. James Austin died of yellow fever in New Orleans on August 14, 1829.