Aug 28, 2010

Learn About Texas Independence

Texas was admitted to the Union in 1845 as the 28th state but power was not transferred until February 19, 1846. Previously Texas was an independent republic – the Lone Star Republic. Texas wasn’t the only state that was an independent country before becoming a state. Vermont was an independent country for 14 years before becoming the 14th state. Hawaii was a kingdom and California was unofficially a republic for a few weeks.

It is easy to forget how strained times were during other eras. That fact was brought home on our recent visit to Texas. At Washington-on-the-Brazos I learned more about the settlement of Texas when it was part of Mexico. In 1821 Stephen Austin, who had been left an empresario grant by his father, Moses Austin, led 300 families to the rich land along the Brazos River establishing the first successful colonization by Americans in present-day Texas. Pioneers carved G.T.T. on the door of their home so friends would know they had “Gone to Texas” in search of a better life.

Today little remains of the town but a replica of Independence Hall marks the place where settlers met to make a formal declaration of independence from Mexico thus creating the Republic of Texas. Sitting in the hall I tried to imagine the pressure felt by the 55 delegates to the Convention of 1836 as Santa Anna and his force of 1500 marched on the Alamo in present-day San Antonio. The urgency was confirmed in a letter from William B. Travis, the commander at the Alamo. He wrote, “I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna.” He ended with “I am determined to… die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor and that of his country – Victory or Death.” As Janice, the guide, explained, “It was a bitter sweet moment in Texas history. Those who signed the document didn’t know what had occurred at the Alamo and those at the Alamo did not know that independence had been declared.” The loss at the Alamo became the driving spirit of Texas independence.

As I wandered around the site, now a Texas State Historic Site, on a beautiful, quiet day I tried to envision Washington-on-the-Brazos as it was on March 16, 1836, the day after their constitution was adopted when the citizens had to flee to escape the advancing Mexican Army. The convention members signing the Declaration were as good as signing their death warrants if the Revolution failed. They returned a month later when the Mexican Army was defeated at San Jacinto. The town of Washington died when it was bypassed by the railroad, but the independent spirit of Texans survived.

After watching the informative video highlighting the formation of the sovereign nation of Texas at the nearby Star of the Republic Museum, I followed the displays depicting the history of the Republic from the Native Americans to the European explorers to the settlers to those who fought for independence. The multicultural Faces of Texas exhibit relates various perspectives of the settlers told in their own words. The complete exhibition provides a comprehensive and unparalleled history of the people, places, and events that created the Republic of Texas. I wonder what the Austins and Sam Houston would think if they could see Texas today.