Hawkins, Joseph H. (ca. 1786–1823)

Revised by: Randolph B. "Mike" Campbell

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: April 29, 2022

Joseph H. Hawkins, friend of Stephen F. Austin who helped finance Austin's colonization project, was born in Lexington, Kentucky, around 1786, the son of Edmund and Mary Polly (Netherland) Hawkins. He married George Ann Nichols in Fayette County, Kentucky, in 1808. Hawkins became a lawyer and served as 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 he practiced law and engaged in the mercantile business. Early in January 1821 he met and befriended Austin, who had been in school in Kentucky with Hawkins's brother. He offered to board Austin, teach him law, and lend him money for books and clothing until he could establish himself in practice. Austin 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 October 1823, leaving a wife and five children. 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. Just four months before his partner’s death, Austin wrote, “Joseph H. Hawkins is my adopted brother, a better or truer friend never existed.” After Hawkins's death, Austin 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 in 1829, but final settlement of the partnership was not made until 1833, when Austin wrote that the transfer of lands to the estate had been completed.

Gregg Cantrell, Stephen F. Austin: Empresario of Texas (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999). Eugene C. Barker, The Life of Stephen F. Austin (Nashville: Cokesbury Press, 1925; rpt., Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1949; New York: AMS Press, 1970). Biographical Directory of the American Congress.

Time Periods:
  • Mexican Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Revised by Randolph B. "Mike" Campbell, “Hawkins, Joseph H.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 17, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/hawkins-joseph-h.

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April 29, 2022

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