Joseph H. Hawkins, a friend of Stephen F. Austin who helped finance Austin's colonization project, was a member of the Kentucky legislature from 1810 until 1813 and a United States congressman from 1813 until 1815. He moved in 1819 to New Orleans, Louisiana, where early in January 1821 he met and befriended Austin, who had been in school in Kentucky with Hawkins's brother. Hawkins was practicing law and engaged in the mercantile business in New Orleans. He offered to board Austin, teach him law, and lend him money for books and clothing until he could establish himself in practice. Austin had accepted the offer when he became involved in his father's Texas colonization project.
On November 14, 1821, Hawkins and Austin signed a contract in which Austin acknowledged the receipt of $4,000 for which he agreed to make Hawkins his partner in the Texas colonization venture, Hawkins to be entitled to one-half the lands and profits realized in the project. Although Hawkins probably did not give Austin the whole sum, he did exhaust his resources in supporting Texas colonization. He purchased and outfitted the Lively. He also made arrangements with other schooners, paid seamen, purchased provisions, and made numerous personal loans to colonists. Hawkins died bankrupt in the fall of 1823. He had not kept accounts, but from his notes and papers it was estimated that he had spent about $30,000 in sending and outfitting Texas colonists.
Austin, who had maintained a close friendship with Hawkins and his wife, wrote frequently regarding their financial affairs and after Hawkins's death asked that some person be sent to Texas to represent the estate. Mrs. Hawkins, however, expressed absolute faith in Austin and requested that he continue alone. She died about 1829, but final settlement of the partnership was not made until 1832, when Austin wrote that the transfer of lands to the estate had been completed. Since land in Texas could not be held by nonresidents, it is probable that title to the Hawkins lands was vested in a trustee.