Texas History Timeline
From many chapters comes one sprawling Story of Texas.
Peoples settled in what is now Texas thousands of years before European explorers arrived in North America. Some American Indian oral histories recount how their ancestors traveled to the area by water or land. A large amount of stone artifacts made at least 16,000 years ago have been found in Central Texas. For many years, scientists believed that the first Americans came from Asia 13,000 years ago. The discovery of these artifacts suggests that humans came to the Americas much earlier.
Pre-Cloves Projectile Point. Courtesy Gault School of Archaeological Research, San Marcos, Texas
Peoples who lived in the area at the end of the Ice Age are referred to as the “Clovis” people by archaeologists. These people shared the land with mammoths, mastodons, and other Ice Age animals. They traveled long distances to hunt these animals with spears. They also used projectile points and other tools made of Alibates flint. Their stone tools have been found more than 300 miles from the stone's source.
Alibates. Courtesy Texas Beyond History, a public education service of the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory, The University of Texas at Austin
The “Folsom” people lived a hunter-gather lifestyle very similar to the Clovis people. With the mammoth and many other big game species from the Ice Age extinct, the Folsom people followed large herds of bison that were larger than the bison of today. They hunted with a weapon called the atlatl and dart. This weapon system consisted of two parts: a "throwing stick" and a dart which looks similar to an arrow but was much longer.
Prehistoric hunters used atlatls to hurl these darts at their prey. Courtesy Texas Beyond History, a public education service of the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory, The University of Texas at Austin
The “Archaic” people that called the present-day Texas Panhandle home lived in an environment that was rich in various plants and animals. They were slowly transitioning from being nomadic hunter-gatherers to farmers. They gathered various types of plant materials: seeds, roots, berries, and anything else that was edible. They would grind the seed into meal using tools called a “mano and matate” made out of sandstone or dolomite.
Striations, stains, and polish cover this limestone tool that may have been used for a variety of purposes, including grinding. Courtesy Texas Beyond History, a public education service of the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory, The University of Texas at Austin
More than 5000 years ago in present-day Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, people began to grow corn, beans, and squash. The switch from a nomadic hunter-gatherer life style to horticulture contributed to more reliable food sources and settled lifestyles. Populations grew and cultures flourished.
Varieties of maize found near Cuscu and Machu Pichu at Salineras de Maras on the Inca Sacred Valley in Peru, June 2007. Courtesy Smithsonian Institute, photographer credit Fabio de Oliveira Freitas
"Rock art" including pictographs (painted images) and petroglyphs (carved, or incised images) was made by people at least 4,500 years ago throughout the Lower Pecos region of present-day Texas. The symbols in the “White Shaman” mural depict a creation story that can still be interpreted today by Huichol Indians in Mexico.
Panther Cave Rock Art. Courtesy Shumla Archaeological Research and Education Center. Site jointly owned by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the National Park Service
Beginning at least 2,000 years ago in a Hueco Mountains’ canyon near El Paso, ancient Puebloans held ceremonies where they placed offerings in a cave. The Pueblo people believed that caves were portals to a watery underworld. Among the artifacts found in Ceremonial Cave were a finely crafted bracelet and pendants made of shells from coastal areas hundreds of miles away. These artifacts are evidence of the vast trade routes that existed between diverse communities.
Turquoise armband, 700–1450 CE. Courtesy Texas Archeological Research Lab, The University of Texas at Austin
The bow and arrow replaced the atlatl around 700 C.E. The new technology spread across much of North America around this time. Its precise origin is unknown, but it may have been brought into the region by new migrants. The bow was lighter and required fewer resources to make. The arrow was much more lethal than a spear because of its speed, silence, and accuracy.
Scallorn Points. Courtesy Texas Beyond History, a public education service of the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory, The University of Texas at Austin
It is said that Texas owes its name to the Caddo. "Tejas" is a Spanish spelling of the Caddo word that means "those who are friends." Archaeological evidence in the form of fine ceramic pottery indicates that Caddo communities existed in the area as early as 800 C.E. The agriculture-based Caddoes lived in villages and large fortified towns surrounding large plazas with earthen mounds. Atop of the mounds were temples, council houses, and the houses of the tribe’s elites.
Large settlements with mound centers like this existed up and down the Mississippi River and were interconnected through trade. The largest of these fortified communities was Cahokia, located near present-day St Louis, MO. One of Texas's best examples of a Caddo mound is located in present-day Cherokee County.
Caddo Pot made by Jeri Redcorn, Caddo
The “Antelope Creek” people lived in the present-day Texas panhandle between 1150 and 1450. They lived in pueblo like villages where they practiced horticulture and bison hunting. Over a period of 300 years, they dug hundreds of quarries for better flint to make stone tools. Pottery fragments found at Antelope Creek sites provide evidence of extensive trade. The Antelope Creek people left the area abruptly around 1450 AD, perhaps because of drought conditions, disease, or the arrival of hostile Apaches to the area.
Antelope Creek Pottery Sherds. Courtesy Texas Beyond History, a public education service of the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory, The University of Texas at Austin
Historians believe that the Apache moved down from their native territory in Canada and into North America sometime between 1000 and 1400. They belong to the southern branch of the Athabascan group, whose languages constitute a large family, with speakers in Alaska, western Canada, and the American Southwest.
By the 1600s two groups settled in Texas — the Lipan Apache and the Mescalero. The Mescalero eventually moved on to present-day New Mexico. The arrival of the Apache would begin to alter the trade and territorial claims among the diverse tribes who had settled the area before them.
Lipanes, From the Manuscript Collection: Jean Louis Berlandier, 1827 - 1830. Courtesy Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa OK
On August 3, 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed west from Palos, Spain, to explore a new route to Asia. On October 12, he reached the Bahamas. Six months later, he returned to Spain with gold, cotton, American Indian handicrafts, exotic parrots, and other strange beasts. His tales of the native peoples, land, and resources in North America ignited the era of Spanish colonization.
Spanish explorer Alonso Álvarez de Pineda is credited with being the first European to explore and map the Gulf of Mexico. He set out with four ships and 270 men to find a passage to the Pacific Ocean. There are few records detailing his exploration, although one Spanish document does indicate that he sailed around the coast of Florida, into the Gulf of Mexico, and up a river dotted with palm trees and the villages of native peoples. Earlier interpretations of his voyage identified this river as the Rio Grande, but later data shows that it was probably the Soto la Marina, located in Mexico.
Spanish conquests of the Americas introduced the first enslaved Africans to the region. Among Hernán Cortés’s forces in his siege of Tenochtitlan in 1521 were six Black men, including African born Juan Garrido. Garrido was enslaved in the Caribbean as early as 1503. He participated in the founding of New Spain as a free man and is recognized as the first person to grow wheat in New Spain. While in Mexico City, he established a family and continued to serve with Spanish forces.
A painting of Garrido with Hernan Cortés, Historia de las Indias de Nueva Espana e islas de la tierra firme, Diego Duran, 1579. Courtesy Biblioteca Nacional de Espana
In 1527, with five ships, 600 men, and a supply of horses, Pánfilo de Narváez set out for Florida to claim gold and glory for the Spanish empire. His trip seemed doomed from the beginning. Many of his men died, deserted, or were killed by the American Indians whose people and villages the expedition attacked and pillaged. In an effort to escape, Narváez and the remaining members of the expedition set sail in flimsy rafts that were eventually washed up on the Texas Gulf Coast near Galveston. Narvárez drowned on the voyage, but one of the few survivors, conquistador Cabeza de Vaca, wrote detailed memoirs that became the earliest European descriptions of Texas and its people.
Álvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca, one of four survivors of the failed Narváez expedition, washed up on the beach of a Texas Gulf Coast island he named "Malhado," which means "misfortune." The name was apt, because for the next several years, Cabeza de Vaca lived one harrowing moment to another as a captive slave of various Texas American Indians. He kept a detailed diary which has become an invaluable primary source describing the life and peoples of early Texas. In 1536, Spanish soldiers returned Cabeza de Vaca to Mexico City. He eventually made his way back to Spain where he published his memoirs, The Narrative of Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, in 1542.
The Karankawa first encountered Europeans when Spanish explorer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca washed up on a Galveston beach in 1528. This encounter, which Cabeza de Vaca wrote about in his diary, is the first recorded meeting of Europeans and Texas American Indians. The Karankawa were several bands of coastal people with a shared language and culture who inhabited the Gulf Coast of Texas from Galveston Bay southwestward to Corpus Christi Bay.
Karankawa, From the Manuscript Collection: Jean Louis Berlandier, 1827 - 1830. Courtesy Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa OK
Estevanico was an enslaved African born Mustafa Zemmouri around 1501. He accompanied Spanish explorer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca in 1528 on a multi-year expedition through present-day Texas. On this expedition he gained great knowledge of the languages spoken by American Indians in the area. In 1539, he was ordered by the Spanish Viceroy to be part of a subsequent expedition. On this expedition he was ultimately killed by Zuni Indians at the Hawiku Pueblo in present-day New Mexico.
Painting of Estavanico. Courtesy Granger Historical Images
Bartolomé de las Casas was the first priest to be ordained in the Americas. Conscience-stricken by the abuse of American Indians at the hands of Spanish conquistadors, he crusaded on the native peoples' behalf for over five decades. In 1536, de las Casas participated in a debate in Oaxaca, Mexico, where he argued for the American Indians' right to be treated as individuals with dignity and against the Spanish efforts to convert native peoples to both the Catholic faith and the Spanish culture. His blistering work in 1542, A Brief Report on the Destruction of the Indians, convinced King Charles V to outlaw the conversion practices, but riots among land holders in New Spain (Mexico) convinced authorities not to make any changes in their treatment of American Indians.
Finding gold was one objective of Spanish colonization in North America. Following the report of an explorer who claimed to have seen a gold city in the desert, Francisco Vázquez de Coronado organized an expedition that traveled through the Texas Panhandle. Various historical accounts describe the soldiers' astonishment at the Texas landscape, including Palo Duro Canyon, and the huge, hump-backed cows (buffalo) that roamed the grasslands. Coronado never found any gold in the Panhandle, and the expedition returned to Mexico in 1542.
Hernando de Soto led an exploration of the Gulf Coast area from 1539 until his death in present-day Arkansas in 1542. This expedition marked the first European crossing of the Mississippi River. After de Soto's death, Luis de Moscoso led the explorers into East Texas, home of the powerful Caddo Indians, in an attempt to find an overland route back to New Spain (Mexico). Opinions differ as to the exact route the Moscoso expedition took through Texas, but recent scholarship suggests that they traveled south from East Texas toward present-day Nacogdoches and then into the Hill Country before turning back toward the Mississippi River in Arkansas.
Oil springs and tar pits were known to the Texas Indians. They used the oozings to treat rheumatism and skin diseases. Oil was also seen by the Spanish explorers as early as July 1543, when members of the De Soto expedition saw oil floating in the water near Sabine Pass and used it to caulk their boats. Later, settlers used surface oil for axel grease and for lighting and fuel.
Courtesy U.S. Geological Survey
In November, 1552, fifty-four vessels sailed from Spain under the command of Captain-General Bartolomé Carreño. The ships, including six armed vessels, carried cargo and were headed to various parts of the world including New Spain (Mexico) and the Indies. On April 29, 1554, three ships were wrecked in a storm on Padre Island, near present-day Port Mansfield. In the 1960s and 1970s, excavation efforts retrieved thousands of artifacts such as cannons, silver coins, gold bullion, astrolabes, and tools from the wreckage of the San Esteban and the Espiritu Santo. The third sunken ship, the Santa Maria de Yclar, was destroyed during ship channel construction in the 1950s.
The Spanish missionary system was intended to convert American Indians to Christianity and teach them how to live according to Spanish ways. Missionaries often accompanied conquistadors on their explorations in North America. The first missionaries passed through far west Texas in 1581 on their way to the pueblos of New Mexico.
Though unsuccessful in establishing a colony among the Pueblo people, Spanish conquistador Antonio de Espejo left a valuable account of his encounters with the Jumano people of Texas's Big Bend area in 1582 to 1583. The Jumano were trading partners of the Spanish for almost two centuries before famine and war sent their population into a steep decline.
After a difficult march through present-day Mexico and Texas, conquistador Juan de Oñate and hundreds of settlers finally reached the Rio Grande in April. During this stop, Oñate officially claimed all the land drained by the Rio Grande as Spanish territory. With this act, the foundation was laid for two centuries of Spanish control of Texas and the American southwest.
Spanish conquistadors first crossed Texas in search of gold in New Mexico. By 1610, the Spanish had established a capital at Santa Fe. Their primary goals were to convert the American Indians to Christianity and to teach them to live according to Spanish culture. The Spanish crown commissioned Franciscan friars to establish missions. From the pueblos of New Mexico, a few priests began to venture into West Texas.
Almost 50 years after their first encounter, the Jumano were revisited by the Spanish in 1629. This would mark the beginning of their relations with the Spanish. The Jumano lands stretched from northern Mexico to eastern New Mexico to West Texas. Some Jumano lived nomadic lifestyles, while others lived in more permanent houses built of reeds or sticks or of masonry, like the pueblos of New Mexico. The Jumano were renowned for their trading and language skills. In time, these expert traders helped establish trade routes as well as diplomatic relationships among American Indians, the Spanish, and the French.
Jumano, Drawing by Frank Weir. Courtesy Texas Beyond History, a public education service of the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory, The University of Texas at Austin
María de Jesús de Agreda was a nun who lived in Spain and had visions of sharing Christianity with people living in distant lands. Her visions were regarded as religious miracles. She was known as the "Woman in Blue" because of her blue Franciscan clothing. 17th century Spanish explorers describe the Jumano as asking for religious instruction to continue the teachings they had received during "visits" from the Woman in Blue. There is no evidence that Sister María left her convent in Spain to visit the Jumano in west Texas, which adds to the mystery of how the Jumano acquired their knowledge of Christianity before the Spanish arrived in Texas.
Fray Juan de Salas and Fray Diego León were the first Spanish missionaries in Texas. In 1629, they traveled to evangelize the Jumanos. In 1632, Juan de Salas and Juan de Ortega established a mission near present-day San Angelo. They were unable to supply or defend the outpost, and after six months, they were forced to abandon the mission.This arrow point is believed to be of Jumano origin.
Spanish shipwreck survivors under the leadership of Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca were the first Europeans to visit "La Junta de Rios," the junction of the Rio Grande and Rio Conchos, near present-day Presidio. Franciscans traveling through La Junta in 1581 performed the first Catholic mass in Texas. In 1670, Franciscans established a mission, but they were expelled after just two years.
Led by the religious leader Po’pay from the Pueblo of Ohkay Owingeh, Pueblo people revolted against the Spanish colonists and drove them out of present-day New Mexico. After the revolt, Pueblo people began trading the horses they had taken control of. The acquisition of horses, and the ability to travel longer distances more easily, would transform the territorial politics between tribes throughout America.
"Po'pay" by Artist Cliff Fragua, 2005. Courtesy Architect of the Capitol
In 1680, the Pueblo people rose up, killed 400 Spanish colonizers, and drove the remaining 2,000 Spanish out of New Mexico. The village of El Paso became the base of Spanish operations for the next 12 years. During this time, the Franciscans established the first successful missions in the El Paso area: Corpus Christi de Isleta, Nuestra Señora de la Limpia Concepción de Socorro, and San Antonio de Senecú.
The Mayeye, a Tonkawa Tribe, first encountered La Salle and his French colonists in 1687. The Tonkawa belonged to the Tonkawan linguistic family that was once composed of a number of small sub-tribes that lived in present-day Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. The word "tonkawa" is a Waco term meaning "they all stay together." In the years to come the Tonkawa would have changing relationships with the Spanish and the French.
Tancahues, From the Manuscript Collection: Jean Louis Berlandier, 1827 - 1830. Courtesy Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa OK
In 1683 and 1684, the people of La Junta (near present-day Presidio) petitioned for missionaries to return to their area. Franciscans established two missions, El Apóstol Santiago on Alamito Creek and La Navidad en los Cruces along the Rio Grande. By 1688, these missions were abandoned.
The Spanish began making entradas into Texas in the 1690s. They intended to explore and expand into the far reaches of Spanish territory in order to buffer any encroachment from the French. From 1709 to 1722, the Spanish led roughly seven expeditions from Mexico to Texas. These early explorers brought cattle, sheep, and goats to the Texas frontier.
By 1690, the Spanish realized the need to defend Texas against the French and blazed a network of trails from Mexico City to Louisiana. Missionaries traveled to East Texas along El Camino Real (the King's Highway). The missions of San Francisco de los Tejas and Santísimo Nombre de María were established along the Neches River. By 1693, both missions were abandoned.
In 1706 Spanish officials in New Mexico documented the presence of numerous Comanches on the northeastern frontier of that province. As the Comanches moved south, they came into conflict with tribes already living on the South Plains, particularly the Apaches, who had dominated the region before the arrival of the Comanches. The Apaches were forced south by the Comanche and the two became mortal enemies.
Plains Indian Girl with Melon, 1851–1857. By Friedrich Richard Petri. Courtesy Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin
From 1700 to 1713, Spain was involved in a European war, and New Spain (Texas) was not a priority. After the war, Franciscans returned to the Presidio area and established two missions, San Cristóbal and Santa María la Redonda de los Cibolos. Missionaries occupied the sites sporadically until the end of the Spanish era in Texas.
On May 1, 1718, the Spanish established a mission-presidio complex approximately midway between the Rio Grande Valley and the missions of East Texas. This was the founding of the city of San Antonio, the most significant Texas settlement of the Spanish era. The mission of San Antonio de Valero, later known as the Alamo, was moved to its present location in 1724.
The Franciscans turned new attention to East Texas beginning in 1716. They established a mission along the Neches River and built three additional missions in Nacogdoches County. In 1719, French troops attacked a nearby Louisiana mission in an event known to history as the Chicken War because it was little more than a raid on a henhouse. Nonetheless, the Spanish withdrew from East Texas for two years.
The Spanish brought cattle to New Spain soon after they began colonization in the 1500s. The first cattle arrived in Texas in the 1690s. By the 1730s, missionaries were operating cattle ranches around San Antonio and Goliad. Within a few decades, individual ranchers like Martin de León began to build large operations. De León had some 5,000 cattle by 1816.
Ranching in Texas originated near San Antonio and Goliad in the 1730s. As the missions continued to fade into decline, individual ranchers became prominent due to generous land grants received from the Spanish Crown. One large ranch resulted from the Cavazos land grant, which was a sprawling 4,605 acres.
The East Texas missions were difficult to supply, staff, and defend, and most lasted only a few years. In 1730, three missions were relocated from East Texas to the site of present-day Austin. The following year, the missions were moved further south to San Antonio.
The first reference to the Comanche in present-day Texas comes in 1743, when a small scouting band appeared in San Antonio looking for their enemies, the Lipan Apache. The Comanches were to become the most dominant people in the area. The name "Comanche" comes from an Ute word that means "enemy." They refer to themselves as the "Nʉmʉnʉʉ" or the "people." The Comanche were originally a Great Plains hunter-gatherer group, but after acquiring horses, they expanded their territory. They became horse experts and migrated into Texas in order to hunt bison and capture the wild horses that roamed the land. They eventually claimed vast areas of north, central, and west Texas as part of "Comancheria."
Comanche Feats of Horsemanship, 1834–1835, by George Catlin. Courtesy Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr., 1985.66.487
Ever since the Spanish arrived in the San Antonio area, the Lipan Apache have been at war with them. When the enemy Comanche arrived to the area, the Apache agreed to a peace treaty with the Spanish. The two buried a hatchet in the ground in a ceremony in San Antonio. This led the Spanish to move forward with plans to build missions in Apache territory.
Spontoon Tomahawk. Courtesy Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Canyon, Texas
Originally from the area of present-day Kansas, a band of Wichitas moved from Oklahoma and settled along the Red River near present-day Nocona, Texas. They would live there until about 1810, when they gradually returned to present-day Oklahoma. The Wichita called themselves Kitikiti'sh, meaning "raccoon eyes," because the designs of tattoos around the men's eyes resembled the eyes of the raccoon. They lived in villages of dome-shaped grass houses. They farmed extensive fields of corn, tobacco, and melons along the streams where they made their homes and seasonally left their villages for annual hunts.
Wichita paint bag, 1800s. Courtesy The Field Museum, Cat. No. 59357
Once the Spanish formed an alliance with the Apaches, expansion of ranching lands became safer. Missions tended to have the best land, which put them in direct competition with the ranchers. Conflicts developed, and lawsuits between missions and ranchers became common at this time.
In 1757, the Spanish established Santa Cruz de San Sabá as a mission to the Apache. The Spanish also hoped to form an alliance with the Apache against the Comanche and allied northern tribes. In March of 1758, over 2,000 Comanche and allied norther tribes staged a massive attack, burning down the mission and killing all but one of the missionaries.
In response to the destruction of Mission Santa Cruz de San Sabá, forces of 600 Spanish soldiers attacked the Taovaya (Wichita) village on the Red River. With horses and French weapons, the Wichita were a stronger force than the Spanish. The Spanish were defeated and forced to retreat.
French musket, 1700s. Courtesy Red McCombs Collection, Georgetown
The Spanish negotiated a treaty with the Comanche, who agreed not to make war on missionized Apaches. Continued conflicts with Apaches made it impossible for Comanches to keep their promise. This ultimately led Spanish officials to advocate for breaking their alliance with the Apache in favor of a Spanish-Comanche alliance aimed at subduing the Apaches.
Comanches, From the Manuscript Collection: Jean Louis Berlandier, 1827 - 1830. Courtesy Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa OK
As a result of British colonial expansion from the east, the Alabama and Coushatta Tribes began to migrate from what is now Alabama to the area of Big Thicket in present-day Texas. By 1780 they had moved across the Sabine River into Spanish Texas.
Cutchates, From the Manuscript Collection: Jean Louis Berlandier, 1827 - 1830. Courtesy Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa OK
With the help of the French Governor of Natchitoches, Spain made treaties with Caddo, Wichita, and Tonkawa tribes. One year later, also with the help of a Frenchman, Spain made a treaty at San Antonio with a Comanche band. Other bands, however, continued to raid Spanish settlements.
Comanche War Bonnet, 1946–1970. Courtesy Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Canyon
Since they first arrived to the Americas in the early 1500s, European diseases decimated diverse indigenous communities. In 1775 a smallpox epidemic killed hundreds of thousands of Europeans and Native peoples in North America. The virus was carried by people along the trade routes from Mexico City and moved north to Comancheria and farther north to the Shoshone. An estimated 90% of the American Indian population died from epidemics. The deadly diseases greatly shifted the balance of power between American Indians and Europeans.
Detail of Cabello to Croix, reporting smallpox epidemic, 1780. Courtesy Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin
This painting by Francisco Clapera depicts a Spanish father and African mother playing with their son in colonial Mexico. This image exemplifies the Casta system established in Spanish territory by the late 16th century. The Casta system classified any genetic connection with Black Africans as a “stain” on the purity of Spanish blood. This created the classifications of Mulatos (children of Spaniards and Africans) and Mestizos (children of Spaniards and American Indians). Under Spanish law, marriage between the races was legal as long as the individuals were Catholic. It was common in the Spanish colonies for people from different racial groups to intermarry and have families.
Francisco Clapera, De Espanol, y Negra, Mulato, circa 1775 Denver Art Museum Collection: Gift of the Collection of Frederick and Jan Mayer, 2011.428.4. Courtesy Denver Art Museum
According to a newly enacted law, all wild animals and unbranded livestock were the property of the Spanish treasury. The law also established the "Mustang Fund" which imposed a tax on ranchers for all the branded livestock they rounded up.
El Mocho, a Lipan Apache who as a child was captured and adopted by the Tonkawa, became a chief of the Tonkawa after a small pox epidemic killed most of the tribe’s elders. Hoping to free his people from Spanish control, he formed a loose confederacy of groups that included the Tonkawas, the Lipan Apaches, and some Comanches and Caddos.
Hand-colored stone lithograph of a West Lipan Apache warrior sitting astride a horse and carrying a rifle; from Emory's United States and Mexican Boundary Survey, Washington, 1857. Courtesy Star of the Republic Museum
Trade between Texas and Louisiana had been prohibited early in the 18th century. That ban was lifted in 1779. Ranching became more profitable as Spanish ranchers were able to drive their cattle along the Old San Antonio Road into the French territory of Louisiana. New Orleans soon became a major new market for ranchers.
Shortly after the trade ban was lifted in 1779, the Spanish colonial government reversed their decision because of the surge of smuggling. Since trade with Louisiana was hugely profitable, however, illicit trade continued. In a rare moment of unity, ranchers and missionaries became allies in their opposition to Spain's regulation of trade.
The Comanche accepted a peace deal with the Spanish, allowing Spaniards to travel through their lands. In exchange, Spain offered to help the Comanche in their war with the Apache. Peace between the Spanish and Comanche lasted 30 years. The Comanches were to become the dominate force in the area, both in trade and warfare.
Cabello to Rengel, reporting on visit made to Béxar by Comanche captain to confirm peace treaty, 1785. Courtesy Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin
In 1785, rancher Juan José Flores submitted a document to the Spanish government in Mexico. Known as the San Fernando Memorial, the document argued that unbranded livestock belonged to ranchers since those animals were descended from the ranchers' animals. The government agreed and allowed the ranchers to collect and brand the animals.
Due to the San Fernando Memorial ruling, ranchers and missionaries planned a great round-up in 1787. La Bahia was the only mission to actually participate. As many as 7,000 cattle were captured and branded. This event marked a shift in the balance of power between ranchers and missionaries.
By 1795, ranchers were no longer required to pay the Mustang Fund taxes and were given one tax-free year to round up and brand wild livestock. This change in policy resulted in the increased transportation of cattle to markets in Louisiana and northern Mexico where they were sold for their tallow, hides, and meat.
Cattle herds became severely depleted because of continual predator attacks as well as the increased market demands for cattle products. The cattle industry declined and ranchers turned their money-making efforts toward a new livestock source— wild mustangs.
Cherokees were first reported in Texas in 1807, when a small band established a village on the Red River. American expansion had forced them to the west. They were an agricultural people whose ancestral lands covered much of the southern Appalachian highlands, an area that included parts of Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama.
In the summer of that year, a delegation of Cherokees, Pascagoulas, Chickasaws, and Shawnees sought permission from Spanish officials in Nacogdoches to settle members of their tribes in that province. The request was approved by Spanish authorities, who intended to use the displaced tribes as a buffer against American expansion.
"Cunne Shote, Cherokee Chief," by Francis Parsons, 1751-1775. Gift of the Thomas Gilcrease Foundation, 1955. Courtesy Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa OK
The Transatlantic Slave Trade involved the forced migration of millions of enslaved African peoples to the Americas throughout the 16th to 19th centuries. Although it was banned by Britain and the U.S. in 1808, it did not decrease the role of slavery throughout the South. The widespread trade of enslaved peoples within the South continued, aided by the self-sustaining population of children born into slavery.
Diagram of a slave ship, 1787. Courtesy British Library, London, England
In 1820, Moses Austin traveled to San Antonio and negotiated permission to settle 300 Anglo American families in Texas, but he died before his plans could be realized. Moses' son, Stephen F. Austin, traveled to Texas to renegotiate his father's grant and to scout land near Brazoria. In December 1821, the younger Austin began bringing the settlers to their new home.
Courtesy Star of the Republic of Texas Museum
In search of new opportunities in the unsettled territory of Tejas, Moses Austin hoped to bring 300 families to the Mexican province in 1820. With the help of Baron de Bastrop, Austin received approval from the Spanish governor to bring settlers into Tejas. Moses Austin died in 1821, however, and his son, Stephen F. Austin, inherited the land grant for 300 families. Austin settled the land near the Brazos and Colorado in 1824.
The Mexican territory of Tejas was opened to settlers on the conditions that they become Mexican citizens, learn Spanish and adopt the Catholic faith. Moses Austin, a founder of America's lead industry, obtained government permission to bring colonists to the territory. He died before the "Texas Venture" began and his son, Stephen, led 300 families on the journey to establish new colonies along the Brazos, Colorado and San Bernard Rivers.
Stephen F. Austin established a settlement of Anglo Americans who found the ranching system in Texas in decline. The ranching knowledge and outstanding roping skills of vaqueros (Mexican cowboys) helped revive and rebuild the flagging ranching industry.
As the people of Mexico began to feel exploited by Spanish colonialism, a series of revolts began in 1801. On September 27, 1821, the Spanish signed a treaty recognizing Mexico's independence. Since Moses Austin had been granted permission by Spain to bring American families to Texas, his son Stephen had to renegotiate the land grant and settlements with the new Mexican government.
In 1822 Cherokee Chief Bowl sent diplomatic chief Richard Fields to Mexico to negotiate with the Mexican government for a grant to land occupied by Cherokees in East Texas. After two years of waiting to receive a grant, Richard Fields tried to unite diverse tribes in Texas into an alliance and began to encourage other displaced tribes to settle in Texas.
Chief Bowl, Courtesy Jenkins Company. Courtesy Prints and Photographs Collection, Texas State Library and Archives Commission. #1/102-661
The Mexican government advised Stephen F. Austin that it would not provide resources to administer or defend the fledgling Tejas colonies. Austin hired ten men to "act as rangers for the common defense" against Indian raids. With that, the legend of the Texas Rangers began.
Mexico established rules for settling colonies in 1824. During this time, they also joined Coahuila and Texas, forming a unified Mexican state "Coahuila y Tejas." With the passage of the Coahuila-Texas colonization law, Mexico encouraged foreign settlers to buy land in the territory with a $30 down payment, without the requirement of paying taxes for ten years after that.
Mexico encouraged Anglo Americans to settle the sparsely-populated Texas territory, both to increase ranching and commerce and to defend against American Indians and aggressive European powers. On March 24, 1825, the Mexican Congress passed colonization laws that stipulated that settlers practice Christianity and take loyalty oaths to the Mexican and state constitutions in order to become citizens.
In 1825, Haden Edwards received a land grant in east Texas for 800 settlers. A dispute for leadership soon broke out in Edwards' colony. He and his allies formed an alliance with the Cherokees and declared the independent republic of Fredonia. Mexican troops restored order, but the incident led Mexico to severely restrict further immigration into Texas from the United States and Europe, a bitter pill for the majority of colonists who had remained peaceable.
Settlers weren't ready to embrace their new Mexican identity upon moving into the country. Largely, they didn't see themselves as Mexican nationals and, in fact, referred to themselves as "Texians." Additionally, many of Austin's settlers came from the American south who brought enslaved African Americans with them, despite Mexico's laws prohibiting slavery. Because of the lack of allegiance to the nation, Mexican officials feared they would lose control of the state. They began encouraging more migration from Mexicans into the area.
Issued by President Vincente R. Guerrero on September 15, 1829, this decree abolished slavery throughout the Republic of Mexico. The news of the decree alarmed Anglo settlers in Texas, who petitioned Guerrero to exempt Texas from the law. The decree was never put into operation, but it made many Anglo settlers worry that their interests were not protected, planting the seeds of revolution.
Decree abolishing slavery in Mexico in 1829. Courtesy Newton Gresham Library, Sam Houston State University
On September 25, 1829, the first issue of the Texas Gazette was published in San Felipe de Austin. Published until 1832, Texas' first newspaper kept settlers informed of news by providing English translations of Mexican government laws and decrees.
Courtesy the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin
Anglo settlers who arrived in Texas in the 1830s brought with them the skills for farming, but many were enticed by cattle ranching instead. In 1837, Charles Morgan established the first steamship line in Texas to transport Texas cattle from the Gulf of Mexico to markets in New Orleans and the West Indies.
Fearing the possibility of losing control of Texas, Mexico banned further immigration from the United States on April 6, 1830. They encouraged immigration from Mexico and European countries, placed more restrictions on slavery, and increased military presence in the region. This initiative angered Texans, who pushed for statehood and self-rule.
On April 6, 1830, the Mexican government passed several new laws that were very unpopular with the Anglo American settlers. These laws increased the presence of the Mexican military, implemented new taxes, forbade the settlers from bringing more slaves into Texas, and banned new immigration from the United States. The grievances that would lead to the Texas Revolution had begun to accumulate.
Courtesy the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin
The Mexican army established a garrison at Anahuac to collect tariffs, end smuggling, and enforce the ban on immigration from the United States. Tensions rose to a boil when the fort's commander took in several runaway slaves. The unrest culminated at nearby Velasco when a group of settlers tried to take a cannon from a Mexican fort. At least ten Texans and five Mexican soldiers died in the fighting.
General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna led a successful revolt against President Bustamante. Texans were initially okay with this development because of Santa Anna's support for the Constitution of 1824, which was very similar to the U.S. Constitution. However, Santa Anna nullified the 1824 Constitution in favor of a more centralized government and was no longer supportive of Texas self-rule.
At the Convention of 1833, 56 Texas delegates drafted a resolution requesting that Mexico roll back many of the changes in Mexican law that took place in 1830. Texans wanted Mexico to allow immigration from the U.S., provide more protection from native peoples, exempt Texans from anti-slavery laws, improve the mail service, and separate Texas from Coahuila. Stephen F. Austin, along with Dr. James B. Miller, presented the proposals to Santa Anna. Austin was imprisoned in Mexico City on suspicion of inciting insurrection. Eventually, the Mexican government repealed the Law of 1830, but would not grant statehood to Texas. Amidst the conflict, thousands upon thousands of Americans were immigrating to Texas.
"War is declared." So wrote Stephen F. Austin after the Battle of Gonzales, when Mexican authorities tried to seize the town's cannon and were met with the now-famous battle cry, "Come and take it!" After Gonzales, the unrest in Texas spiraled out of control. Santa Anna's determination to quell the rebellion would end with the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836 and Texas' independence.
Courtesy Daniel Mayer, Creative Commons
Tension grew between Texas and Mexico. Texans, with a growing influx of American settlers, pushed for separate statehood, resulting in many minor skirmishes with Mexico. The first notable battle of the Texas Revolution occurred when Texans at Gonzales refused to return a small cannon lent to them by Mexican authorities. On October 2, Colonel John H. Moore and his company famously rolled out the cannon under a flag that read, “Come and Take It.” The short fight that resulted sparked the beginning of the Revolution. Mexicans retreated, but the battle had just begun.
The provisional Texas government passed a resolution officially creating a corps of over 50 rangers. These Rangers engaged in many skirmishes with American Indians and often joined with the Texian Army in fighting against Mexican troops in what became the opening battles of the Texas Revolution.
A large force of mostly Comanches attacked a private fort built by Silas and James Parker near the upper Navasota River. In the attack Silas and two women were killed. His daughter Cynthia Ann (9), son John (6), and three others were taken by the Comanche. In time Cynthia Ann Parker was fully adopted by the Comanche, eventually becoming a wife of Chief Peta Nocona and the mother of Chief Quanah Parker.
"Cynthia Ann Parker" by William Bridgers, 1861. Courtesy DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University
Written in 1836, the Constitution of the Republic of Texas protected slavery in the new nation. The General Provisions of the Constitution forbade any slave owner from freeing enslaved people without the consent of Congress and forbade Congress from making any law that restricted the slave trade or emancipated the enslaved. This solidified the importance of slavery in Texas from its founding.
Draft of the Republic of Texas Constitution, 1836. Courtesy Texas State Library and Archives Commission, Austin
The Republic of Texas was born on March 2, 1836, when 58 delegates at Washington-on-the-Brazos signed the Texas Declaration of Independence. The first Texas Congress met at Columbia in the fall of 1836 to set the border with Mexico at the Rio Grande, a decision based on an aggressive interpretation of the Louisiana Purchase. The river remained under the control of Mexico, however, as the Mexican government did not recognize Texas' independence.
Courtesy Svalbertian, Creative Commons
On March 1, 59 delegates held the Convention of 1836 at Washington-on-the-Brazos. There they drafted the Texas Declaration of Independence and adopted it on March 2. During the Convention, delegates also drafted the Texas Constitution, outlining their plan for the new Republic. This took place only a month after Santa Anna entered Texas with his army of 6,000 men. Mexico’s army vastly outnumbered the Texas rebels.
The Gonzales Ranging Company answered William B. Travis' impassioned letter asking for reinforcements to defend the Alamo. Thirty-two Rangers reached the fort on March 1. On March 6, all 32 Rangers died. This single troop loss accounted for 20% of all Alamo battle losses. These Rangers are now known in history as the "Immortal 32."
Merely declaring independence was a long way from winning the revolution. On March 6, 1836, Santa Anna led an attack on the Alamo. Under the command of William B. Travis and James Bowie, Texas rebels fought a fierce battle against the Mexican army. Casualties were high on both sides, but Santa Anna’s army ultimately triumphed. The defenders of the Alamo were killed in the attack, including famed frontiersman and former U.S. Congressman David Crockett. Those who did survive were captured and executed by Santa Anna’s troops. News of the defeat spread to Gonzales, where Sam Houston had formed an army. Feeling unprepared for the advancing army, Houston ordered Gonzales be evacuated and burned. The month-long flight, where evacuees headed east with news of Santa Anna’s advance, is known as “The Runaway Scrape.” In Goliad, Colonel James Fannin had been ordered to abandon his position to join Texas forces with General Houston; however, he remained at the fort at Goliad. They fought the Mexican Army at the Battle of Coleto, but faced the same fate as the soldiers at the Alamo. They were defeated, and the Santa Anna gave the order to have Fannin's captured army executed.
Independence seemed out of reach after the Alamo and Goliad. General Houston drew criticism for not having yet attacked Santa Anna's advancing army;. Ordered to stop his retreat by ad interim President David G. Burnet, Houston returned west, receiving word that Santa Anna's army was encamped on the west side of the Buffalo Bayou and the San Jacinto River, inside the present-day city limits of Houston. At 3:30 p.m. on April 21, outnumbered and facing impossible odds, Houston ordered the attack on Mexican army. With shouts of "Remember the Alamo!" and "Remember Goliad!", the ragtag militia descended upon the Mexican army. It is widely believed Santa Anna and his soldiers were indulging in an afternoon siesta and therefore were not ready to face the attack, which lasted approximately 18 minutes. Nine Texans were killed, and 630 Mexicans lost their lives. Santa Anna was captured after the battle. And so began the Republic of Texas.
In September of 1836, the citizens of the new Republic of Texas quickly elected Sam Houston as their first president, and Mirabeau B. Lamar as vice president. Houston appointed Stephen F. Austin to be Secretary of State. Austin died in office on December 27, 1836, at the age of 43.
Greenberry Logan was a free person of color who arrived in Texas in 1831. He fought and was injured at the Siege of Bexar (December 1835). Despite his military service, the Texas Constitution sought to remove all free persons of color unless they obtained permission from Congress to continue living in Texas. Logan and his wife Caroline submitted their petition to remain in March 1837, asking that they “might be allowed the privilege of spending the remainder of [their] days in quiet and peace.” Congress honored their request.
Greenberry Logan’s petition to remain in Texas, March 13, 1837. Courtesy Texas State Library and Archives Commission, Austin
The Texas Legislature passed an act authorizing Rangers to employ the services of "friendly" American Indian tribes as scouts and spies. Flacco, a Lipan Apache chief, served under Ranger John (Jack) Coffee Hays in 1841 and 1842. Hays later credited Flacco with saving his life in more than one battle with the Comanches.
The second president of Texas, Mirabeau B. Lamar, took over a bankrupt and lawless country. Driven by a vision of future greatness, Lamar ruthlessly drove the Cherokee from Texas, waged war with the Comanche, and undertook a disastrous expedition to open a trade route to Santa Fe. He also founded a new capital in Austin and laid the foundation that would one day create schools, colleges, and world-famous universities.
Courtesy the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin
Under the second president of Texas, Mirabeau B. Lamar, the capital was relocated to Austin. Many in Congress believed that Houston was too far from the original Texas settlements, so the commission surveyed land north of San Antonio between the Trinity and Colorado Rivers. Lamar set up a commission to begin researching potential locations for the new capital. They ultimately chose the village of Waterloo and changed the name to Austin to honor the legacy of Stephen F. Austin.
Land was cheap— $.50 an acre compared to $1.25 in the U.S.— but settlement was difficult in the rugged and dangerous Republic of Texas. As a result, land sales attracted more speculators than actual settlers. To encourage settlement, the Texas Congress passed a homestead law. President Sam Houston opposed the bill because of rampant fraud and illegal claims on land titles, and kept the General Land Office closed throughout his term.
Courtesy Texas General Land Office
The flag you know today as the official State flag of Texas was adopted in January of 1839 as the official flag of the Republic of Texas.
Republic of Texas President Mirabeau B. Lamar ordered the expulsion or extermination of all American Indian tribes. In the Battle of the Neches, near present-day Tyler, Cherokees were defeated in their attempt to retain land granted to them by a previous state treaty. Cherokee Chief Bowles died clutching a sword given to him by his close friend, Sam Houston.
Courtesy Texas State Library and Archives Commission
In the 1840s, during the Republic of Texas era, individual ranchers organized cattle drives to New Orleans. They also established the Shawnee Trail to Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa, where they could place the cattle on rail cars to be transported to the big markets in New York and Philadelphia.
President Lamar ordered the Rangers to attack Comanche villages in his campaign to drive American Indians out of Texas. War chiefs agreed to peace negotiations with the Rangers at Council House in San Antonio. At the talks, the Comanches entered with an injured hostage and demanded more money for the remaining hostages. Soon bullets and arrows flew. Six Texans and many Comanche war chiefs, women, and children died. The stage was set for the Battle of Plum Creek.
John (Jack) Coffee Hays led a company of Rangers toward Plum Creek. Word had spread of raiding Comanches seeking retribution for the Council House massacre. The Comanches reached Kelly Springs where their war chief, wearing a stovepipe hat and carrying a lady's parasol taken from a Linnville warehouse, was killed immediately. Fierce fighting continued along the San Marcos River with 150 Comanches killed.
painting by Lee Herring
Zylpha “Zelia” Husk emigrated to Texas by 1838 from Alabama and worked as a laundress in Houston. In 1840, Texas passed an Act Concerning Free Persons of Color that ordered all free Black people living in Texas to leave within two years unless granted an exemption by Congress. Husk petitioned the Republic for permanent residency in 1841. Fifty different white residents from Harris County testified that “we have known Zelp[ha] Husk for at least two or three years as a free woman of color, … she has conducted herself well and earned her living by honest industry.”
Zylpha Husk’s petition to remain in the Republic of Texas, December 16, 1841. Courtesy Texas State Library and Archives Commission, Austin
When Texas sought recognition from Great Britain as a sovereign nation, they signed a treaty to suppress the transatlantic slave trade. They mutually agreed that the Royal Navy and Texas Navy could detain and search each other’s ships for enslaved Africans or equipment typically found on a slave-trading vessel. This included shackles, hatches with open gratings, larger quantities of water and food than what the crew needed, and spare planking for laying down a slave deck. If ships were found with any of these things, their crews could be found guilty of illegally participating in the African slave trade.
Treaty Between Great Britain and Texas to Suppress the Slave Trade, 1842. Courtesy Texas State Library and Archives Commission, Austin
On March 28, 1843, a number of Indian tribes including the Caddos, Delawares, Wacos, Tawakonis, Lipan Apaches, and Tonkawas attended the first council between the Tribes and Texas officials on Tehuacana Creek just south of present-day Waco.
Minutes of Indian Council at Tehuacana Creek, March 28, 1843, Texas Indian Papers. Courtesy of Texas State Library and Archives Commission
In 1836, the Republic of Texas voted in favor of annexation by the United States, but the U.S. wasn't interested because of concerns over the Republic's pro-slavery stance and an impending war with Mexico. By 1843, with the threat of British involvement in the Texas issue, U.S. President John Tyler proposed annexation. Texas drew up a state constitution in October 1845 and was admitted as the 28th U.S. state by the end of the year.
Texas' annexation to the United States was blocked over concern about slavery and debt. James K. Polk was elected President of the United States in 1844 on a promise to annex Texas (slave state) and the Oregon Territory (free state). The final obstacle to annexation was removed when Texas was allowed to keep its public lands to pay off its debt. Texas became the 28th U.S. state on December 29, 1845.
Courtesy Texas State Library and Archives Commission
Head chiefs for the Comanche including Buffalo Hump, Santa Anna, and others signed a treaty with John O. Meusebach, who acted on behalf of German settlers. The treaty allowed settlers to travel into Comancheria and for the Comanche to go to the white settlements. More than three million acres of land opened up to settlement as a result.
Courtesy of Texas State Library and Archives Commission, 1972/141
Almost ten years after winning independence from Mexico, and after a long and controversial diplomatic struggle, Texas was annexed to the United States under the administration of President James Polk.
The annexation of Texas bolstered westward expansion of the United States. Settlers moved to Texas in droves. President Polk defined the border between Texas and Mexico at the Rio Grande, but Mexico did not agree. Diplomatic solutions failed. Polk ordered General Zachary Taylor to position troops along the north bank of the Rio Grande to protect the Texas boundary. The Mexican government saw this as an invasion and thus an act of war, resulting in the Battle of Palo Alto in Brownsville on May 8, 1846—the first major battle of the U.S.-Mexican War. War was officially declared by U.S. Congress on May 13.
On February 2, 1848, the U.S.-Mexican War was brought to an end with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo. The treaty established boundaries between the United States and Mexico, with Mexico officially recognizing Texas as a part of the United States. Additionally, the treaty included the acquisition of Mexico's northern territory—which included California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona, as well as parts of Wyoming and Colorado—for $15 million. The United States added more than 25% of its present day size, and Mexico lost over half its land as a result of the treaty.
"Four newly raised ranging companies, have all been organized, and taken their several stations on our frontier. We know they are true men; and they know exactly what they are about. With many of them, Indian and Mexican fighting has been their trade for years. That they may be permanently retained in the service on our frontier is extremely desirable."
- Victoria Advocate newspaper
When the California gold rush began in 1849, Texas ranchers organized cattle drives to provide food for the "Forty-Niners." The drives left from San Antonio and Fredericksburg and took a perilous six-month journey through El Paso to San Diego and Los Angeles. The California cattle drives ended after the market there went bust in 1857.
On December 10, 1850, representatives from the U.S. government and the southern Comanche, Lipan Apache, Caddo, Quapaw, and various Wichita bands met for treaty negotiations at the Spring Creek Council Grounds. The tribal representatives agreed to stay west of the Colorado River and north of the Llano River, to abide by U.S. laws, and to turn over fugitive enslaved people and individuals being held as prisoners. The agent for the U.S. agreed to regulate traders in American Indian territory, establish at least one trade house, and send blacksmiths and teachers to live with the tribes.
This stone is one of two placed at the meeting site near Fort Martin Scott in Fredericksburg to commemorate the signing of the treaty. However, the treaty was not ratified by the U.S. government and neither side honored its provisions.
Treaty Stone, 1850. Courtesy Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin
As the United States grew, so did the need for a more reliable transportation system. Travel was difficult in antebellum Texas, worsened by the expansive and unforgiving terrain in the west. Businesses also needed a way to ship their goods through the expanding area. This prompted the construction of the first railroad in Texas, which opened in 1853. Known as the "Harrisburg Railroad," the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos, and Colorado Railway ran about 20 miles from Harrisburg to Stafford's Point.
On October 29, 1853, Alabama Chief Antone, the tribal subchiefs, and prominent citizens of Polk County presented a petition to the Texas legislature requesting land for a reservation. In part to thank the tribes for their support of the Texas Revolution in 1836, the petition was approved. The State of Texas purchased 1,110.7 acres of land for the Alabama Indian reservation. About 500 tribe members settled on this land during the winter of
1854–55. In 1855 the Texas legislature appropriated funds to purchase 640 acres for the Coushattas.
J. De Cordova's Map of the State of Texas Compiled from the records of the General Land Office of the State, New York: J. H. Cotton, 1857, Map #93984, Rees-Jones Digital Map Collection, Archives and Records Program, Texas General Land Office, Austin, TX. Courtesy Texas General Land Office
Upper and Lower Brazos Reservation was created in northern Texas. About 2,000 Caddo, Keechi, Waco, Delaware, Tonkawa, and Penateka Comanche, lived on the reservation. Five years later, attacks by white settlers and encroachments on the reservation resulted in the diverse tribes being forcibly removed to Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma.
J. De Cordova's Map of the State of Texas Compiled from the records of the General Land Office of the State, New York: J. H. Cotton, 1857, Map #93984, Rees-Jones Digital Map Collection, Archives and Records Program, Texas General Land Office, Austin, TX. Courtesy Texas General Land Office
Modern communication is something we all take for granted, but 19th-century Texans weren't so lucky. In 1854, the Texas and Red River Telegraph Company established service in Marshall, connecting to parts of Louisiana and Mississippi. By 1866, over 1500 miles of wire connected Texas.
As the number of settlers to Texas increased, so did the number of attacks as the Americans Indians were driven off their tribal lands. Texas Governor Hardin Runnels appropriated $70,000 to fund a force of 100 Rangers led by the legendary Senior Captain John "RIP" Ford. The Rangers spent the next several years fighting pitched battles with American Indian tribes as well as Mexican soldiers.
In the 1860s, the center of Texas cattle ranching shifted from South Texas to the frontier northwest of Fort Worth. Here settlers from Tennessee, Missouri, Kentucky, and Arkansas established new ranches in the rough brush country. These settlers, many of whom opposed secession, faced vigilante violence during the Civil War, but eventually expanded the cattle business into a true industry.
The election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 prompted the secession of Southern, slave-holding states. The majority of Texans feared the election of a Republican would threaten slavery, which they believed was a vital part of the economy of the young state. Not all Texans bought into the idea of secession, most notably Sam Houston, the Unionist governor of the state. Although Houston himself was a slave-owner and opposed abolition, he actively worked to keep the state from seceding. However, the State Legislature voted in favor of an Ordinance of Secession on February 23, 1861. Governor Houston was evicted from office when he refused to take an oath to the Confederacy. Houston was replaced by Lieutenant Governor Edward Clark. This would mark the beginning of a long, bloody battle between the North and South. The Union would prove victorious four years later.
By a vote of 166 to 8, the Secession Convention of Texas voted to withdraw from the Union. Independence was declared on March 2, and on March 5, Texas joined the Confederate States of America. Governor Sam Houston refused to take an oath of loyalty to the Confederacy. When the Convention removed him from office on March 16, Houston's political career was over. The statesman retired to Huntsville where he died two years later.
All able-bodied men were required to report for service to the Confederate Army. This left many Texas colonies and forts with no defense from continual Comanche and Kiowa raids. The Texas Legislature passed an act authorizing the formation of the Frontier Regiment. These Rangers patrolled 18 forts located along a 500-mile line from the Red River to the Rio Grande. By 1863, all Frontier Regiment Rangers were drafted into the Confederate Army.
Early in the Civil War, Texas ranchers supplied the Confederate army with beef. Federal troops seized control of the Mississippi River and New Orleans in 1863, cutting Texas off from its southern markets. With most men involved in the war, cattle were left to roam. By 1865, there were thousands of unbranded "maverick" cattle throughout the state.
Large-scale cattle raids by Comanche became common with attacks in Cooke, Denton, Montague, Parker, and Wise counties. In December, some 300 Comanches attacked settlements in Montague and Cooke counties and escaped after driving off soldiers from the Frontier Regiment.
Saddle pad, 1870s. Courtesy Heritage Society, Houston, Gift of Mrs. Herman P. Pressler
U.S. Army Col. Kit Carson led 350 California and New Mexico volunteer cavalry against Comanche and Kiowa camps near the abandoned "Adobe Walls" trading post in the Texas Panhandle. After a battle of several hours, Carson and his troops narrowly escaped, outnumbered by about 1,400 Comanche, Kiowa, and Apache warriors.
The Freedman's Bureau was a federal agency created to assist African Americans in the South with their transition to freedom following the Civil War. It was established by Congress in March 1865 as a branch of the United States Army and operated in Texas from late September 1865 until July 1870. The agency assisted newly freed African Americans with legal matters, education, and employment. The Bureau was also tasked with curbing the violence inflicted upon African Americans, especially by the KKK, a newly founded hate group.
Illustration of The Freedmen's Bureau distributing rations. Courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.
On June 19, 1865, federal authority was established in Texas when General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston. Granger proclaimed the end of slavery for 250,000 African Americans as well as the end of the Confederacy. "Juneteenth," celebrating that declaration of emancipation, was declared an official holiday in the state of Texas in 1980.
The economic devastation of the South after the Civil War meant Texas ranchers had to look elsewhere for profitable markets. In the North and East, cattle that were worth just $4 a head in Texas could be sold for $40. The challenge was getting them there. Cow folk and their cattle traveled the famed Chisholm Trail that crossed the Red River and headed into Kansas in order to reach the rail heads that could take the cattle to market.
The Army Reorganization Act authorized Congress to form the 9th and 10th Cavalry and the 38th, 39th, 40th, and 41st Infantry units. The soldiers signed up for five years and received three meals a day, a uniform, an education and $13.00 a month pay. These African American troops become known as "Buffalo Soldiers" because of their bravery in battles against Native Americans. The term eventually became a reference for all African American soldiers.
Buffalo Soldiers: The Unknown Army
Cathay Williams was a cook for the Union Army. When the Civil War ended, Cathay needed to support herself. She signed up with the 25th Infantry Buffalo Soldiers as William Cathay. When she was hospitalized, the doctor discovered her secret. On October 14, 1868, "William Cathay" was declared unfit for duty and honorably discharged. In 1891, Cathay applied for a military pension, but was denied because women weren't eligible to be soldiers.
885 men of the 9th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers regiment took up stations at Fort Stockton and Fort Davis. When not engaged in skirmishes with the Apache and Comanche Indians, the soldiers guarded civilian and government stagecoaches traveling along the San Antonio to El Paso road.
Fort Lancaster 9th Cavalry Company K soldiers were moving their horses to pasture. 400 Kickapoo Indians advanced toward the fort. The Buffalo Soldiers scurried to fire at the invaders while herding their valuable horses back toward the fort's corral. Bullets and arrows flew throughout the night. By the time the battle ended the next morning, Company K had lost 38 cavalry horses and two soldiers to the Kickapoo.
Pennsylvania-born Mifflin Kenedy began sheep ranching in Texas after the Mexican-American War of 1846. In the aftermath of the Civil War, Kenedy made his move into cattle ranching with the purchase of Laureles Ranch near Corpus Christi. Kenedy fenced his ranch with smooth wire in 1869, marking the beginning of enclosed ranching in Texas. In 1907, Laureles was incorporated into the mighty King Ranch.
After the Civil War, the United States entered the era of Reconstruction, during which former Confederate States had to meet certain conditions for readmission into the Union. This included recognizing the U.S. constitutional amendments that ended slavery and rewriting their state constitutions. Nine African Americans were delegates to the 1868 Constitutional Convention. One of these delegates, George T. Ruby was elected to the Texas Senate a year later, becoming the first African American to serve in the legislature. Texas was readmitted to the United States on March 30, 1870.
Hyrum Wilson and several others between 1869 and 1872 owned and operated a pottery company on land granted to them by their former enslaver, John Wilson. Years of experience in John Wilson’s pottery shop provided the newly freed men the knowledge and skills needed to establish and operate their own pottery company. The enterprise’s success provided a livelihood for the potters that differed from sharecropping and tenant farming, both of which tied African Americans to landowners in a manner much like slavery.
George T. Ruby (left) and Matthew Gaines (right). 1/151-1. Courtesy Texas State Library and Archives Commission
When the Twelfth Provisional Legislature began in February 1870, it included Texas’s first two African American legislators. Elected in 1869 to serve in the Texas Senate were George T. Ruby, a former Freedmen’s Bureau agent originally from New York, and Matthew Gaines, a Baptist preacher. Together, these men pushed for resolutions to protect African American voters and supported bills for public education and prison reform.
George T. Ruby (left) and Matthew Gaines (right). Courtesy Texas State Library and Archives Commission, Austin
The original four infantry units of Buffalo Soldiers were reorganized into two regiments. The original 38th and 41st regiments became the 24th regiment, and the 39th and 40th were combined to become the 25th regiment. From that point on, the Buffalo Soldiers troops were comprised of the 9th and 10th Cavalry regiments and the 24th and 25th Infantry regiments.
A new technique for tanning bison hides became commercially available. In response, commercial hunters began systematically targeting bison for the first time. Once numbering in the tens of millions, the bison population plummeted. By 1878, the American Bison were all but extinct. This was a terrible blow to the American Indians whose livelihood depended on the bison and to whom the bison is a sacred animal.
Pile of buffalo hides obtained from hunting expeditions in western Kansas, April 4, 1874. Courtesy Kansas Historical Society
Following the end of the Civil War, the cattle industry began to rebound. Cattle were turned loose in south Texas and their populations rapidly increased. With cattle numbers on the rise again, ranchers drove their herds toward the new markets in the northern U.S. The cattle industry in Texas was back and booming.
During Reconstruction, southern states were required to nullify acts of secession, abolish slavery, and ratify the 13th Amendment in order to be readmitted to the Union. Texas balked on the slavery issue, which prompted Congress to require that the Texas Legislature also pass the 14th and 15th Amendments before being considered for readmission. When Texas finally met all conditions, President Ulysses S. Grant readmitted Texas to the United States.
Sergeant Emmanuel Stance of the 9th Cavalry left Fort McKavett to rescue two children captured in an Apache raid. Stance and his men fought off the Apaches multiple times. Both children and over a dozen stolen horses were recovered. For his valor, Stance was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor and became the first African American soldier to win the country's highest civilian medal in the post-Civil War period.
Under the command of General William T. Sherman, the 10th Cavalry conducted an inspection tour of Texas frontier to determine the safety of white settlers against Indian threats. They traveled over 34,000 miles, mapping significant geographical features as they went. The information they gathered was used to develop highly detailed maps of the unsettled territory.
Kiowas and Comanche attacked a freight wagon train on the Salt Creek Prairie of Young County and killed the wagon master and seven teamsters. In response U.S. Army Gen. Sherman ordered operations to arrest any Comanche and Kiowa found away from their reservation. Chiefs Satank, Satanta, and Big Tree were arrested and put on trial. They were the first Native American leaders to be tried for raids in a U.S. Court.
Photograph 518901, "White Bear (Sa-tan-ta), a Kiowa chief; full-length, seated, holding bow and arrows"; William S. Soule Photographs of Arapaho, Cheyenna, Kiowa, Comanche, and Apache Indians, 1868 - 1875; Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, 1793 - 1999; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD. Courtesy National Archives and Records Administration
In 1871, Ransom and Sarah Williams purchased 45 acres in southern Travis County, despite the discriminatory labor practices that kept most African Americans from earning enough money to purchase land. The Williams family supported themselves by raising horses and farming. Objects left behind at the farmstead show that the family was successful enough to have money to spend on toys, costume jewelry, manufactured dish sets imported from England, and mass-produced patent medicines and extracts.
Transfer-printed whiteware saucer owned by the Williams family (reconstructed), c. 1875–1897. Courtesy Texas Archaeological Research Laboratory, The University of Texas at Austin
While on an expedition to the Llano Estacado, US Cavalry companies and Tonkawa scouts attacked a Comanche village on the North Fork of the Red River. About 13 women and children and their horse herd of some 800 animals were captured. Three soldiers were killed and seven wounded. The Comanche suffered 50 killed and seven wounded. The prisoners were sent to Fort Sill in Indian Territory.
Johnson, Chief of Tonkawa Scouts, United States Army, 1870–1875. Courtesy DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University
As the United States recovered from the Civil War, the nation's industrial capacity developed at a revolutionary pace. The overheated economy crashed in the Panic of 1873, causing the value of cattle to plummet. The resulting depression caused many cattle ranchers to go bankrupt and temporarily sidelined the industry.
Six companies of the 4th Cavalry, along with 24 Black-Seminole scouts led by Lt. John Bullis, crossed the Rio Grande and attacked a village of Lipan and Kickapoo near Remolino, Mexico. The survivors were deported to the Mescalero Reservation in the Sacramento Mountains of New Mexico.
A Black Seminole regiment, c. 1885. Courtesy Archives of the Big Bend, Sul Ross State University, Alpine, Texas
Black troops in the U.S. Army were stationed throughout Texas, the Southwest, and the Great Plains. They were given the name "Buffalo Soldiers" by Native Americans. Four regiments served in Texas: the 9th and 10th Cavalry, and the 24th and 25th Infantry. The Buffalo Soldiers participated in many frontier campaigns and were responsible for a variety of military tasks, including building roads and escorting mail parties through the frontier.
Beginning in 1868, a series of patents was issued to several inventors for strong, mass-produced fencing made from interlocking strands of wire, outfitted with sharp barbs that discouraged even the toughest cattle from muscling through it. In 1876, two salesman demonstrated barbed wire in the Alamo Plaza in San Antonio. Within a few years, the simple, revolutionary invention had ended the open range.
By the winter of 1873‒1874, the Southern Plains Indians were in crisis. The reduction of the buffalo herds combined with increasing numbers of settlers and military patrols had put them in an unsustainable position. Led by Isa-tai and Quanah Parker, 250 warriors on June 27th attacked a small outpost of buffalo hunters at Adobe Walls in the Texas Panhandle. This would start the Red River (or Buffalo) War.
Red River War Kiowa Prisoners, Fort Marion, Florida, c.1875. Kiowas. Courtesy Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University
Alex Sweet, editor of the nationally-circulated humor magazine Texas Siftings, wrote in 1882: "The Rangers have done more to suppress lawlessness, to capture criminals, and to prevent Mexican and Indian raids on the frontier, than any other agency employed by either the State or national government."
The U.S. Army began a campaign to remove all Comanche, Kiowa, Southern Cheyenne, and Arapaho from the southwest plains and relocate them to reservations in Indian Territory. Led by Comanche Chief Quanah Parker, the Indian tribes fought one last battle for their native lands. The U.S. Army, including all regiments of the Buffalo Soldiers, engaged the Indians in over 20 battles from 1874 to 1875 in the Texas panhandle around the Red River.
The cattle drives faced the constant threat of attack by American Indians. In a series of battles known as the Red River War, the U.S. Army defeated a large force of Kiowa, Cheyenne, and Comanche at Palo Duro Canyon, by capturing and killing their horses. Without their ability to make war, the Indians were forced to relocate to reservations in Oklahoma, opening up the Staked Plains to cattle ranching.
The Red River War officially ended in June 1875 when Quanah Parker and his band of Quahadi Comanche entered Fort Sill and surrendered. They were the last large band in Texas. The United States had now defeated the unified Cheyenne, Arapaho, Comanche, and Kiowa and forcibly confined them to reservations.
Photograph 530911, "Quanah Parker, a Kwahadi Comanche chief; full-length, standing in front of tent"; Photographs of American Military Activities, ca. 1918 - ca. 1981; Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer, 1860 - 1985; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD. Courtesy National Archives and Records Administration
Created in 1876 as a result of legislation in Texas that mandated higher education opportunities for African Americans, Prairie View A&M became the first state supported institution of higher learning for African Americans in Texas. The school’s original curriculum was the training of teachers, but in 1887 it expanded to include agriculture, nursing, arts and sciences, and mechanical arts, and by 1932, the college initiated graduate programs in agricultural economics, rural education, agricultural education, and rural sociology.
Birds-eye view of Prairie View State Normal College, ca. 1900. Courtesy Prairie View A&M University, Special Collections/Archives Department, Prairie View, TX
Since Texas gained independence from Mexico in 1836, the Texas Constitution has undergone five revisions. The Constitution of 1876 was the sixth revision of the document and established the foundation for the law still in effect in Texas today. The 1875 constitution, in part a reaction to Reconstruction, shortened terms and lowered salaries of elected officials, decentralized control of public education, limited powers of both the legislature and governor, and provided biennial legislative sessions. The new constitution also created the University of Texas and confirmed the creation of Texas A&M, setting aside one million acres of land for the Permanent University Fund.
Henry O. Flipper was the first African American cadet to graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Sixty 10th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers, led by Captain Nicholas Nolan, headed out from Fort Concho across drought-stricken north Texas in pursuit of raiding Comanches. Over the next five days, the troops became lost in the waterless Llano Estacado. Soldiers were delusional from dehydration and many drank the blood of their dead horses in order to survive. Four soldiers died. This incident, called "The Staked Plains Horror," made headlines across the nation.
The African American community of Quakertown opened its first school in 1878. The community itself had formed within the Denton city limits by the mid-1870s. It is most likely named after the Quakers who aided freedmen in the early years of Reconstruction. When the school opened, many African American families from a neighboring community, Freeman Town (the first black settlement in Denton), relocated to Quakertown.
Joe and Alice Skinner, local business owners in Quakertown. Courtesy Denton County Office of History and Culture
Two factors ended the legendary cattle drives. By 1879, the railroads had fully extended their reach into Texas, with 2,440 miles of track. The next year saw the first patent for refrigerated railcars, meaning meat no longer needed to be transported "on the hoof." The Chisolm Trail was obsolete and the Texas cattle industry entered a new era.
A band of Warm Springs and Mescalero Apaches under Chief Victorio terrorized southern New Mexico and West Texas. During July and August, detachments of the 10th Cavalry and 25th Infantry battled with the Apaches and denied them access to water in the trans-Pecos region of West Texas. Victorio withdrew to the mountains of Mexico, where he was killed by Mexican soldiers.
Victorio, Apache Chief. Courtesy Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma Library
Legendary Apache Chief Victorio crossed back into Texas after successful raids in New Mexico. The 10th Cavalry and 24th Infantry units moved out toward Rattlesnake Springs, near present-day Van Horn, to intercept the chief and his warriors. The Buffalo Soldiers surrounded them and eventually drove them back across Texas into Mexico. One month later, Victorio was killed by Mexican troops.
In 1881, a small war party of Lipan Apache attacked and looted the house of an American settler in Texas, killing two people. Thirty Black-Seminole Scouts led by Lt. John L. Bullis pursued the band of Lipan Apache raiders into Mexico. It was the last military action against American Indians conducted by the United States in Texas.
Photograph 519788, "Apache Indians as they appear ready for the warpath 1973"; Photographs of Geographical Explorations and Surveys West of the 100th Meridian from the Wheeler Survey, 1873 - 1873; Records of the Office of the Chief of Engineers, 1789 - 1999; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD. Courtesy National Archive and Records Administration
The fight for women's equality began long before they won the right to vote in 1919. In the 1880's, Jenny Bland Beauchamp led the formation of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. Although the group's primary focus was battling the ills of alcohol abuse, they pushed the Texas Legislature for many social reforms, including women's suffrage. WCTU members were the foundation of the women's suffrage organizations that began to form in the next decade.
Landless cattle ranchers worked the remains of the open range, but often found their access to water and grass blocked by barbed wire. Landowners sometimes fenced land regardless of whether they held the title. Armed bands of cowboys cut through barbed wire, causing millions in damages. The conflict subsided when ranch owners were ordered to install gates every three miles.
In an non-violent walkout aimed at five ranches, Texas cowboys protested the new practice of being paid in cash instead of cattle. The strike ended with a slight pay increase but no return to a livestock-based salary system. The cowboy life was a hard one, with most men moving on after just a couple of years.
Cattlemen and ranchers went to war over the practice of stringing barbed wire around plots of land. Bands of armed "nippers" worked at night cutting the barbed wire, causing an estimated $20 million in damage. The Texas Rangers were called in on patrol. Ranger Ira Aten proposed arming the fences with bombs triggered to explode when the fence wire was cut. The idea was nixed.
In October the Tonkawa were removed from Fort Griffin, Texas, and transported by railroad to Indian Territory. Today the Tonkawa hold a yearly powwow in October that commemorates this removal and their arrival to the Ft. Oakland Reservation.
"Tonkawa or Tonquawa, – Friendly Indians – Forts Griffin & Richardson, Texas." Courtesy DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University
The Colored Teachers State Association of Texas was created to unite African American educators across Texas. The Association promoted quality education for students and good working conditions for teachers. They supported teachers through professional development opportunities and by advocating for issues like equal salaries.
Cover of The Texas Standard, the official newsletter of the Colored Teachers State Association of Texas. The association’s first president, L. C. Anderson, is pictured. Courtesy Prairie View A&M University, Special Collections/Archives Department, Prairie View, TX
The 10th Cavalry received notice that regimental headquarters were being moved from Fort Davis, Texas to Fort Apache, Arizona. Twelve Buffalo Soldier regiments plus the regimental band marched from Texas to Arizona following the tracks of the Southern Pacific Railroad. As raids decreased over the next five years, most Buffalo Soldier troops moved out of Texas.
Two devastating blizzards in the winter of 1886 stunned cattle ranchers. Before barbed wire, cattle's free roaming ways had usually enabled them to survive such storms, but now they were stranded behind their fences and died before ranchers could reach them with feed. Combined with falling cattle prices and overgrazing, the winter of 1886 dealt such a blow to the ranchers that it became known as "The Great Die-Up."
In 1859, a huge oil discovery in Pennsylvania made kerosene the dominant lighting fuel in America. The first deliberate oil strike in Texas was at Oil Springs near Nacogdoches in 1866. This well produced only about ten barrels a day. A locally successful well was drilled in Brown County in 1880 that produced about 100 barrels a day. At that time, there was no practical means of shipping the oil out of state.
Courtesy Texas Railroad Commission
Named after its co-founder Daniel Dabney, the Dabney Hill Missionary Baptist Church held its first service in October 1887. The church became and has remained the center of the Dabney Hill Freedman’s settlement in Burleson County. Churches like this one gave African Americans a place to worship, learn, and socialize away from the violence and discrimination they faced in the Jim Crow South. Two of its congregants – Rev. Albert A. Lucas and Rev. S. M. Wright – went on to become prominent voices in the Civil Rights Movement in Texas.
Exterior of the Dabney Hill Missionary Baptist Church after being damaged by a storm, 2019. Courtesy Bullock Texas State History Museum
In the late 1870s, Texas officials decided that the original capitol building, built in 1853, was too small and understated for the post-Reconstruction grandeur of Texas. Plans for a new capitol were in the works when the old building burned down in 1881. The new capitol was designed by Elijah E. Meyers, who had previously designed the 1871 Michigan capitol. Ground broke in 1882 and construction was complete in 1888. The opening ceremony took place in May 1888, but the building didn't reach completion until late November of that year with the placement of the Goddess of Liberty atop the dome.
"Always in the vanguard of civilization and in contact with the most warlike and savage Indians of the Plains. The officers and men have cheerfully endured many hardships and privations, and in the midst of great dangers steadfastly maintained a most gallant and zealous devotion to duty...it cannot fail, sooner or later, to meet with due recognition and reward..."
-- General Benjamin Grierson, relinquishing command of the 10th Cavalry
The Texas Railroad Commission was founded in 1891 after Governor James S. Hogg campaigned on a platform of regulating railroads. The commission was established to oversee the rates and operations of railroads, wharves, terminals, and express companies, but it gained national importance with its oversight of oil and gas production in the 20th century.
Anthony F. Lucas was a salt mining engineer from Louisiana who thought that the upper Gulf Coast had great potential for oil discovery. But an 1892 attempt to drill for oil in Beaumont failed due to quicksand. When he could raise the necessary investment, Lucas continued to explore and drill in the area for the next nine years.
The Texas Equal Rights Association was the first statewide women's suffrage organization. Organized by Rebecca Henry Hays of Galveston in 1893, the TERA advocated for equal voting and political rights for women, including the right to hold office and serve on juries.
Oil was accidentally discovered by the American Well Prospecting Company on a water-prospecting trip in Corsicana. The discovery generated interest in prospecting in the area. In 1901, a gusher drilled at Spindletop, near Beaumont, made Texas an oil power.
In 1894, crews drilling for water in Corsicana struck oil instead. The result was chaos. So many wells were drilled that operators poured excess oil on the ground, and the price fell to less than 50 cents a barrel. To stem the contamination and waste, Corsicana contracted to build pipelines, storage tanks, and a refinery. This operation was called the Magnolia Petroleum Company, one day to be known as Mobil.
On October 3, the Texas Legislature declared "prizefighting" (boxing) illegal in the state. All Rangers were called in to stop the much-anticipated Fitzsimmons-Maher fight. When Ranger Captain Bill McDonald arrived alone in Langtry, the city's mayor asked where the rest of the Rangers were. McDonald allegedly replied, "Hell, ain't I enough? There's only one prizefight!" The One Riot, One Ranger slogan was born.
Born in Charleston, South Carolina, Robert Lloyd Smith moved to Texas in the late 1870s where he worked towards the advancement of education for African Americans. He also founded the Farmers' Home Improvement Society in Colorado County to encourage economic independence for African American farmers. He was elected to the Texas legislature in 1894 and 1896. When the 1897 session closed, it marked the end of African American participation in the Texas legislature for 70 years as the expansion of Jim Crow laws kept African Americans from being elected until 1966. Undaunted, he went on to serve in Theodore Roosevelt’s administration until 1909. He built a successful manufacturing business and became a leader in the National Negro Business League.
Courtesy The State Preservation Board, Austin, Texas
In the war with Spain, Major General Shafter led 17,000 troops, including 3,000 Buffalo Soldiers, into Cuba. The 24th Infantry and the 9th and 10th Cavalry charged up San Juan Hill with Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders. Roosevelt later said,"No one can tell whether it was the Rough Riders or the men of the 9th who came forward with the greater courage to offer their lives in the service of their country."
Courtesy Library of Congress
For Love of Liberty: Cuba
At its height, the Corsicana field produced over 800,000 barrels a year, in an era where remote Texas still could not compete with Pennsylvania oil. Corsicana and the Magnolia Company worked to develop Texas markets for fuel, asphalt, and illumination. In 1899, the state enacted the first laws regulating the industry, requiring operators to cap off wells to protect groundwater and to stop letting natural gas escape into the air.
"For the black man there is no glory in war... No; there is no honor, and but slight reward; let him fight like he can, in such furious onslaughts that nothing but the walls of hell can withstand him; and prove, to those vile creatures who would rob him of his glory and prowess, the soldier that he is, the most courageous...and the finest soldier the world has known."
-- American Citizen Kansas City newspaper
Because of the success at Corsicana, further exploration was conducted throughout Navarro Country. This led to the discovery of the Powell oilfield in 1900. By 1906 Powell produced 673,221 barrels of oil, which grew to more than 33 million barrels in 1924. The little town of Powell doubled in size to 500 people, a foreshadowing of the wild oil boomtowns to come.
The U.S. census counted only 470 American Indians in living Texas.
Wedding of Lindsay and Sally Poncho, the first Christian wedding of an Alabama-Coushatta Indian couple, Alabama-Coushatta Indian Reservation near Livingston, Texas. Courtesy General Photograph Collection, UTSA Libraries Special Collections 072-1723
The resort town of Sour Lake, 20 miles northwest of Beaumont, was the site of the first refinery in Texas in 1895. A gusher came in in 1902 and Sour Lake was transformed into a boom town. By 1912, over-drilling had already caused the field pressure to decline drastically.
On January 10, 1901, at 10:30 a.m., a gusher called Spindletop blew in—and changed Texas forever. Wildcatter Anthony F. Lucas had been right about what lay under the salt dome near Beaumont. Spindletop nearly ripped its derrick to pieces and shot a tower of pure crude 100 feet in the air. It took more than a week to bring the giant gusher under control. The black gold headlines spread around the world.
Courtesy, Fort Worth Star-Telegram Collection, UT-Arlington Special Collections
Former Standard Oil executive Joseph F. Cullinan had founded Magnolia Company to put the Corsicana oil fields on a businesslike footing. He did the same at Spindletop with the Texas Company (later Texaco), which purchased oil and transported by barge and rail car to a new refinery in Port Arthur. In 1905, the company completed a pipeline directly from the oil field to the refinery.
Poll taxes were a fee people had to pay in order to vote, legally restricting the political participation of lower income voters. These fees were used along with violence and intimidation to limit African Americans’ right to vote in the segregated South. This occurred within a broader context of Jim Crow laws that severely restricted African American mobility and advancement during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Texas required voters to pay the poll tax until 1966 when the U.S. Supreme Court declared them unconstitutional.
Poll tax sign from Amarillo, Texas, 1960s. Courtesy National Museum of American History
Born in Galveston in 1878, Johnson is recognized as one of the world’s greatest boxers. He became the first African American to win the title of World Heavyweight Champion after beating Tommy Burns in 1908. Despite his success, white America was unwilling to accept a Black champion.
Jack Johnson. Courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.
The Slocum Massacre occurred on July 29, 1910, in Slocum, Texas, when white residents of Anderson County believed rumors of an African American uprising and responded with violence. Mobs formed throughout the county to raid African American neighborhoods and attempt to kill any person that crossed their path. Six deaths were officially confirmed, but it is estimated as many as 100 African Americans lost their lives in this massacre. None of the attackers were ever prosecuted and no government investigation was conducted. In the aftermath, many African Americans left Anderson County and never returned.
Coverage of the Slocum Massacre in a Houston newspaper. Courtesy Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Association
Wilbur and Orville Wright, who in 1903 had designed and flown the first successful aircraft at Kitty Hawk in North Carolina, also built the Army's first airplane. Pioneering pilot Lieutenant Benjamin Foulois brought the new plane to San Antonio and publicly demonstrated it in flight on March 2 at Fort Sam Houston. Although he crashed on the last of the four flights, Foulois's flight marked the beginning of the U.S. Air Force.
In 1911, drillers looking for water discovered the Electra field in Wichita County near the Red River. In 1912, oil was discovered in the ranching town of Burkburnett. Larger strikes in 1918 and 1925 caused a huge boom, drawing more than 20,000 people to the area before the boom died in the late 1920s. These and other vast new finds in Texas, Oklahoma, and California doubled the nation’s oil reserves.
Fearing the resurgence of Mexican nationalism spurred on by the Mexican Revolution, President Taft stationed 20,000 U.S. troops to the Mexican border for national security purposes. The Mexican Revolution raged between 1910 and 1919.
Freedman’s Town in Houston, today commonly called the Fourth Ward, is one of the first and largest of the post-Civil War Black urban communities in Texas. While free Black people had lived in Houston for decades, newly liberated African Americans moved into the area in large numbers, helping to create Houston’s first Black neighborhood. The area quickly grew into a vibrant business, religious, and cultural center. In 1912, the neighborhood received its first public library, spearheaded by the efforts of African Americans who had been denied access to the books in Houston’s other public libraries.
Dedication of the Colored Carnegie Library in Freedman’s Town, ca. 1912. MSS0006-011, Houston Public Library, African American Library at the Gregory School. Courtesy Houston Public Library
At least 65 African Americans from East Texas served in the “Harlem Hellfighters,” founded in 1913. The famous 369th Infantry Regiment was the most celebrated African American regiment in WWI. The soldiers spent more time in battle than other American troops, yet they confronted racism while training for war and once they returned home. Many African American soldiers in this regiment received the Croix de Guerre from the French government.
Courtesy The History Channel
Oil required the opening of new frontiers in law, chemistry, and engineering. Refineries that rivaled the largest in the world were built. Port facilities along the coast were dredged to accommodate tanker ships. In 1909, dredging began on the Houston Ship Channel. It was completed in 1914, providing the link to the sea for the interior of Texas. It remains one of the most heavily utilized waterways in the U.S.
Courtesy Fort Bend Museum
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) organized and financed landmark civil-rights lawsuits. Texas’s first chapter was established in El Paso in 1914 and was joined by four other chapters in 1918. The NAACP chipped away at legal restrictions on Black rights and continues to work towards the advancement of justice for African Americans today.
Dr. Lawrence Aaron Nixon was a founding member of the El Paso NAACP branch. He went on to challenge Texas’s white-only primary in legal battles for 20 years. Courtesy University of Texas at El Paso Library Special Collections Department. Millard G. McKinney Papers
Raids by Mexican outlaws intent on reclaiming Texas land (as outlined in the Plan de San Diego) escalated into guerrilla warfare. The Texas Legislature authorized mass inductions of men to serve as Ranger forces. Reports of vigilante-like brutality inflicted on both Mexicans and Tejanos by these less disciplined and under-supervised Rangers increased.
In March, Mexican outlaw Pancho Villa attacked Columbus, New Mexico. President Wilson ordered Brigadier General John "Black Jack" Pershing to capture Villa in what became known as "Pershing's Punitive Expedition." Major Charles Young led the 10th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers into Mexico. Months passed and many Buffalo Soldiers died in ceaseless fights with Villa's men, but Villa himself remained at large.
Courtesy Black Archives of Mid America, Kansas City
After the arrest of Jesse Washington, an African American teenager, for the killing of Lucy Fryer, a mob gathered around the Waco courthouse and captured Washington. After two hours of monstrously lynching Washington, the mob dragged his body to Robinson, Texas, Fryer’s hometown with a large African American population. The aftermath of Washington's murder incited a push to end lynching around the country. The NAACP led the charge in passing anti-lynching laws which led to the decline of lynching after the 1920s and into the early 1960s.
Anti-lynching poster distributed by the NAACP, 1922. Courtesy Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
Following the relocation of the Third Battalion of the all-Black 24th United States Infantry to Houston's Camp Logan in 1917, racial tensions in the city escalated. There was a violent confrontation between Houston Police and two African American soldiers on August 23, 1917, and Cpl. Charles Baltimore was hit over the head and taken to police headquarters. Rumors reached Camp Logan that he had been shot and killed, which fueled the African American soldiers at the camp to march on Houston. In a single night, 11 civilians, 4 policemen, and 4 soldiers were killed. In total, 156 members of the battalion were tried for mutiny. Nineteen were executed, and 63 received life sentences in federal prison. No white civilians were brought to trial. It remains the largest murder trial in the history of the United States.
Front page of The Houston Press from August 24, 1917, detailing the consequences of the Riot. Courtesy Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Association
The 92nd and 93rd Infantry regiments were established with approximately 25,000 African American soldiers from across the United States. These Buffalo Soldiers served with French infantry units in the Battle of the Argonne and the second Battle of the Marne. Battle losses were high, but so were the Buffalo Soldiers' achievements. The French government bestowed the Croix de Guerre on 68 Buffalo Soldiers for their heroic service in battle.
On November 1, 1917, approximately 10,000 Texas and Louisiana oilfield workers walked off the job to protest long hours and low pay. The strike dragged on for months. Oil producers refused to accept federal authority to mediate the dispute. When the strike ended in June 1918, 25% of the workers had lost their jobs, though many companies did voluntarily raise wages and extend benefits for those who were kept on.
Courtesy Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection [LC-USF33-012167-M2]
For Love of Liberty: World War I
"Wets" and "Drys"— those opposed to and for prohibition, respectively— battled over the issue in the Texas legislature for decades. Prohibition gained momentum nationally, in part due to the efforts of Senator Morris Sheppard of Texas. Texas approved the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1919. But by the mid-1920s, Prohibition had become unpopular as anti-prohibitionists took control of the Texas legislature. Prohibition was ended in 1933.
Some estimates place the number of Hispanic citizen deaths by Texas Rangers during the 1915-1918 wars with Mexico as high as 3,000. Representative Josė T. Canales of Brownsville insisted on a legislative investigation. As a result of the findings, the Texas Legislature reduced the number of Ranger companies as well as the number of men in each company. More stringent Ranger selection criteria and a citizen complaint process were also put in place.
By June 1918, there were 98 suffrage organizations in Texas alone! After years of struggle, a bill permitting women to vote passed in both the Texas House and Senate. Governor William P. Hobby signed it into law on March 26, 1918. On June 28, 1919, Texas became the first state to approve the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, winning women the right to vote in national elections.
Prohibition passed in 1918. The Texas oil boom exploded two years later. Rangers spent a lot of time smashing stills, intercepting bootleg liquor from Mexico, and handcuffing criminals to telephone poles when the jails were too full. It was during this time that Ranger Captain Manuel "Lone Wolf" Gonzaullas cemented his legend as a one-man law enforcement agency along the Texas border. In the 1950s, he became an advisor for the TV show, Tales of the Texas Rangers.
Bessie Coleman became the world’s first licensed African American pilot on June 15, 1921. Born in Atlanta, Texas, in 1892, Coleman’s lifelong dream was to learn to fly. After discovering that no American school would accept African Americans, she traveled abroad to attend aviation school in Le Crotoy, France. After ten months of training, she was issued her pilot’s license by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.
Photograph of Bessie Coleman with her Curtiss “Jenny” biplane, ca. 1924. Courtesy National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution
The Snyder Act of 1924 admitted Native Americans born in the U.S. to full U.S. citizenship, extending to them the right to vote as protected by the Fifteenth Amendment. Though the Fifteenth Amendment, passed in 1870, granted all U.S. citizens the right to vote regardless of race, it wasn't until the Snyder Act that Native Americans could enjoy the rights of American Citizenship.
"Move on!" by Thomas Nast, 1871. Courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.
Miriam "Ma" Ferguson was the first woman governor of Texas, serving two terms (1924-1926, and 1932-1934). She ran on a platform condemning the Ku Klux Klan, proposing spending cuts, and opposing Prohibition. Her husband, James E. "Pa" Ferguson, had served as governor from 1915 until he was impeached and removed from office in 1917, preventing him from seeking high office again in his own right.
Hazel Bernice Harvey Peace was an educator, community activist, humanitarian, and philanthropist born in 1903 in Waco, Texas. Peace’s teaching career began at I.M. Terrell High School in 1924 and spanned nearly 50 years. In addition to working at universities across Texas, Peace was also the editor for the Texas Standard, an official publication of the Colored Teachers State Association of Texas. She was active in many civic groups in the Fort Worth area and dedicated her life to fighting for social justice. In 2010, Hazel Harvey Peace Elementary School in southwest Fort Worth was named in her honor.
Portrait of Hazel Bernice Harvey Peace, ca. 1919. Courtesy Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Association
In 1930, Mary Elizabeth Branch was appointed the president of Tillotson College in Austin, having risen as an educator at Virginia State College and Dean of Women at Vashon High School in St. Louis, then the largest school for Black women in the nation. Branch transformed Tillotson from a struggling junior college for women into a successful four-year college. During her administration, enrollment steadily grew, and in 1936, the college was admitted to membership in the American Association of Colleges. Her work rescued the school from near ruin and paved the way for a future merger with Samuel Huston College, forming Huston-Tillotson University in 1952.
Mary Branch. Courtesy Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Association
Uvalde legislator John Nance "Cactus Jack" Garner served in the Texas House from 1898-1902 and the U.S. Congress from 1903 until 1933. He was elected Speaker of the House in 1931. He was selected as Franklin Delano Roosevelt's running mate in 1932 and served two terms as vice-president. He retired in 1940.
The day after her inauguration, Governor Miriam "Ma" Ferguson disbanded the entire Texas Ranger force as payback for their support of her gubernatorial opponent. She personally appointed 39 men as replacements. Ferguson's men formed an ineffective and often sleazy "Special Ranger" force and crime rose steadily. Gangsters such as Bonnie and Clyde, Pretty Boy Floyd and Machine Gun Kelly found Texas a good place to hide out.
Governor James V. Allred took office in January and fired every Special Ranger appointed by Ma Ferguson. Allred overhauled the Ranger force by placing them under the newly-created Department of Public Safety (DPS). Rangers retained law enforcement responsibilities but were now also required to keep careful records of criminal investigations. A scientific crime lab was built that rivaled the FBI's lab. A new era of Ranger history had begun.
Colonel Homer T. Garrison, Jr., was appointed as the Director of the DPS and the Chief of the Texas Rangers. Under his 34-year leadership, the Rangers developed into a world-renowned criminal investigation unit.
Texans celebrated the 100th anniversary of Texas independence with statewide festivities. The United States issued commemorative three-cent stamps and half-dollars to observe the anniversary. The Centennial Exposition was held in Dallas on the state fairgrounds, and opened on June 6, 1936. It ran until late November of that year. Over 6 million people attended.
George Francis Porter was an African American civil rights activist in Dallas. In 1938, Porter attempted to exercise his right to serve on a jury. When asked to leave a Dallas courtroom, he refused to be dismissed. He was physically forced out of the room and thrown headfirst down the stairs. This incident drew national NAACP attention, leading to an investigation by Thurgood Marshall. Marshall visited Governor Allred who pledged to have Texas Rangers protect potential Black jurors in Dallas County. Even still, it took the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 ruling in Hernandez v. Texas to stop courts from only summoning white citizens for jury duty.
Thurgood Marshall, September 17, 1957. Courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.
Lulu Belle Madison White was a teacher and civil rights activist born in 1907 in Elmo, Texas. Her work was devoted to the advancement of African American education and voting rights. In 1939, she became the president of the Houston chapter of the NAACP. Under her leadership, the Houston chapter became the largest in the South.
Lulu B. White stands front center next to Thurgood Marshall at a meeting for the NAACP in Dallas, 1950. Courtesy Juanita Jewel Shanks Craft Collection, The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin
The Allied Powers of Britain, France, Australia and New Zealand declared war on Germany following its invasion of Poland on September 1st. Despite World War I being named "the war to end all wars," World War II was about to begin.
Retired Ranger Captain Frank Hamer (who brought down Bonnie and Clyde) wrote a letter to King George V of England offering the services of 49 retired Rangers to help defend England against German invasion. Although F.D.R. vetoed the idea, Germany got wind of the offer and panicked. In a radio address, Third Reich Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels assured the German nation that the mighty Texas Rangers were not invading.
Jacqueline (Jackie) Cochran, famed American aviator, wrote to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to suggest the formation of an all-female auxiliary pilot corps to fly non-combat stateside missions for the military. Cochran explained that women pilots could fly "...ambulance planes, courier planes, commercial and transport planes, thereby releasing male pilots for combat duty."
The Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 became the first peacetime conscription law in U.S. history. The act required all men between the ages of 21 and 35 (later extended to age 37) to register with a local draft board. Each man was assigned a draft number that was entered into a lottery. Lottery number drawings determined who would be "called up" to military service for twelve months.
Jackie Cochran became the first woman to fly a military plane across the Atlantic Ocean. She traveled to England to meet with the women pilots of the British transport command to determine if American female flyers were needed to help the war effort in a besieged Britain.
Army Air Forces (AAF) Commander General Henry "Hap" Arnold met with Cochran and asked her to recruit and train American women pilots to fly with the British transport command. He also asked her to develop a proposal outlining the duties that women pilots might perform for the Army Air Forces.
Just before 8 a.m., hundreds of Japanese war planes bombed the U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet ships stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The strike was a well-planned and surprise retaliation against the U.S. efforts to halt Japan's war with China. In less than two hours, eight battleships, 20 additional ships and almost 200 airplanes were destroyed. Over 2,000 American sailors and soldiers died in this attack.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared war on Japan and America officially entered World War II.
In his address to Congress, President Franklin Roosevelt said, "On the morning of 11 December, the Government of Germany, pursuing its course of world conquest, declared war against the United States. The long-known and the long-expected has thus taken place. The forces endeavoring to enslave the entire world now are moving toward this hemisphere. Never before has there been a greater challenge to life, liberty, and civilization."
This classic recruitment film was made to encourage women to sign up to serve in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corp (WAAC), commanded by former First Lady of Texas, Oveta Culp Hobby.
"Women who stepped up were measured as citizens of the nation, not as women. This was a people's war and everyone was in it."
Colonel Oveta Culp Hobby
WAAC/WAC Director 1942-1945
African Americans in World War II
Born in Waco, Texas, Doris “Dorie” Miller became the first African American to be awarded the Navy Cross for his actions in response to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Because African Americans weren’t allowed in combat units, they weren’t trained for anything beyond service roles. Nevertheless, Miller manned anti-aircraft guns during the attack and tended to the wounded. After the Medal of Honor, the Navy Cross is the second highest decoration for valor awarded by the Navy.
Admiral Chester W. Nimitz pins the Navy Cross on Miller on board a U.S. Navy warship in Pearl Harbor on May 27, 1942. Courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.
The Pittsburgh Courier, the most widely read black newspaper in America, began the "Double V" campaign to encourage African Americans to join the war effort abroad and to secure equal rights for all Americans at home, regardless of color. Courier editor James G. Thompson wrote, "The first V for victory over our enemies from without, the second V for victory over our enemies from within."
Oveta Culp Hobby, a native Texan and wife of former governor William P. Hobby, became the first director of the Army-based Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), later known as the Women's Army Corps (WAC). Under her command, 150,000 women served in Army jobs both stateside and abroad. In 1945, Colonel Hobby received the Distinguished Service Medal for her outstanding contributions to the war effort.
To Be Used
In her newspaper column, My Day, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt wrote: "I believe in this case, if the war goes on long enough, and women are patient, opportunity will come knocking at their doors. However, there is just a chance that this is not a time when women should be patient. We are in a war and we need to fight it with all our ability and every weapon possible. Women pilots, in this particular case, are a weapon waiting to be used."
AAF Commander General Hap Arnold sent a message to General Barton Yount, AAF Commander General of the Flying Training Command saying: "The Air Forces' objective is to provide at the earliest possible date a sufficient number of women pilots to replace men in every non-combatant flying duty in which it is feasible to employ women."
Yvonne Pateman, WASP Class 43-5, recalls life and training as a WASP at Avenger Field.
"The director of flying said, "I need you. The hurricane is coming. All of the men want to stay home. When you hear the alarm, we'll sound the siren, and report immediately. We've got to take these planes out." Just before we got to be #1 for take-off in the B-26, this captain had just come back from overseas and he said, "Do you have an instrument rating?" I said, "Yes, sir. Do you?""
Rose Alice Palmer, Class 44-6
from WASP: In their Own Words by Nancy Parrish
As more women entered flight training, it became clear that the facilities at the Houston Municipal Airport were no longer adequate. A second training facility was approved at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas. The base was already home to Canadian male trainee pilots. Half of the women pilots of Class 43-4 reported to Avenger Field to begin training on February 14th.
Cochran closed the Avenger Field airbase to all activities except female flight training and air emergencies. The Canadian male pilots were transferred to other bases. Populated by women only, Avenger Field became known as "Cochran's Convent."
A direct result of the War, Beaumont's population boomed as people moved there to take jobs in the shipyards and war plants. The rapid increase of population forced integration due to the sheer lack of facilities in the town. In June 1943, overcrowding, Ku Klux Klan activity, and Juneteenth plans combined with an explosive incident—an African-American man was accused of assaulting an 18 year-old white woman. The suspect was shot and killed by police for allegedly resisting arrest. A second sexual assault was reported on June 15. The accuser was unable to identify her attacker, but still a riot erupted that evening. The mayor of Beaumont called in the Texas National Guard and the city remained under martial law for five days. Beaumont was one of many cities in the U.S.—including Detroit, New York, Mobile, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Baltimore, Saint Louis, and Indianapolis—where intense race riots occurred during World War II.
Jacqueline Cochran was officially appointed Air Force Director of Women Pilots and joined the Commander General's offices at the Pentagon.
With her appointment as director, all civilian female flying corps were under Cochran's command. AAF Commander General Hap Arnold and Cochran agreed that this consolidated corps needed a new name. Arnold suggested "Women Airforce Service Pilots." Not all the women pilots liked the name or the acronym, however, which prompted General Arnold to issue this statement: "Acronym for all AAF women pilots will be WASP, Women Airforce Service Pilots. Period."
Combat pilot losses continued to rise, which increased the already severe shortage of male pilots. Military leaders realized that many of the losses were due to American pilots' inability to avoid enemy radar detection. A new radar evasion program was developed but there were no test pilots. Cochran volunteered the Women Airforce Service Pilots.
Women Airforce Service Pilots continued to take on more military pilot duties including target and glider towing, radar calibration, bombing range runs, and instrument instruction. Training hours at Avenger Field were increased to 210 flight hours and 560 ground school hours.
Some male combat pilots refused to fly the B-26 Martin Marauder, a fast twin engine bomber also known as "the widow maker" and "the flying torpedo." AAF Commander General Arnold notified Cochran: "Select some WASP to train at Dodge City to fly B-26 as morale booster for male pilots." Cochran sent 25 Women Airforce Service Pilots with twin engine flying experience for B-26 bomber training.
B-26 Training Film
1944 official War Department training film for the infamous B-26 Bomber.
Yvonne Pateman, WASP Class 43-5, narrates this video about the Women Airforce Service Pilots and Avenger Field.
"As I landed, taxied to the ramp, and shut down the engine, the finality of it all struck me with a deep and profound feeling of sweet sadness. It was over. I was profoundly sad but also sincerely grateful. To serve my country as a military pilot in wartime had truly been an opportunity of a lifetime."
Marie Mountain Clark, Class 44-1
from WASP: In their Own Words by Nancy Parrish
"I hitched a ride on an Army plane and got as far as New York, or somewhere on the East Coast. Then I wrote fifty letters to every aviation company and airline that you could think of, trying to get a flying job. I didn't know there were that many ways to say no."
Betty Haas Pfister, Class 43-5
from WASP: In their Own Words by Nancy Parrish
Jackie Robinson served as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 9th Cavalry at Fort Riley, Kansas. Robinson was court-martialed when he refused to move to the back of a segregated bus during training exercises. He was acquitted of the charges and left the Army with an honorable discharge in 1944. Three years later, Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers and became the first African American to play major league baseball.
Lonnie E. Smith, a Black dentist from Houston and a voter in Harris County, Texas, sued county election official S. S. Allwright for the right to vote in the Democratic primary election, which required all voters to be white. In a landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Texas law. The white primary restricted voting in primary elections to white Texans and was the most prevalent means of reducing African American political participation. Although many challenged the legality of this system, including Lawrence A. Nixon in 1924 and Richard R. Grovey in 1935, it remained in place until the Supreme Court struck it down in 1944.
Lonnie Smith votes in primary election, 1944. Courtesy University of Kentucky Special Collections Research Center
WASP Class 44-1 became the first class to graduate wearing the official Santiago blue WASP uniform that was designed by Bergdorf Goodman of New York and made by the Neiman Marcus company in Dallas. Jackie Cochran pinned the coveted silver Women Airforce Service Pilots wings above the left pocket of the graduates' jackets.
"We must have legislation to make the WASP a part of the Army. At the present time, they are not entitled to benefits which should go to them in accordance with the duties they are performing."
AAF Commander General Hap Arnold
from WASP: In their Own Words by Nancy Parrish
There was public resistance to granting Women Airforce Service Pilots military status, and although under attack as an organization because of HR 4219, WASP continued to perform valiant military service. In one of their non-flying assignments, several Women Airforce Service Pilots participated in high altitude testing to determine how oxygen affected women pilots.
At 6:30 a.m., British and Canadian troops landed on the shores of Normandy beaches. U.S. troops deployed at Utah and Omaha Beaches. By the end of the day, approximately 156,000 Allied troops had invaded, with more than 4,000 losses.
After less than an hour of debate, HR 4219 was defeated by a vote of 188 to 169. The House also recommended the deactivation of the entire Women Airforce Service Pilots program. Those WASP already in training were allowed to complete their service, but no additional WASP were accepted to the program. All Women Airforce Service Pilots who were in service at the time of this decision had to pay their own way home.
For Love of Liberty: World War II
The Women Airforce Service Pilots program ceased to exist. All WASP military records were sealed, classified, and sent to storage archives for 30 years.
The Allies declared Victory in Europe (VE) Day after Germany's unconditional surrender on May 7th.
AAF Commander General Hap Arnold presented Jacqueline Cochran with the U.S. Distinguished Service Medal for her contributions to the war effort.
Japanese Emperor Hirohito refused to accept the terms of unconditional surrender determined by the Potsdam Conference. In an effort to end the war, President Truman decided to drop an atomic bomb on Japan rather than risk American lives in an invasion of the mainland. At 8:16 a.m., the B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped the bomb nicknamed "Little Boy" on Hiroshima. Over 80,000 Japanese were killed as a direct result of the blast and 90% of the city was destroyed.
Despite the devastation at Hiroshima, the Japanese War Council continued to refuse the terms of unconditional surrender. At 11:02 a.m., a B-29 bomber dropped "Fat Boy" on Nagasaki. 60 to 80,000 people were killed immediately from the bomb's force-- the equivalent of 22,000 tons of dynamite. Determining that continuing the war would "only result in the annihilation of the Japanese people," Emperor Hirohito finally agreed to the terms of unconditional surrender.
Emperor Hirohito delivered a radio broadcast telling the country that Japan had accepted the surrender terms of the Potsdam Conference. Witnessed by General Douglas MacArthur and other Allied leaders, Hirohito signed the official Instrument of Surrender on September 2 aboard the USS Missouri. World War II began to draw to a close.
Juanita Craft was a leader in the civil rights movement in Dallas. In 1944 she became the first African American woman in Dallas County to vote in the Democratic Party primary. After her appointment as Youth Council advisor of the Dallas NAACP in 1946, she worked to enroll the first African American student at North Texas State College, was responsible for the 1955 Dallas Youth Council protest at the Texas State Fair, and fiercely protested the segregation of African Americans at lunch counters, restaurants, theaters, and public transportation.
Juanita Craft with NAACP leadership. Courtesy Juanita Jewel Shanks Craft Collection, di_05057, The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin
Congress passed the Women's Armed Services Reserve Bill which allowed women to serve in the military reserves. During the next two years, over 300 Women Airforce Service Pilots were commissioned into the reserves as 2nd Lieutenants. They received only non-flying assignments.
President Truman issued Executive Order 9981 abolishing racial discrimination in the armed forces, effectively ending the formation of all-black regiments. The order took six years to be implemented and full integration of all Army units did not occur until the Korean War.
When African -American student Heman Marion Sweatt applied for admission to the University of Texas School of Law, he was rejected on the grounds that integrated education was prohibited. Sweatt, with the help of civil rights activists, sued the state. Eventually, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Sweatt and ordered the end of segregated professional schools. This case was influential in the later monumental ruling of Brown v. Board of Education which desegregated public schools.
Legendary Texas athlete Mildred Ella "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias ("Babe" Didrikson) co-founded the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) and won 82 tournaments at the amateur and professional levels. Born in Port Arthur and raised in Beaumont, Didrikson came to golf after a record-setting athletic career in other sports. She was a 1932 Olympic gold medal winner in the javelin and hurdles and an All-American basketball player. In 1950, the Associated Press named Didrikson "Woman Athlete of the Half Century."
This Western show starring Joel McCrea aired on NBC Radio from 1950 to 1952. The main character, Texas Ranger Jayce Pearson, was fictitious, but the stories were reenactments of actual Ranger cases.
D. Joe Williams was the first African American to integrate collegiate sports in Texas. Excelling in track, cross country, and baseball, he was scouted by the coaches at Pan American College in Edinburg. They extended him an offer to join the Broncos baseball and track teams and, in doing so, became the first college to integrate its sports program. This inspired other colleges in Texas to do the same in the coming years. Williams was later inducted into three different Texas sports Halls of Fame in recognition of his athletic excellence.
Photograph of D. Joe Williams (back row, left) on the Pan American baseball team. Courtesy Thelma Williams, El Paso
Following the Supreme Court decision to end segregation in profession schools, the ruling of Brown v. Board of Education further extended those rights to all schools in the United States. Students of all races were allowed to attend the same schools. San Antonio was among the first cities in the U.S. to comply with the order.
Since 1889 African Americans had only been allowed to attend Texas’s State Fair on Negro Achievement Day. In 1953, the fair announced that African Americans could now attend the fair on any day, but could only fully participate in the fair's enjoyments on Negro Achievement Day. Picketing the 1955 State Fair, the NAACP Youth Council spearheaded a movement to end discrimination at the fair so that any person of any race could participate on any day.
Photograph of NAACP Youth Council picket line at Texas State Fair by R.C. Hickman, October 1955. Courtesy Hickman (R.C.) Photographic Archive, The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin
For a decade, the citizens of Mansfield refused to integrate their schools despite a federal court order to desegregate. At the beginning of the 1956 school year, white citizens violently prevented the enrollment of African American students. Governor Shivers did nothing to enforce the court order. The uprising was the nation's first significant example of a public school district defying a federal court order to desegregate. The uprising led Texas to pass laws in 1957 that encouraged other school districts to resist federally ordered integration. Mansfield remained segregated until 1965 when, faced with the loss of federal funds, the school district finally integrated. Its decade-long defiance of a federal school integration order was the longest in the nation during that time.
Stuffed figure representing a Black student hung in effigy above door of Mansfield High School. Courtesy University of Texas at Arlington Libraries, Special Colections, Fort Worth Star-Telegram Collection
When Hattie Mae White was elected to the Houston school board in 1958, she became the first African American to win an elective office in Texas since 1897. She served nine turbulent years on the Houston school board, fighting constantly to implement court-ordered desegregation of the school system.
Hattie May White. Courtesy Prairie View A&M University, Special Collections/Archives Department, Prairie View, TX
In 1957, the U.S.S.R. launched Sputnik and Sputnik II, the first artificial satellites sent into orbit from Earth. The American response to the Sputnik launches resulted in the creation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), allocating funds for numerous space projects. The Manned Spacecraft Center was built in 1962 just outside of Houston. Mission control responsibilities were designated to the Center in 1963.
On November 21, 1963, President John F. Kennedy flew to Texas to attend several events across the state. On November 22, he flew to Dallas to speak at a luncheon. En route from the airport, Kennedy rode in an open car motorcade through downtown Dallas, along with his wife Jacqueline, Texas Governor John Connally and Texas First Lady Nellie Connally,. As they entered Dealey Plaza on Elm Street, shots rang out. Both Kennedy and Connally were struck. They were rushed to Parkland Hospital where President Kennedy was pronounced dead shortly after. Connally was seriously wounded and took months to recover. Kennedy’s body was transported back to Washington D.C. aboard Air Force One. Before the flight, Lyndon B. Johnson, who had been riding in a separate car with his wife Lady Bird, was sworn in as president of the United States by Texas judge Sarah Hughes.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a landmark civil rights and labor law in the United States signed into law by Texas native President Lyndon B. Johnson. The Act outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, and national origin. It also prohibited unequal application of voter registration requirements, racial segregation in schools and public accommodations, and employment discrimination.
First page of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Courtesy National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is another landmark piece of federal legislation in the United States. It outlawed the discriminatory voting practices adopted in many southern states after the Civil War, such as literacy tests as a prerequisite to voting. Signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, the Act was designed to enforce the right to vote guaranteed by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.
Signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. President Lyndon B. Johnson greets a group of Civil Rights leaders including Rev. Abernathy, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Clarence Mitchell, and Patricia Roberts Harris. Courtesy LBJ Presidential Library photo by Yoichi Okamoto
The 1966 championship game for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) basketball tournament forever changed college basketball. The championship game pitted El Paso’s Texas Western College Miners against the University of Kentucky Wildcats, already a four-time NCAA tournament winner. The Miners were a multi-racial team that had joined the NCAA just three years earlier. Their all-white opponent, the Wildcats, were considered the strongest basketball team in the nation. Texas Western’s unexpected victory set the course for African American domination of basketball at all levels of play.
Texas Western team members with national championship trophy, 1966. Courtesy University of Texas at El Paso Library Special Collections Department. Flowsheet, El Paso: University of Texas at El Paso, 1966
In May 1967, the State of Texas officially recognized the descendants of Tigua as a tribe. The Tigua built the Ysleta Mission in El Paso in 1682. Today the Tiguas, Ysleta del sur Pueblo have a tribal government and diverse enterprises just outside El Paso that provide employment and benefits for both tribal members and regional citizens.
Ysleta Mission, one of the longest continually occupied religious buildings in the United States. Courtesy Texas Historical Commission
Barbara Jordan was elected to the Texas Senate in 1967, the first African American to serve in the Texas Legislature since 1883. Jordan was born in 1936 in Houston, graduated with honors from Texas Southern University, and earned a law degree from Boston University in 1959. In the Senate, she gained popularity among her colleagues that in 1972 she was elected unanimously to serve as president pro tempore of the body. The following year, she became the first African American woman from a Southern state to be elected to the U.S. Congress. Noted for her leadership during the Watergate scandal, she retired from politics in 1979 due to her battle with multiple sclerosis. She taught at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin until her death in 1996.
The Homer Garrison Texas Ranger Museum opened in Waco at Fort Fisher, an original 1837 Ranger site.
Eddie Bernice Johnson won a seat to the Texas House of Representatives in 1972, becoming the first Black woman ever elected to public office from Dallas and the first nurse elected to the Texas Congress. In 1977, she was the first Black woman appointed as regional director for the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. She served in the Texas Senate from 1986 to 1992. Since 1993, she has served as a Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives and is the first African American and woman to chair the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.
U.S. Respresentative Eddie Bernice Johnson. Courtesy of the office of Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson
The Texas Legislative Black Caucus (TLBC) was created in 1973 by eight African Americans who were elected to the Texas House of Representatives. This was the largest number of African Americans elected to serve in the Texas legislature since Reconstruction a century earlier. Since then, their numbers and influence have grown. Although they are a minority group within a minority party in the Texas legislature, they continue to pass legislation beneficial to underserved populations in Texas.
Wilhelmina Delco, a member of the black caucus, along with two other members, discusses legislation on the floor of the House. [PICA 19769], Austin History Center, Austin Public Library. Courtesy Austin History Center
The original Garrison Ranger Museum in Waco was renamed and expanded to include a memorial library and a research center. The new center was dedicated as the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum. Since its opening, more than two million people have visited.
The Texas Indian Commission officially recognized the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas. In 1983 the Kickapoo also received Federal Recognition and received dual American citizenship with Mexico. They maintain a traditional village in Mexico that preserves their traditional ways, and their tribal headquarters is in Eagle Pass, Texas.
Southern Kickapoo people building a winter house in Nacimiento, Coahuila, Mexico, 2008. Courtesy Fernando Rosales
The United States Military Academy at West Point began awarding the annual Henry O. Flipper Award to a graduating cadet who exhibited "leadership, self-discipline, and perseverance in the face of unusual difficulties."
By a slim margin, Congress passed Public Law 95-20. The law, which became effective in 1979, granted Women Airforce Service Pilots official military status, but with limited benefits.
In 1979, Representative Al Edwards introduced a bill calling for Juneteenth to become an official state holiday. The act was signed into law in 1980. The first state-sponsored Juneteenth celebration took place that same year. Juneteenth was officially recognized as a national holiday in 1997. The holiday commemorates the arrival of General Granger to Galveston in 1865 to inform the enslaved that slavery had been abolished. It serves as a celebration of freedom and represents a milestone in human rights while also reflecting on the centuries-long struggle to end racism in America.
Juneteenth Quilt by Renee Allen from the traveling exhibition And Still We Rise: Race, Culture and Visual Conversations. Courtesy the Women of Color Quilters Network in partnership with Cincinnati Museum Center and National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
Christia Adair, born in 1893, was a suffragist and civil rights advocate. After moving to Houston in 1925, she became active in the city’s NAACP branch, serving as its executive secretary for 12 years. She helped to desegregate much of Houston, including the public library, airport, veterans’ hospital, city buses, and department store dressing rooms. The Christia Adair Park in Harris County was opened in her name in 1977. For her immense contributions to civil rights, Adair was inducted in the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame in 1984.
Christia Adair. MSS0006-045, Houston Public Library, African American Library at the Gregory School. Courtesy Houston Public Library
The 70th Legislature of Texas enacts Government Code Section 411.024 which states: "The division relating to the Texas Rangers may not be abolished."
Narrated by David Keith, this video explores the history of the legendary Texas Rangers.
Born in Massachusetts in 1924, George H.W. Bush moved to Texas in the 1940s following service as a pilot in World War II and an education at Yale University . Bush had a successful career as an oilman. Zapata Off-Shore, one of three companies founded by Bush, was a pioneer in offshore drilling equipment. In 1966, Bush was elected to Congress from Texas's 7th district in Harris County. From there he moved on to serve as ambassador to the United Nations, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and vice-president of the United States under Ronald Reagan. Bush was elected to the presidency in 1988.
Born in 1933 (during Ma Ferguson's second term as governor), Ann Richards served as governor of Texas from 1991-1995. Beginning her career as a schoolteacher, Richards volunteered for progressive causes and candidates for decades before winning her first office in 1976, a seat on the Travis County Commissioner's Court. In 1982, Richards was elected Texas state treasurer, and reelected without opposition four years later. As governor, Richards boosted the Texas economy while the U.S. was in an economic slump, reformed the prison system, and instituted the Texas Lottery, which supplements Texas educational finances. Ann Richards died in 2006 after battling esophageal cancer.
General Colin Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, dedicated the Buffalo Soldier Monument at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. In his address, General Powell said, "The powerful purpose of this monument it to motivate us. To motivate us to keep struggling until all Americans have an equal seat at our national table, until all Americans enjoy every opportunity to excel, every chance to achieve their dream."
In 1993, Kay Bailey Hutchison became the first woman to represent the state of Texas in the U.S. Senate, winning the election by an overwhelming majority. Hutchison had begun her political career two decades earlier when she was elected to the Texas House of Representatives. She served as vice-chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board in the 1970s, then went on to a career as a bank executive. Hutchison reentered politics in 1990 when she was elected Texas state treasurer. Hutchison served in the U.S. Senate until her retirement in 2013.
George Walker Bush was born in New Haven, Connecticut in 1946., the oldest son of future president George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara. Bush grew up in Texas before being sent east to attend Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. Educated at Yale University, he served in the Air National Guard, then earned a Master's degree in Business Administration from Harvard University in 1975. He entered the oil business and later became owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team. Bush ran for Congress unsuccessfully in 1978. In 1994, he returned to politics and defeated incumbent Ann Richards to become governor of Texas. He was reelected by a wide margin in 1998. In 2000, Bush was elected president of the United States, and reelected in 2004. The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum opened on April 25, 2013, on the Southern Methodist University campus in Dallas.
The U.S. Postal Service issued the 29-cent Buffalo Soldier commemorative stamp. Mort Kunstler, the artist who designed the stamp, said, "I deliberately placed the soldier and his mount against a white background to create contrast and to immediately establish the fact that these brave and famous troops were black Americans. To me, the story of the Buffalo Soldiers is one of the great sagas of our history."
James Byrd, Jr., was an African American man who was horrifically lynched by three white supremacists in Jasper, TX, on June 7, 1998. Byrd was dragged for three miles behind a pickup truck and then left in front of a black church and cemetery. The perpetrators became the first white men to be executed for killing an African American in the history of modern Texas. In reaction to this atrocity, Congress passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009. An important step in recognizing the nature of hate crimes in the U.S., the Act increased the jurisdiction of the FBI and Department of Justice to investigate bias-motivated violence and strengthened the legal tools available to prosecutors.
President Obama greets Byrd's sisters at a reception commemorating the enactment of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Courtesy Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
The 2000 census counted 118,362 people in Texas who identified themselves as exclusively American Indian.
Courtesy Bullock Texas State History Museum
Colonel Paul Lockhart, pilot of Space Shuttle Mission STS-111, took a 1962 Texas Ranger badge into orbit in honor of the 180th anniversary of the Texas Rangers.
The National WASP World War II Museum opened at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas. Twenty-nine Women Airforce Service Pilots attended the opening ceremonies and left their hand prints in cement.
Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison introduced Senate Bill S.614 to award the Women Airforce Service Pilots the highest civilian honor- the Congressional Gold Medal. Senator Hutchinson and Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski signed on every single female senator as a co-sponsor. The bill passed unanimously.
On March 18, 2009, the State of Texas legislature passed resolution HR 812 recognizing the Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas.
Bill HR812, 2009. Courtesy Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas
Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Susan Davis of California introduced bill H.R. 2014 to award the Women Airforce Service Pilots the Congressional Gold Medal. The bill passed unanimously.
President Obama authorized the WASP Congressional Gold Medal. The law states in part: " ... the Women Airforce Service Pilots of WWII... faced overwhelming cultural and gender bias against women in nontraditional roles and overcame multiple injustices and inequities in order to serve their country; ... the WASP eventually were the catalyst for revolutionary reform in the integration of women pilots into the Armed Services."
"Glamour, hell, it was hard work!"
Shutsy Reynolds, Class 44-5
from WASP: In their Own Words by Nancy Parrish
Over 200 Women Airforce Service Pilots attended the Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. Members of all military branches escorted the WASP, many of whom wore their World War II uniforms. Deanie Parrish, WASP Class 44-4, accepted the medal on behalf of all the Women Airforce Service Pilots and each WASP received a replica of the commemorative medal.
On April 25, 2013, the Texas State Legislature passed House Bill 174, which named the last Friday in September as American Indian Heritage Day in Texas. It recognizes the historic, cultural, and social contributions American Indian communities and leaders have made to the state.
Courtesy Bullock Texas State History Museum
The Texas Rangers Division is comprised of 150 Rangers who oversee border security operations and specialize in major crime and corruption investigations. The Texas Ranger Special Operations Group includes the Special Weapons and Tactics Team (SWAT) and the Ranger Reconnaissance Team.
The military career and later life of legendary aviator Jacqueline Cochran.
Marjorie Sanford Thompson and Sylvia Schwartz Granader remember their days as Women Airforce Service Pilots, Class 43-5.
"How do I feel about being a WASP? Out of nothing, it made me something, because it gave me the courage to try anything!"
Charlyne Creger, Class 44-10
from WASP: In their Own Words by Nancy Parrish