Texas Originals: Mary Austin Holley

Mary Austin Holley
[Wikipedia image]

October 30, 1784–August 2, 1846


Writer Mary Austin Holley introduced English-speaking readers of the 1830s and ‘40s to Texas, which she called a land of “surpassing beauty ... a splendid country.”

A Connecticut native, Holley lived in Boston and Lexington, Kentucky, until the death of her husband in 1827.

She wrote to her cousin Stephen F. Austin, inquiring about the colony he had founded in far-off Texas. Stephen replied enthusiastically, even promising her a tract of land upon her arrival. She visited in 1831, and several times over the next twelve years, with plans to settle there.

In 1833, Holley published Texas: Observations, Historical, Geographical and Descriptive, the first book on Texas by an Anglo-American. Three years later, she published a second book, simply titled Texas, which included a thrilling portrayal of the Texan war for independence and a detailed guide to the new republic’s land and people.

Texas was the first book to include many important documents of the revolution, including the Texas Declaration of Independence and the Republic of Texas Constitution.

Holley’s work persuaded many to pack up and move to Texas. Sadly, she died of yellow fever and never settled in the place that had captured her heart. Today, her engaging books, her intricate pencil sketches of early Houston, and her journals and family letters provide invaluable accounts of life in early Texas.

Mary Austin Holley sketch


Selected Bibliography

Bryan, James Perry, ed. Mary Austin Holley: The Texas Diary, 1835–1838. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1965.

Light T. Cummins, Emily Austin of Texas, 1792-1852. Fort Worth: Texas Christian University, 2009.

Dall, Curtis B. “Holley, Mary Austin.” Handbook of Texas Online. http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fho32

Hatcher, Mattie Austin. Letters of an Early American Traveller, Mary Austin Holley, 1784–1846. Dallas: Southwest Press, 1933.

Jenkins, John H. Basic Texas Books: An Annotated Bibliography of Selected Works for a Research Library. Austin: Jenkins Publishing Company, 1983.

Lee, Rebecca Smith. Mary Austin Holley, A Biography. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1962.

Sibley, Marilyn M. Introduction to Texas, by Mary Austin Holley. Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1985.

Trask, Kathi. “Horace and Mary Austin Holley.” Dictionary of Unitarian and Universalist Biography. http://www25.uua.org/uuhs/duub/articles/maryaustinholley.html



This story originally aired November 9, 2012. 


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