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Texas State History

History | Symbols | Interesting Facts | Famous People


1519—Alonso Álvarez de Piñeda explores and charts the coast of Texas

1682—Spanish missionaries built two missions near El Paso

1718—The Alamo mission if founded

1772—San Antonio becomes the center of Spanish government for Texas

1821—Texas became part of Mexico; the first colony of Americans arrive

1835—The Texas Revolution begins

1836—The Alamo fell to Mexican troops; Mexico is defeated in the Battle of San Jacinto; Texas becomes the independent Republic of Texas

1845—Texas becomes the 28th state

1861—Texas secedes from the Union to join the Confederacy

1870—Congress readmits Texas to the Union

1901—Oil is discovered at the Spindletop field

1947—A French ship explodes killing 500, injuring 3,000, damages worth $70 million

1963—President Kennedy assassinated; Lyndon B. Johnson sworn in as the 36th President at Dallas Love Field Airport

1964—The Manned Spacecraft Center opens near Houston

1989—George Bush becomes the 41st President of the United States

2001—George W. Bush becomes the 43rd President of the United States

When European explorers first visited the Texas region, several groups of Native Americans were living there.  The largest of these was the Caddo.  Texas was named from the Caddo word Tejas, meaning friend.

In 1519, Spanish explorer Alonso Álvarez de Piñeda was the first European to visit Texas.  He charted the entire Gulf of Mexico.  In 1528, another Spanish expedition crashed on the Texas coast.  Myths of the golden “Seven Cities of Cibola” brought many Spaniards from Mexico into Texas.  Although these cities were never found, Spain made claims on Texas land.  Spanish missionaries built the first two missions near El Paso in 1682.  Some Mexican farmers began settling near these missions, north of the Rio Grande.

France also explored Texas and built Fort Saint Louis in 1685.  The settlement however, only lasted about two years.  When Spanish soldiers arrived to destroy the fort, disease and Indian raids had destroyed Fort Saint Louis and killed the settlers living there.

By the late 1730s, missions were built throughout central, east, and southwest Texas.  Presidios (Spanish forts) were established near some of the missions to protect them from Indian attacks.  In 1718, a presidio was built to protect the mission of San Antonia de Valero.  By the late 1770’s, San Antonio held the Spanish government for Texas.

In 1820, American Moses Austin was granted land in Texas from Spanish officials.  In 1821, his son Stephen Austin brought 300 families to farm along the Brazos River in Texas.  That same year Mexico won independence from Spain.  Mexico extended the boundaries of Austin’s colony and granted other Americans land in Texas.  In 1823, the new colony created its head of government in present-day Austin County.

During the 1830s, tension grew between Mexico and large numbers of American settlers in Texas.  By 1835, the Texas Revolution had begun.  When Texas troops captured San Antonio, Mexican General Antonio López de Santa Anna brought over 4,000 troops to regain control of the mission.  Less than 200 Texan rebels withdrew into a chapel called the Alamo.  Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie and others fought to their deaths.  Following the Alamo, more than 300 Texan prisoners from the battle at Goliad were also executed.  The Battle of San Jacinto was the last major battle in this war.  On April 21, 1836, Texans took the Mexico army by surprise, capturing Santa Anna and defeating his army.  They shouted the famous phrase, “Remember the Alamo” while they fought.  This victory gave Texas independence from Mexico.  The new independent country became the Republic of Texas.

The Republic of Texas tried for nearly 10 years to join the United States.  Finally on Dec. 29, 1845, Texas became the 28th state.  The following year, war broke out between the United States and Mexico over the boundary between Texas and Mexico.  The Mexican War ended in 1848.  Mexico gave up all claims to Texas using the Rio Grande as the new boundary between the two countries.

Texas had joined the United States as a slave state.  In 1861, Texas seceded with ten other states from the Union to form the Confederacy.  More than 50,000 Texans fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War (1861-1865).  The last battle of the war took place at Palmito Ranch in Texas on May 13th.  Word of the South’s surrender over a month earlier on April 9th had not yet reached Texas.  Texas was under military rule until 1870, when it was readmitted to the Union.

Beginning in the 1860s, many Texans established huge cattle ranches.  Cattle-drives ended during the 1880s with expansion of railroads through Texas.  Settlement increased during this time, settlers farming much of the western plains.  The Texas Rangers, organized in 1835, protected the growing settlements from Indians and dangerous outlaws.

Oil, discovered near Beaumont in 1901, lead to the expansion of several refineries and manufacturing plants.  Texas’ oil and gas industries flourished as the need for their products increased during World War I (1914-1918).  The federal government also established many military training camps in Texas.

The Great Depression (1929-1939) devastated the nation’s economy.  Oil prices fell, causing many to lose their jobs.  Highway construction provided some with work from the federal government.  World War II (1939-1945) also helped the economy.  Thousands of military men were trained in Texas camps.  Manufacturing became a very important part of Texas’ economy.  The aerospace, chemical, and electronics industries established many businesses throughout the state.  Texas began to change from a farm economy to an industrial economy.  Many farmers began moving to the cities.

On April 16, 1947, Texas suffered one of its worst tragedies as a ship carrying chemicals in the harbor at Texas City exploded.  The explosion killed almost 500 people, injured 3,000, and caused about $70 million in damage.

During the 1950s, Texas experienced racial problems much like that of the other Southern states.  After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled segregation in public schools unconstitutional in 1954, Texas was required to integrate its schools.  In 1963, political leader Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas became the first Southern President since the Civil War.  He became the 36th President after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

In 1962, NASA began building a Manned Spacecraft Center near Houston.  Workers there directed the Apollo 11 flight, the first in which astronauts landed on the moon.  This same center was renamed the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in 1973.  Many corporations, universities, and NASA conduct space testing and research there.

Recently, Texas is continuing to expand and grow industrially.  The mid-1980s however, showed lower prices for oil and gas.  State leaders are striving to attract new and diversified industries to Texas.  In 1989, George Bush became U.S. President.  In 2001, his son George W. Bush became the 43rd President of the United States.