Mary Austin Holley
This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll celebrate a woman who wrote the state’s first known English-language song.
Mary Austin Holley, was born Mary Austin on October 30, 1784, in New Haven, CT. She learned to play piano, guitar, and harp and helped organize local musical events. In 1805, she married Horace Holley, a minister. Mary Austin Holley was a cousin of famed Texas entrepreneur Stephen F. Austin. In October 1831, she visited Austin’s colony, which, at the time, was still part of the Mexican province of Tejas.
While traveling on the Brazos River, Holley wrote “The Brazos Boat Song,” the first known English-language tune to be composed in Texas. Published in 1832, “The Brazos Boat Song” became very popular and was included in several plays about life on the Texas frontier. Over the years, a number of other songwriters composed variations of the “The Brazos Boat Song.” Perhaps the best known of these was Texas songwriter David Guion’s 1936 version, which gained widespread popularity as part of the state’s 1936 Centennial celebration. Although Mary Austin Holley was not a prolific composer, she helped launch a rich songwriting tradition that eventually would make Texas world famous for its songwriters.
Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll remember an eclectic Texas musician who continues to defy categorization.