Augusta Jane Evans was born on May 8, 1835, in Columbus, Georgia. She was the eldest of eight children born to Matthew "Matt" Ryan Evans and Sarah Skrine Howard Evans. Both parents were from planter families, and Evans was a partner in a successful mercantile firm. Augusta and her siblings seemed destined for a life of privilege, but her father's business went bankrupt after the Panic of 1837. Although his family was not impoverished, Matt never regained his earlier level of success. Augusta was permanently marked by the loss of her family's status and wealth. Like many Americans who suffered financial reverses in the economically volatile antebellum years, Matt Evans decided to move west to rebuild his fortune. In the early 1840s, the Evanses lived at Oswichee (then spelled "Oswitchee") in Russell County, Alabama. In 1846 they moved to San Antonio, Texas, where business was booming due to the large numbers of settlers who had moved into the area after the Texas War of Independence (1835–36), and the thriving trade in military goods at the start of the Mexican War (1846–48). Life on the frontier, however, was rugged and dangerous. In 1849, Matt Evans moved his family back east, this time to the bustling cotton port of Mobile.