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article number 715
article date 05-03-2018
copyright 2018 by Author else SaltOfAmerica
The Bold & [Unique] Texas Story, Part 2: Texas Joins the U.S. but Becomes Strong in Its Own Way
by Work Projects Administration

From the 1940 Work Projects Administration book, Texas, a Guide to the Lone Star State. Includes 1969 revisions.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Tour references, i.e. "(see Tour 5c)" have not been edited out of this presentation. Tour text from the book is not given but such reference shows activities available for those interested.

This article is randomly decorated with pictures from the many sections of the [same] book.

* * *


. . . For ten years Texas was an independent nation—from March 2, 1836, the date of the declaration, to February 16, 1846, when it became the twenty-eighth State in the Union.

At its first national election, Sam Houston was chosen President of the Republic of Texas, and it was voted to seek annexation to the United States. Houston was inaugurated October 22, 1836.

Grave problems faced the Republic. The country was ravaged by war, the treasury was empty, the government was “land poor,” with few sources of revenue other than quantities of cheap public land. The first Congress of the Republic in October, 1836, organized national and local government along typically United States lines.

In 1839 the homestead law was passed, providing that a man’s home and implements could not be taken to satisfy a judgment. But the inducement of cheap land was sufficient to cause rapid settlement. By 1846 the frontier had moved west of the present cities of Fort Worth, Waco, Austin, and San Antonio.

Land scrip entitled the holder to a section of land at 50 cents an acre. Frauds and land schemes led to confusion and even to bloodshed, which the General Land Office, established in 1837, failed to control.

Financial expedients of the Republic included paper money.

Yet the nation, beset by raiding Indians and threatened constantly by Mexico, continued unaided on its way. Public education was provided for in 1839-40 (see Education). The United States acknowledged the independence of Texas in 1837, France in 1839, and England and Holland in 1840.

The Texas Rangers, a body of fighting men organized in 1835, which, one writer said, “could ride like Mexicans, shoot like Tennesseeans, and fight like the very devil,” protected the frontier. They were arrayed against the Indians, raiding Mexicans, and bands of outlaws.

In 1841 Texas attempted to extend jurisdiction over New Mexico, but the Santa Fe expedition ended in disaster. An invading Mexican army in 1842 took San Antonio, but following the Battle of the Salado, September 18, the Mexican force withdrew.

The Mier expedition marched on Mexico in November, 1842. Forced to surrender, the Texans were ordered to draw beans from a pot, and a tenth of the force—all who had drawn black beans—were shot.


Texas was becoming a blend of the South and the West, hardly a fusion of the two, yet having sections populated by men and women newly arrived from the other American frontiers, or from the slave-holding sections. Opponents of slavery in the United States, therefore, bitterly contested the annexation of Texas, while the South sought the entrance of another slave State.

The increasing economic development of the Republic and the threat that England, desiring a new source of cotton supply, would acquire Texas, influenced United States sentiment in favor of annexation.

White population in the Republic increased from about 30,000 in 1836 to 100,000 in 1846, and small farms were appearing in isolated sections.

The first Texas railroad was projected in 1836, although it failed to materialize; wagon trains were rutting the prairies, bringing the elements of wealth with them.

Historic Locomotive, C. P. Huntington, of Southern Pacific. Courtesy of Southern Pacific Railway.

After the prolonged national controversy during which a treaty of annexation was defeated in the United States Senate and the question became a Presidential campaign issue, Texas was offered annexation upon these terms:
- (1) it was to be annexed not as a territory, but as a State;
- (2) public lands of the State were to be retained and never to be surrendered to the Federal government, as in the case of other States;
- (3) Texas was to pay its public debts;
- (4) if desired later, Texas might divide itself into as many as five States.

This proposal was adopted by a joint resolution of both Houses of Congress of the United States, March 1, 1845.

July 4, 1845, a convention met in Austin and approved the annexation resolution, and thus Texas virtually became a State in the Union on that date. The people ratified the State constitution on October 13, 1845, and the Congress of the United States, by joint resolution (approved December 29, 1845), voted admittance into the Union.

The first session of the legislature of the new State opened in Austin on February 16, 1846, and J. P. Henderson was inaugurated the first Governor. On that date the flag of the Republic with its single star was lowered, and the Stars and Stripes unfurled as Anson Jones, the last President of Texas, declaimed: “The Republic of Texas is no more.”


Mexico had threatened that it would regard the annexation of Texas as a declaration of war by the United States. It now prepared to settle the question of Texas once more on the battlefield.

General Zachary Taylor marched his army toward the Rio Grande in March, 1846. The first battle of the Mexican War was fought on Texas soil at Palo Alto, about eight miles from Brownsville, on May 8.

When the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed on February 2, 1848, a major controversy arose over the State’s boundaries. Mexico recognized the independence of Texas and accepted the Rio Grande as the boundary, and the United States acquired from Mexico a vast region from the Gila River to the forty-second parallel, and from the Pacific to the Rio Grande. Texas laid claims to a large part of this region—all the territory east of the Rio Grande.

In March, 1848, the State legislature passed a statute creating the County of Santa Fe, which included the region between the Pecos River and the Rio Grande and extending north to the forty-second parallel in what is now the State of Wyoming. Territory thus claimed by Texas embraced some 100,000 square miles, including parts of the present States of New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Wyoming, and Colorado.

Texas was a slave State, yet parts of the area involved, notably in the region of Santa Fe, New Mexico, opposed slavery, so that this and other conditions made Santa Fe County a national issue. In 1850 a compromise was effected, ending threats on the part of Texas that it would enforce its claims with arms. The State was paid $10,000,000 to surrender the disputed territory. New boundaries, virtually those of today, were fixed.

At the Freedman Plantation in Jefferson, where the past is relived on Pilgrimage Days. Courtesy of the Texas Tourist Development Agency.

Because of its boundaries on three rivers, all of which are subject to violent floods and changes of course, Texas has had more boundary litigation than any other State. Even the compromise of 1850 did not settle the question. The Rio Grande especially refused to stay in a fixed channel. (see El Paso).

Red River controversies, also caused largely by floods and the changing course of the river, have been notable for bitterness and bloodshed. One of them, the Greer County case, based upon the disputed location of the river’s main fork, resulted in the loss from Texas to what is now Oklahoma of 1 1/2 million acres of land.

Following the award of $10,000,000 in the 1850 boundary issue, Texas was able to clear its credit. The State emerged upon a period of internal development.

A new constitution had been written in 1845, conformable to statehood. It provided for free public schools, one-tenth of the general revenues of the State being set apart for school purposes. By 1850, the Population of the State had become over 200,000.

The Federal government garrisoned at least 19 forts in the State for the protection of the people against Indians. Clashes between Texans and Mexicans continued, culminating in the capture of Brownsville in 1859 by Juan Cortinas, a Mexican border outlaw (see Tour 9c).

In 1848 the public domain was estimated at about 181,965,332 acres. The State used this wealth of land to obtain schools, railroads, and public institutions.

Colonizers, offered rich land grants, brought foreign settlers to Texas, including the French socialists of Considerant’s colony near Dallas, and Castro’s colony in Castroville, also French.

The Germans settled many communities, notably New Braunfels and Fredericksburg. It was necessary to create 89 new counties in the 1850’s.

Before 1860 the population was almost entirely rural. Since the South had embraced the cause of annexation, politics in the State leaned heavily in that direction: “We are all Democrats in Texas,” wrote Guy M. Bryan in 1845. The Know-Nothing Party had gained strength by 1855.

The northeastern part of the State was developing rapidly, with most of the Mexicans, Germans, and scattered ranchers in west Texas. East of Waco and Fort Worth the tide of newcomers was tremendous.

The first overland mail coach left San Antonio for San Diego on August 9, 1857.

Chapter intro-art from the book, ’Texas, a Guide to the Lone Star State.’


In February, 1861, the people of Texas, by popular vote, ratified an ordinance of secession. Sam Houston, who had become Governor in 1859, opposed secession and refused to subscribe to an oath supporting the constitution of the Confederacy.

Houston’s office was declared vacant and he was deposed. A lonely and impoverished old man, he lived to see his star rise once more, feebly, when friends solicited him to run for the governorship in 1863; but he declined, and on July 26 of that year he died.

The struggle between Houston and Austin had led to strange ends: Austin lost to Houston in 1835 when Texas broke with Mexico, but before he died Houston had lost to the element which Austin typified.

Protected from the war by geography, Texas saw few major Civil War engagements. The Battle of Galveston in 1863 (see Galveston), and the Battle of Sabine Pass (see Tour 5c), served to prevent invasion by way of the coast.

Sentiment in some sections was divided, and about 2,000 Texans enlisted in the Union army. Texas furnished the Confederacy huge amounts of supplies obtained from Europe through Mexico, besides those from its own resources. Crops were good.

The last land engagement of the war was fought on Palmito Hill, May 12-13, 1865.

On June 19, 1865, General Gordon Granger landed at Galveston and, in the name of the Federal government, proclaimed all slaves free and all laws enacted since 1861 null and void.

The “Radicals,” or those of Northern sympathy, rose to power in State politics, and the Freedmen’s Bureau and Union Leagues were created.

Race riots flared, the Ku Klux Klan rode, and lawlessness gripped the State as thousands of freed Negroes, cast adrift, congregated in towns and near military camps, existing by begging or by occasionally doing odd jobs.

In 1860, the assessed valuation of slaves in Texas was $64,000,000. Most of these Negroes fondly believed that the government would give them “forty acres and a mule.”

From 1865 to 1869 Texas was under military government. In the latter year a constitution was framed by a convention called under the Reconstruction Acts of 1868. It created equal suffrage for whites and Negroes and made elaborate provisions for a free school system.

Largely through the effort of the Freedmen’s Bureau, most of the freed Negroes had gone to work by 1866.

The legislature, in 1870, ratified the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States. Six weeks later, on March 30, the United States Congress readmitted Texas as a State of the Union.

The opposition of conservative citizens to the radical regime of Governor E. J. Davis led, to the “capture” of the legislative hall by Democrats, in 1874, and the inauguration of a conservative regime under Governor Richard Coke.

Davis’ appeal to President Grant for Federal troops to reinstate his government failed, and with the retirement of the radical leader, reconstruction ended in Texas (January 17, 1874).

In spite of turmoil the State had prospered, and by 1870 population had gained 35 per cent over a ten-year period (from 600,000 in 1860 to over 800,000 in 1870).

The Ante-Bellum Excelsior House in Jefferson, with contrasts in vehicles. Courtesy, Texas Tourist Development Agency.


The broad prairies of south, east and southwest Texas were being slowly settled by ranchmen before the Civil War. Texas found itself impoverished at the conclusion of the war, but with more than three million head of cattle on its ranges.

Then the bold plan to drive cattle to distant markets was conceived. Cattlemen became acquainted with the unpopulated plains region as the business of the trails grew into a hundred million dollar enterprise.

The Indians, who had retarded settlement westward, were subdued in 1875, and settlement of the Panhandle and the western plains began. The Rio Grande at last actually became the frontier.

Barbed wire was successfully introduced into Texas in 1876. The free range that had fostered the great herds of early days was doomed by this invention, also by the coming of the homesteaders.

Cattle barons, enraged at the encroachment of sheep ranchers or farming “nesters” upon their former pastures, started the Fence-cutting War. Cattle thieves or “rustlers” also learned to cut fences.

As the ranchers adopted barbed wire it became apparent that protection was necessary. They organized the Stock Raisers Association of Northwestern Texas, which later became the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.

Texas Rangers attempted to curb the bitterness and bloodshed of the Fence-cutting War, but fence riders continued to patrol the barbed wire boundaries of big ranches until a law against fence cutting was passed in 1884.

To meet the needs of a period of great growth and expansion, a new Constitution was framed in 1876. The registration of voters was abolished, and the supremacy of the people was assured in various provisions of the constitution, which remains in effect today.

A rapid and large influx of people and of capital swept into Texas in the seventies and eighties. Railroads outranked all other public enterprises.

There was no system of regulation, and scandals developed.

The fight made by James Stephen Hogg (later Governor) upon the railroads was prompted by the farmers of Texas, who were known then in State politics through an organization called the Patrons of Husbandry, or the “Grangers.”

Agrarian leaders found another medium in the Populist or People’s Party, the membership of which they controlled. Populist strength was greatest in 1896, but declined after 1900. The agrarian movement in Texas was cemented by this party. During its heyday, socialistic camp meetings were held by its members.

Another effect of the railroad reform movement was the development of the Progressives, as Governor Hogg’s political faction was called.

The railroads, more than any other single influence of their period, helped conquer the last State frontiers. Settlers followed the course of the new roads west.

Governor Hogg led the list of governors of this period who secured vigorous reforms. Notable among the measures passed were the anti-trust laws. Texas was the second State to pass such a law, in 1889, and the next year the Federal government passed a similar measure, the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.

Meantime, the period between the close of the Civil War and the mid-nineties was productive of “bad men” of all descriptions. The cattle trails, border disturbances and, chiefly, Reconstruction, all contributed their quota of gentlemen with notches on their guns. John Wesley Hardin and Sam Bass were probably the most notorious of the lot.

The Rough Riders, Theodore Roosevelt’s famous volunteers, were trained in San Antonio, but other than a generous contribution of manpower, the Spanish-American War affected Texas but little.

Old and restored quarters, Fort Davis National Historic Site. Courtesy of the National Park Service.


Since 1900 the development of Texas has been largely industrial and agricultural. The increase of railroad mileage, the construction of good roads, the development of irrigation and of farming generally in sections formerly devoted to the livestock industry or not used at all, caused the remarkable growth of the State and established its modern character.

Texas grew up in the years from 1900 to 1920.

With a population in 1900 of 3,000,000, 80 per cent of which was rural, the State had recovered from the depression caused by the Civil War and the money panics of 1873 and 1893. Farms in the State were worth four times more than in 1880, and manufactures in 1899 totaled more than $90,000,000.

On September 8, 1900, a hurricane and tidal wave took about 6,000 lives in the city of Galveston. As a $20,000,000 loss was counted, the need of extraordinary measures to cope with the emergency was recognized.

A local committee was given full authority to rehabilitate the city. They performed their duties so successfully that in 1901 Galveston applied for a new charter which would permit live commissioners to conduct the local government. The commission form of city government grew out of this experiment.

Pioneers at the opening of the century were cotton and wheat farmers, pushing the agricultural frontier into west Texas and northwestward into the Panhandle. At the time of the Civil War the cotton belt in Texas ended at the outskirts of Fort Worth and San Antonio. By 1900 cotton was being produced on the South Plains. Irrigation was a later development, notably of the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

Texas population has been greatly urbanized since 1900. By 1920 the number of urban communities had almost doubled, and in the next ten years this type of population grew from 32 per cent to 41 per cent.

Texas lost its frontier character in the march of people to the cities. Consumer industries multiplied in consequence.

With the exploitation of petroleum in the 20th century entirely new categories of workers appeared.

Drilling rig crew changing oil drilling bit. Courtesy, Humble Oil Co.

James E. Ferguson became Governor in 1915 as the champion of small farmers and aid for rural schools, and was reelected for a second term.

Ferguson’s leniency toward criminals by frequent paroles stirred opposition, and this and other policies led to his impeachment in August, 1917. He was tried by the Senate, found guilty and removed from office. The lieutenant governor, William P. Hobby, succeeded him and was elected Governor for the next term, defeating Ferguson in the primaries.

What became known as Fergusonism remained a live issue. Mrs. Miriam A. Ferguson, the former Governor’s wife, entered the primary contest in 1924 and was elected, largely on opposition to the militant Ku Klux Klan.

Women had voted in Texas since 1918. Mrs. Ferguson was defeated for reelection, but ran successfully again in 1932. During her term the prohibition law was changed to permit of 3.2 per cent alcohol in beer and wine.

She reentered the primaries in 1940 but was outvoted, and the political controversy over “Pa and Ma” Ferguson ended.

Prohibition of alcoholic beverages became a political issue in 1886 and disturbed the State for decades, especially during national prohibition. Smuggling operations on the Coast and the Mexican border led to raids and murders.

The 18th Amendment of 1933 disposed of the smuggling, but many communities in Texas voted for local option. Beer and distilled spirits may not be sold in 119 counties; in 16 counties only 4% beer is legal. In 122 counties distilled spirits may be served.

From 1912 on revolutions in Mexico created disturbances on the border. Mobilization of National Guard regiments converted the Texas side of the Rio Grande into a huge armed camp. By 1914 60,000 troops were quartered at Fort Bliss; it became the largest cavalry post, base of the First U. S. Cavalry Division.

The raid of Francisco (Pancho) Villa on Columbus, New Mexico, in March, 1916, led to Pershing’s punitive expedition into Mexico.

To the mild winter climate of Texas was due the erection of cantonments in and near most of the larger cities during the World War , and the State teemed with military activities. Nearly 210,000 Texans served. The two Texas divisions, the Thirty-sixth and the Ninetieth, participated in the fighting at St. Mihiel and in the Argonne Forest. Texas troops were in the Forty-second Division, which participated in the final battles.

(added in the 1969 update to the book)

During World War II the capacities of Texas as a great training camp were fully realized. About 1,250,000 troops trained at 15 posts and camps; 542,000 Texans served in the United States Army, and 750,000 in all services, including the Air Force, the Naval Air Force, the U. S. Marines, and the U. S. Navy.

The Army reported 15,764 Texans dead or missing; 8,403 were killed in action, 1166 died of wounds. The Marines and Coast Guard had 3,023 killed in action.

Texas claimed a liberal quota of the top brass, starting with General Eisenhower, incontestably a native son, although taken to Kansas during the first year of his life.

Admiral Chester W. Nimitz came from Fredericksburg and eleven other admirals called Texas their home state.

A distinguished record was chalked up by Colonel Oveta Culp Hobby of Houston as organizer and first director of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, later the Women’s Army Corps, and afterward first Secretary of the Department of Health, Education & Welfare, 1953-1955.

Since World War lithe military installations have multiplied. Most of the active Army matters in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and New Mexico are controlled by Fourth U. S. Army headquarters, Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio.

Fort Bliss, El Paso, has an Air Defense Center where missile men are trained. In 1945 the German missile scientists led by Werner von Braun arrived there.

The Third U. S. Army Corps and several Armored Divisions are at Fort Hood, near Killeen.

Helicopter aviators are trained at Fort Wolters, near Mineral Wells.

There are 16 Air Force bases in Texas, where every form of defense is represented. The most modern installation is the U. S. Manned Spacecraft Research Center in Harris County near Houston.

Changing skyline of Houston. Courtesy, Gulf Oil Corporation.
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