Reception at Herculaneum, and introduction to the founder of the first American colony in Texas, Mr. Austin—His character—Continuation of the journey on foot to St. Louis—Incidents by the way—Trip to the mines—Survey of the mine country—Expedition from Potosi into the Ozark Mountains, and return, after a winter’s absence, to Potosi.
1818. The familiar conversation on shore of my friendly associates, speaking of a doctor on board who was inquiring into the natural history and value of the country at every point, procured me quite unexpectedly a favorable reception at Herculaneum, as it had done at Cape Girardeau. I was introduced to Mr. Austin, the elder, who, on learning my intention of visiting the mines, offered every facility in his power to favor my views. Mr. Austin was a gentleman of general information, easy and polite manners, and enthusiastic character. He had, with his connections, the Bates, I believe, been the founder of Herculaneum, and was solicitous to secure it a share of the lead trade, which had been so long and exclusively enjoyed by St. Genevieve. He was a man of very decided enterprise, inclined to the manners of the old school gentlemen, which had, I believe, narrowed his popularity, and exposed him to some strong feuds in the interior, where his estates lay. He was a diligent reader of the current things of the day, and watched closely the signs of the times. He had lived in the capital of Virginia, where he married. He had been engaged extensively as a merchant and miner in Wyeth county, in the western part of that State. He had crossed the wilderness west of the Ohio River, at an early day, to St. Louis, then a Spanish interior capital. He had been received by the Spanish authorities with attentions, and awarded a large grant of the mining lands. He had remained under the French period of supremacy, and had been for about sixteen years a resident of the region when it was transferred by purchase to the United States. The family had been from an early day, the first in point of civilization in the country. And as his position seemed to wane, and clouds to hover over his estates, he seemed restless, and desirous to transfer his influence to another theatre of action. From my earliest conversations with him, he had fixed his mind on Texas, and spoke with enthusiasm about it.
I left my baggage, consisting of two well-filled trunks, in charge of Mr. Ellis, a worthy innkeeper of the town, and when I was ready to continue my way on foot for St. Louis, I was joined in this journey by Messrs. Kemp and Keen, my fellow-voyagers on the water from Louisville. We set out on the 26th of the month. The weather was hot and the atmosphere seemed to be lifeless and heavy. Our road lay over gentle hills, in a state of nature. The grass had but in few places been disturbed by the plough, or the trees by the axe. The red clay soil seemed fitter for the miner than the farmer.