TEXAS HISTORY – the Lone Star State

Texas is the second biggest state after Alaska, with a population of close to 28 million people. Most of the population in Texas live in the main cities, the biggest city being Houston which has a population of around 2.2 million but around 6.6 million in the greater Houston area while the greater Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington area has around 7 million people. San Antonio has a population of around 2.4 million in the area and the Capitol of Texas, Austin has a population of around 800,000 or around 1.9 million in the wider area. Sometimes defining what is included in the population statistics of a City is difficult with outlying sometimes included and sometimes not.

When people think of Texas, they no doubt think of oil, the Space Program and cattle ranches – with TV shows like Dallas, Dallas Housewives and old western movies like the Texas Rangers, the Alamo, Laredo and other shows creating this image of Texas as a big sprawling rich state where everything is BIG.

If you ask most Americans where they come from, most will say they come from the United States, ask a Texan and they will say they're Texan, and sure, Texas is in the United States. There's a lot of pride in saying you're a Texan.

The State itself has a great history and a lot to see, with the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport being one of the busiest in the world.


Native American tribes have lived in the area now the State of Texas for thousands of years, with the first European Explorer, Christopher Columbus first landing in Hispaniola (Haiti) in 1492 and "Discovering the New World". By 1496 the Spanish, based on his discovery had established a settlement at Santo Domingo in Hispaniola and by 1515 established Havana in Cuba, with the Conquistadors conquering the Mayans, Aztecs and Incan civilisations in Central and South America over coming years, with New Spain (Mexico) established as a Spanish settlement by 1521.

Columbus also brought cattle to Hispaniola in 1493 – a type of cattle from Spain that were derived from Middle Eastern cattle called Aurochs. More cattle and also horses were brought to Hispaniola in voyages that followed, with Hispaniola and also Cuba become centers for horse breeding. Cattle and also horses were bred and then also transported to Mexico and the other Spanish settlements in Central and South America and in turn horses were bred there too.

Early explorers and the Conquistadors needed horses for transport, to carry loads and also in battles – where the horses gave them speed and superiority over the any resistance and those on foot. Many cattle and also horses also escaped too and bred in the wild, and the Texas Longhorn cattle, derived from the Auroch cattle with their massive horns, up to 7 feet from the tip of one horn to the other, were found between the Nueces and Rio Grande river area in the 1800's. They had been living in the wild since their escape in the 1500's and 1600's. Horses that the Spanish brought to the Americas that escaped also bred in the wild, and Native Americans also grew to tame and then breed and trade them too, using them for hunting and also in tribal wars. The painted ponies date back to this time.

While the Spanish Explorers and Conquistadors obviously knew about the North American continent and landed on the coast, they made no attempt to establish a settlement in Texas in the early 1500's. They could just by sighting the land claim it as theirs, which they did, also claiming ownership over the Gulf of Mexico and Pacific Ocean when they found it too.

Having found the gold of the Incas, and silver mines, their interest lay in transporting these riches on their Galleon ships back to Spain, and protecting their interests from pirates and other misfortunes.

They also believed that they needed to convert all those they conquered to Christianity and teach them the Spanish language, how to grow crops, learn about cattle, chickens and horses, as well as Spanish domestic home skills. The Spanish brought horses, cattle, goats, dogs and poultry, building materials and trade skills, clothing and foods that were new to the Americas, but they also brought with them diseases like Smallpox. Thousands of Native Americans would die and almost entire local populations wiped out as a consequence of smallpox, yellow fever and even the common cold.

The Spanish conquered most of the Caribbean Islands, Mexico, Central and South America – and their success in doing this can be seen in the fact that almost all of the countries in the Caribbean, Central and South America all speak Spanish as a first language and their religion is Catholic.

In the late 1600's a few attempts were made to establish Mission Stations in East Texas, but it was the establishment of the French Settlement in New Orleans on the Mississippi River in Louisiana in 1718 that spurred the Spanish to pay more attention to the Texas region.

Fearing that the French would attempt to take over the lands to the west of the Mississippi – which would include all of the New Spain territories of which Texas was a part, the Spanish that year (1718) established the Mission San Antonio de Valero (The Alamo Fort in San Antonio) and in 1722 declared Los Adaes (now in Louisiana) as the Capitol of Texas, it being in New Spain. The French had in 1685 attempted to set up a settlement at Fort Saint Louis, 400 miles to the west of the Mississippi Delta, in Texas, but it was abandoned by the French and then the remains of the French settlement and fort were destroyed by the Spanish in 1689.

For the Europeans, making and proving a claim over land and territories could be made on the basis of published material, such as maps, diaries, ship's logs and notations, but a stronger claim could be made if there were established roads or settlements within an area. They could also make a claim of ownership on the principle of "Terra Nullius", a Roman Law that means 'Nobody's land', where there was no visible sign of an established Empire or make a claim by paying someone who lay claim to be the head of a tribe who claimed ownership.

Signing a document, be it one where the Chief of a tribal group who could neither read nor write, still meant that it was legal under the Laws of those who prepared the document. The Laws of Spain and Papal Laws took precedent over all other laws.

Spain and France had already clashed in Florida with wars between rival Empires over land, territories and borders being the most powerful way of resolving a land claim, with a Treaty then signed afterwards as confirmation of an end to the dispute.

All of the European Colonial powers were involved in wars, treaties, and power plays, just as Native Americans had also been involved in wars between tribes and battles over hunting grounds.

The arrival of Europeans began an invasion of Native American Indian lands and the European invaders became a new enemy to fight all be it that the Native Americans had bows and arrows, while the Europeans had guns.

Texas was a long way from Mexico City which ruled over New Spain and the Territories to the north including Nuevo California and Texas, and while the Spanish had established Mission settlements and Presidios in these northern regions, control was left to missions and then with more development to local Spanish Governors.

In the early 1800's a number of Spanish Colonial Territories in South America staged uprisings seeking their independence from Spain including Bolivia, Uruguay, Chile, Argentina and Paraguay.

Mexico also sought its independence with fighting and skirmishes between Mexicans and Spanish being fought from around 1810 onwards right up to the day when Independence was declared.

The Republic of Mexico formally declared its independence from Spain on September 27th, 1821, signing the 'Treaty of Cordoba', though Spain only officially accepted this in 1836.

This change also saw New Spain renamed as New Mexico, and Texas became a part of the new Republic of Mexico. Texas was however still just a few scattered Presidio Missions spread along the Camino Real (Royal Road) that linked Mexico City to the small Missions, ranches and settlements all the way to San Antonio where the Alamo Fort was located and onwards to the Mission San Francisco de Los Tajas and Los Adaes. While the road had the "Royal" title, it was in reality a series of rough tracks based on old Indian Trails that loosely connected mines, missions and settlements to each other.

Under the New Republic of Mexico, Mexico City was confirmed as the Capitol City and the country was divided into 18 states, with Texas just being a Department within the State of Coahuila y Tejas.

There is strength in numbers, and while Mexico had declared its Independence, the threat remained that Spain would mount an attack on the new Republic or even the French, British or Americans.

The Americans had already purchased the Louisiana Territory from the French in 1803, and the former Spanish state of Florida had been ceded to the United States in February 1819 under the Adams-Onis Treaty. The Treaty was then ratified by Spain on October 24, 1820, and by the United States on February 19, 1821, also defining the western borders of Louisiana, with the United States acknowledging Spanish ownership rights over Texas and westwards to the Pacific coast in California. This was all just months before Mexico declared its independence on September 27, 1821.

No doubt the Republic of Mexico was worried that the Treaty signed between Spain and the United States defining the borders and recognising Spanish rights over Texas, would be declared as invalid, given that the Republic of Mexico and not Spain was now in control of Texas.

The newly established Mexican Government therefore looked to Colonize Texas as a way of defending it, and appointed 'Empresario' land agents to find new immigrants to populate Texas on the basis of these immigrants taking up land to become farmers or cattlemen. The Spanish in 1820 had started this system, but as early as 1767 they had started the process of surveying land in parts of their territories including along the Rio Grande and in Texas, granting over time around 170 'Porciones' as ranch or mission settlements. They restricted these grants to those people who were Spanish, but in 1820 had opened this to foreigners on the basis that these foreigners swore allegiance to the Spanish Crown, were or became Catholic and were of good moral standing.

People emigrate from one place to another on the basis of achieving a better future, motivated by many reasons, be that poverty, floods, drought, natural disasters, starvation, family, violence, religion, prejudice and other reasons.

In the early 1800's in England, Ireland and Europe, the prospect of a better life in the Americas would have been a big incentive to emigrate, and an even bigger incentive would be the prospect of owning land and even being granted free land.

The Empresarios also knew that if they could attract new settlers, they too would get additional land grants too, and so thousands of new settlers headed west from the eastern states of America to Texas to take up land, with the head of a family having a 'headright' to as much over 4000 acres of crop and grazing land on the basis of paying a small amount of money over a 6 year period and exemption from paying Tariffs. They also needed to be or become Christians, swear an oath of allegiance to the Mexican Government and be of good character and in so doing they became Mexican Citizens. The Empresarios were able to gain land themselves, each time they were able to secure 100 new setters.

While the new settlers swore allegiance to the Mexican Government, and declared themselves to be Christians and of good moral standing, they did not need to learn Spanish and as their numbers grew, they became an outspoken political force.

By 1830, the Mexican authorities acted by trying to enforce payments of Tariffs, given that the 6 year period of no tariffs was at an end. There was great resistance to this, and Texas was still not a State in Mexico, it was still a Department in the State of Coahuila y Tejas.

In 1832 and 1833 the Texas Colonists held conventions seeking more years of Tariff exemptions and also sought to become a State with its own constitution. The Mexican Authorities however reacted by sending more troops to man their forts in Texas, and the seeds of revolt were planted, leading up to the Battle of Gonzales in October 1835, when the first major battle in a series of Battles began. Texan Volunteers were led by Sam Houston, Stephen Austin, Jamie Bowie, Benjamin Milam and other fighters against the Mexican Army forces.

While the Texan Volunteers won these early first battles, in January 1836, the Mexican General and President, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna (1794-1876) leading around 6000 troops and gathering a further 2000 troops crossed over the Rio Grande River to put down the revolt. Battles followed with the most famous siege battle being fought at the Alamo on March 6, 1836. The Texans including James Bowie were massacred but Santa Ana also lost around 600 soldiers too. March also saw another battle, what became known as the Goliad Massacre, when Santa Ana commanded that all of the 303 Texans who surrendered should be shot.

The Alamo and Goliad Massacre may have been a victory for General Santa Anna, but it was also a reason for the Texans to fight even harder and with the cry "Remember the Alamo" they fought and took revenge on the avowed enemy.

The new battle, the Battle of San Jocinto happened on April 21, 1836 with Sam Houston (1793-1863) leading 900 Texans and mounting a surprise attack on 1300 Mexican troops winning a decisive victory and capturing General Santa Anna. The Texan Declaration of Independence had been declared on March 2nd and Santa Anna was forced to sign the Treaty of Velasco, accepting the terms of the Texans on March 14, 1836. Sam Houston then became the first Governor of the new Republic of Texas.

While the Mexican Government would not ratify the Treaty, saying that it was signed under duress, and that General Santa Anna had no authority to sign such a Treaty, the Republic of Texas was founded. Mexico also continued to mount cross border attacks on Texas, and in 1845, the United States Congress made a decision to annex Texas into the United States, a decision that was officially accepted by the Republic of Texas and Governor Sam Houston on February 19th 1846, with Texas becoming the 28th State in the United States.

This decision did not go down well with the Mexican Government, and in March 1845 they severed their relations with the US Government. Tensions would continue over coming months, and in September 1845, President James K. Polk (1795-1849) sent a delegation to Mexico City seeking to buy California and New Mexico from the Mexicans and also re-define the borders of Texas. The delegation was however snubbed by Mexican President José Joaquin Herrera (1792-1854), and President Polk took the decision in January 1846 to send troops to occupy some of the disputed territory between the Rio Grande River in the south and Nueces River – the Rio de las Nueces - River of Nuts (Pecans) to the north, adding to the tension. The Mexicans believed that the border was the Nueces River, where they had built forts and the United States believed it was or should be the Rio Grande.

In the United States, many Americans held the view that the United States had a "Manifest Destiny" to own all Territories from its eastern coast to the west coast, a view that no doubt went right back to the time of the American Revolution when they fought Britain and won. The purchase of Florida, the Louisiana Purchase, and annexation of Texas further also served to confirm this "Destiny".

Within Mexico, politics were also in turmoil too with President Herrera only lasting a year as President with a coup mounted against him. In the disputed border areas, it only needed a spark to start a war between the United States and Mexico. That spark came in May 1846, when a controversial claim was made that Mexican troops had crossed the border in the "disputed territory" and killed 16 Americans "On American Soil". President Polk then declared War on May 13 1846, with Congress supporting this action, a war that would continue until February 1848, with the United States and Mexico agreeing to a settlement and signing the Guadalupe-Hildalgo Treaty.

Under the terms of the Treaty settlement, the United States agreed to pay $15 million dollars and all US Citizen debts to Mexico, an amount of just over $3 million dollars. In return, the United States gained ownership over most of California, and almost all of the regions that would ultimately become the States of New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and a large part of Wyoming and Colorado. The border between Mexico and Texas also became the Rio Grande.

Those Mexicans within these territories were also given a choice of becoming Americans or moving south to Mexico, and of the 80,000 or so Mexicans living north of the new border, about 90% agreed to become Americans.

In politics as in life, there is a statement made to the effect that "The end justifies the means" and no doubt this statement could be used in relation to the war and subsequent Treaty. Within months of the Treaty being signed, gold would also be discovered in California, and this too would have a dramatic effect on the development of the United States and its people.

Slavery had been abolished in Mexico under its constitution in 1824, with the last slaves freed there in 1829, but in Texas many of the new settlers moving to Texas from the southern US states also brought their slaves with them. To skirt the law, the slaves were called indentured servants, "bondmen", but in 1836, under the Republic of Texas, Slavery was made legal again, and with cotton growing requiring large numbers of workers, the need for slaves to do this work was seen to be essential to the prosperity of the cotton growers.

By 1846 there were said to be 30,000 slaves and 100,000 settlers in the State, with the State committed to Slavery as part of its constitution.

There is a term, mostly related to American architecture, called 'Antebellum' – meaning 'before the War', the War referring to the American Civil War, the war that divided the Nation over the question of slavery.

While Texas was very much a frontier state, its sympathies were with the other cotton growing Southern States. The issue was contentious, given that Texas had joined the Union as the 28th State and over 2700 Union Troops were stationed in Texas after the United States-Mexican War, but following conventions held on the issue, Texas chose to leave the Union and join the Confederate States in March 1861. The Civil War that followed lasted until June 1865, with an estimated 90,000 Texans fighting on the Confederate side, as either enlisted or conscripted fighters, mostly as cavalrymen.

While slaves gained their freedom at the end of the Civil War, it would be a long battle to gain equal rights, and no doubt the initial euphoria of 'Freedom', quickly faded.

Returning Confederate fighters returning from war received no 'Hero's Welcome Home' reception either, and Texas for a period of time became quite lawless.

A 'Poll Tax' was even introduced in 1902, whereby those who wanted to vote in an election, had to pay to do so, and this meant that those on the least income stopped voting or never voted. It would not be until 1919 that women were allowed to vote, and the Poll Tax was only disallowed in Texas in 1966 by Federal Legislation.

Texas may have started as a frontier state and then grown with agriculture, cattle ranching, cotton, timber and other industries developing, but it was Oil that really put Texas on the map.

Oil was initially used to make kerosene for use in street lighting and lamps, but there was an explosion in its use when Automobiles began production.

In Texas some of the early explorers had encountered Oil and used it to caulk their boats, and Native Americans were also aware of it too, but the first encounters in Texas with oil was when they dug wells to find water. In the 1860's a few small oil wells had been drilled, but it was 1901 when the Lucas 1 Spindletop Well blew taking 9 days to cap, that really started an Oil Boom in Texas.

From this one well, thousands more would be developed, and cars, trucks, tractors, harvesters, trains, ships and aircraft would begin to use Oil for powering engines, creating not just an oil boom, but also a transport and freight boom, which changed cities and people's lives forever.

Where cattle had previously relied on cattle drives to get them to market, they could now be trucked. Highways replaced dirt tracks, and mass production of products led to new services, companies and wealth. The Cattle Barons were replaced by Oil Barons, though if the oil was discovered on the oil baron's land, they became oil barons too.

Not all the times were boom times in Texas. Texas also suffered through the Great Depression and the dust bowl days that began in 1934 and ended in 1939, and it was also heavily involved in World War Two when thousands of troops and Air Force personnel were stationed in Texas, a situation that continues today. It is also where President John F Kennedy was shot dead in Dallas on November 22, 1963, but since then three more Presidents have come from Texas – Lyndon B Johnson, George Bush and George W. Bush.

The Oil Industry became the Petro-Chemical industry that led into plastics and aviation, then into aeronautics, space exploration and computers. Service industries also developed in healthcare, pharmaceuticals, education, research and development.

Today Texas has a strong Economy and diverse industry base. It still however retains its own strong identity as the 'Lone Star State' – the significance of the one star on the Texan flag being that is was once a Republic and independent of Mexico.

There is also a strong connection with Mexico too, with Spanish widely spoken and a large Hispanic population. Texas even has its own distinctive accent with the Texas Drawl and the image of cowboys, guns and denim is apparent wherever you go.

There is great food here too – from beef steaks to Tex-Mex, Fajitas, Chilli con Carne, pecan pie to fast food. They even claim that Hamburgers were invented in Texas.

And of course, there are the Dallas Cowboys football games to see too…

Welcome to Texas!

I hope you have a great time here.

Geoff Stuart

Happy Traveller

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