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By Bartee Haile

Limping up Buffalo Bayou in a leaky ship, Henry Austin landed at Harrisburg on Dec. 29, 1830.

No one hates poverty quite as much as the miserable soul, who once had money but let it slip through his fingers. Stephen F. Austin’s first cousin was just such an unhappy has-been, a pitiful prisoner of his wealthy past that spent his last 40 years searching for a paradise lost. Elijah Austin was a New England merchant, who broke the commercial ice with China and made a fortune in Far East trade. Cutting short his son Henry’s childhood in 1794, he sent the 12 year old on a cruise to the Orient as a cabin boy.

Henry came back from Asia to find his father struck down by yellow fever in the prime of life. While still in his teens, he replaced an older but inept brother as the head of the house and boss of the family business. Despite his youth and inexperience, Henry was up to the challenge. He not only cared for his younger siblings but in the spirit of his audacious sire sailed to the Persian Gulf and cut a lucrative deal with Arab exporters.


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