Emily Austin Perry, early colonist, was born on June 22, 1795, in Austinville, Virginia, the daughter of Maria (Brown) and Moses Austin and the sister of Stephen F. and James E. Brown Austin. Her family moved to Mine a Breton (later Potosi), Missouri, when she was almost three years old. She attended Mrs. Beck's Boarding School in Lexington, Kentucky, from October 1804 until December 1808. In 1811 her mother took her to Camden, New Jersey, briefly, and then to New Haven, Connecticut, to visit relatives, and then enrolled her in the Hermitage Academy near New York City. On August 13, 1813, Emily married James Bryan in Potosi, and they lived with her parents at Durham Hall in 1813–14, then moved to Hazel Run in 1815 and lived for a time at Herculaneum, all in Missouri. After James died on July 16, 1822, Emily took in boarders and taught school at Hazel Run to support her family until her marriage on September 23, 1824, to James Franklin Perry. She had eleven children, six of whom lived to adulthood. These included William Joel, Moses Austin, and Guy Morrison Bryan. One Bryan son and three Perry children all died before their second birthdays, and Mary Elizabeth Bryan died in a cholera epidemic at the age of eleven. On June 7, 1831, the family, composed of Emily and James Perry, four Bryan children, and Stephen Perry, left Potosi, Missouri, for Texas. They arrived on August 14, 1831, at San Felipe de Austin, where Emily and the younger children remained for several months. The family lived for the next year on Chocolate Bayou, then began development of Peach Point Plantation near Brazoria, where Emily made her home for the next nineteen years.
She was devoted to her brother, Stephen F. Austin, and was expected by him to set an example for the other colonists. During the Runaway Scrape, she and her children fled to the east and were aboard a ship on Galveston Bay, close enough to hear the guns fired at the battle of San Jacinto. That panic almost caused the loss of the colony, Austin wrote later, adding that Emily, who wanted to visit the United States, should "stay at home and abide the fate of Texas." Rutherford B. Hayes, who visited at Peach Point in 1848, wrote that Emily, "instead of having the care of one family, is the nurse, physician, and spiritual adviser of a whole settlement of careless slaves. She feels it is her duty to see to their comfort when sick or hurt." By May 1851 Emily's health was so poor that she went to the United States to seek treatment. She returned home on July 1, and on August 15, 1851, she died at Peach Point. She was buried in the family cemetery on the plantation. Descendants still meet at Peach Point each June to celebrate her birthday and pay honor to her memory.
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Eugene C. Barker, ed., The Austin Papers (3 vols., Washington: GPO, 1924–28). David B. Gracy II, Moses Austin: His Life (San Antonio: Trinity University Press, 1987). Marie Beth Jones, Peach Point Plantation: The First 150 Years (Waco: Texian Press, 1982). James Franklin and Stephen Samuel Perry Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. E. W. Winkler, ed., "The Bryan-Hayes Correspondence," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 25 (October 1921-April 1922).
Founders and Pioneers
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Marie Beth Jones,
“Perry, Emily Margaret Austin,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 28, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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