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Printed July 2, 2019

What if Austin courts Eliza, and there is no Mary Todd Lincoln?

By Janice Edwards/ The Bulletin

Did you know that Stephen F. Austin had a quirky historical connection to the Civil War?

Austin is fondly remembered as the Father of Texas and a gifted, disciplined, dedicated politician who sacrificed his personal life to bring life to Texas.

But people forget that Austin was once young and given to the pranks, joys and foibles of youth.
When just 15, Austin was sent to Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, to achieve a higher education (late 1808 or early 1809).

Much of the documentation of his short time there was his course work. Other than that, not much of his time at Transylvania is recorded except correspondence with his male classmates.

What did they write about? Girls. Typical teenagers, they gossiped about the girls they knew – and who liked whom.

Due to a family financial crisis, Stephen did not finish his education and was pulled out of school early to help his father with the family business. But Stephen kept in contact with one classmate, one Robert Todd.

“One of Stephen’s classmates, Robert Todd, reported to Stephen about one ‘Eliza P’ ‘the little girl you are so fond of.” According to “Stephen F. Austin: Empresario of Texas,” by Gregg Cantrell, Stephen instructed another classmate, Isaac Baker, that Baker’s letters should ‘begin and finish’ with news of Eliza’.”

Austin was quite taken with young Eliza Parker (the Eliza in the letters), but when Stephen was called home, it left Robert Todd an open field to court Eliza.

As a result, Robert Todd and Eliza Parker wed in 1812. Together, they had seven children. The fourth child of this union was named Mary … Mary Todd, who met and married a lawyer from Illinois. She then became known to the world as Mary Todd Lincoln.

It begs you to wonder – What if Stephen F. Austin hadn’t been called home to help with the family business?

Would there have been a Mary Todd? And if there were no Mary Todd – would Lincoln have run for president? And if there were no President Lincoln, would there even had been a Civil War?

What if … ?

(Jan wants to hear from you. Write her in care of The Bulletin. Email: john.bulletin@gmail.com. Snail mail: The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton TX, 77516.)