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Mussina, Simon (1805–1889)

Natalie Ornish Biography Entry

Simon Mussina, merchant, newspaper editor, and attorney, was born to Zachariah and Nancy Mussina in Philadelphia on July 8, 1805. Zachariah, who identified himself as a Dutch Jew, educated his children in Philadelphia and trained Simon in the mercantile business. In 1821 he and Simon took a business trip to Mobile and Clark County, Alabama, where Zachariah drowned while crossing a swollen creek. The family fortune of gold disappeared in the drowning, and Simon was left to support his mother and several younger brothers and sisters. He set up a mercantile store in Clark County, then moved to Mobile, where he developed one of the largest mercantile businesses in the South. Before 1836 a fire burned his savings, and that year he moved to Matagorda, Texas, with his family. He bought the Matagorda Bulletin and edited it until 1840, when he moved to Galveston, where he edited the National Banner to advertise his vast holdings of West Texas lands. When Austin became the state capital, Simon sold the Banner and returned to Matagorda to assume editorship of the Bulletin. He subsequently moved to Galveston, where he established a large drugstore. When the Mexican War started he went to Matamoros, bought land at Point Isabel on the Rio Grande, acquired controlling interest in a Matamoros newspaper, the American Flag, and developed it into one of the most popular newspapers of the time. At the end of the war he served as one of the surveyors who laid out the town of Brownsville.

Mussina became a close friend of Sam Houston, who encouraged him to become the chief plaintiff against Judge John C. Watrous, charged with corrupt decisions on land claims in and about Brownsville. The litigation lasted most of Mussina's life. In 1868 he moved to Austin and began proceedings for the La Vega land grant, an eleven-league grant that embraced a part of eastern Waco. This case, too, stayed in litigation. In his sixties Mussina became a member of the State Bar of Texas and established himself as one of the most astute land attorneys in the state. From 1870 to 1873 he served as president of the board of trustees for the state blind and insane asylums (see MENTAL HEALTH, AUSTIN STATE HOSPITAL, TEXAS SCHOOL FOR THE BLIND), and in 1871 he served as alderman for the city of Austin. Mussina never married, but he reared his father's family. He died on February 11, 1889, and his sister, who had married a Presbyterian minister of Galveston, buried him from that church in Galveston.

Galveston Daily News, February 12, 1889. Natalie Ornish, Pioneer Jewish Texans (Dallas: Texas Heritage, 1989). Ira Rosenwaike, "The Mussina Family: Early American Jews?," American Jewish History 75 (June 1986). Sunday Gazetteer (Denison, Texas), February 17, 1889.Amelia W. Williams and Eugene C. Barker, eds., The Writings of Sam Houston, 1813–1863 (8 vols., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1938–43; rpt., Austin and New York: Pemberton Press, 1970).


  • Journalism
  • Newspapers
  • Editors and Reporters
  • Peoples
  • Jews

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

Natalie Ornish, “Mussina, Simon,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 11, 2021,

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January 13, 2018