The skyline of modern-day Austin, Texas
Texas is the second largest and most populated state in America. Its history is diverse and multi-cultural, with a mixed population of Native American, Spanish, Mexican, American and Anglo-Saxon heritage. So-called the “Lone Star State” due to its struggle for independence, it is known for country music, BBQs, cattle ranches and hot summers.
A Nod to Texan Innovation
The history of Texas is not only about who rules and when but also the various innovations that arose from the state, from ranching to oil drilling, and advancements in science and technology. For instance, Jack Kilby was the first to demonstrate the integrated circuit. He did so in 1958 in a lab in Dallas.
Condensed milk came out of Texas, as did the world’s first domed and air-conditioned sports stadium as well as the first artificial heart implantation. In popular culture, Willie Nelson became one of the top legends in country music while Doyle Brunson ruled at the poker tables playing Texas Hold ‘em. Both are hat-wearing Texans born in 1933.
Early History of Texas
Long before the Europeans arrived, America was home to many Native American tribes. The land of Texas had several native peoples, each of which had their own distinct culture.
There was the Caddo Nation in the east known for farming corn and sunflower. On the Gulf Coast was the Karankawa people, who were excellent at fishing and making dugout canoes. The Comanche, who was the main tribe in the northwest, were hunters and horsemen. The Apache people were in the south and southwest, living in teepees and wigwams.
The first Spanish explorers arrived in Texas in 1519. Alonso Álvarez de Pineda mapped the coastline, and then Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca ended up shipwrecked off the coast. He spent time with the Native Americans and wrote back home, eventually encouraging the conquistadors to set sail in search of gold (gold that they never found).
Texas remained largely untouched for around 150 years after the first explorers landed on the coasts. It was the French who colonized Texas before the Spanish. René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle aka Robert de la Salle established Fort St. Louis in 1685. However, the Spanish were more “successful.” They began to build missions to spread their beliefs, and in 1718, established the Misión San Antonio de Valero aka The Alamo. Texas was a province of Spain from 1690 until 1821.
The 1800s were tumultuous times for Texas, as the country came under various rules and struggled for its independence. In 1821, Mexico declared its independence from Spain with a revolt, and “Tejas” became part of Mexico. From 1882, Mexico’s liberal immigration policy attracted substantial numbers of Americans to settle in Texas, led by Stephen Austin and 300 families, with the approval of the Mexican government.
The settlers were not content to adopt the Mexican identity and thought of themselves as “Texans.” They expanded quickly and greatly outnumbered Mexicans within Texas. Mexico feared they would lose control, encouraged more immigration from Mexico and banned immigration from the U.S. in 1830.
That angered the Texans, who pushed for a revolution and independence in 1836. Texas was still under threat from Mexico, and while some wanted to remain independent, the leaders eventually opted to annex into the United States of America. In 1845, Texas joined as the 28th state. That led to business expansion and the subsequent opening of the first railroad in 1853 and first telegraph office in 1854.
It was not, however, the end of the instability. Texas left the United States to join the Confederacy in 1861 before rejoining the Union in 1870.
In 1894, there was an accidental discovery of oil in Corsicana, and by 1901, the oil boom had begun. The invention of the rotary rock drill bit by Hughes Tool Company in 1933 helped it along. Before then, the main industries in Texas were cattle and bison, cotton and timber.
The history of Texas is one of struggle for independence as well as innovation. The history shows a multicultural land, embodied by the six flags over Texas, representing the six nations that have at one time had sovereignty over the state: Spain, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the Confederacy and the USA.