On the Trail to Texas Statehood
True West|December 2020
Discover the Lone Star State, from Nacogdoches to Austin, 175 years later.
JOHNNY D. BOGGS
Where does the path to Texas statehood begin? There’s the Alamo, the San Antonio mission where more than 180 Texas volunteers died fighting against Mexican troops commanded by Antonio López de Santa Anna in late February and early March 1836. Or there’s Goliad, where more than 400 Texas prisoners, who had surrendered after the Battle of Coleto, were executed. Or at Gonzales, site of the October 1835 “Come and Take It” challenge, and the battle that kicked off the Texas Revolution. Or maybe it’s Washington-on-the-Brazos, where delegates drafted a constitution and declared their independence, giving birth to the Republic of Texas on March 2, 1836.

Nah, it started more than a decade earlier, in San Felipe, roughly 50 miles east of Houston. There, in 1823, Stephen F. Austin brought in 297 families from the United States to establish his colony. By the 1830s, only San Antonio rivaled Austin’s settlement commercially. San Felipe also became Texas’s first provisional capital before Washington-on-the-Brazos took over, and with Mexican troops advancing, San Felipe residents burned their town during the Runaway Scrape. Today, the town is home to San Felipe de Austin State Historic Site.

But, to kick off this journey, we’ll start 188 miles northwest in Nacogdoches, the gateway to Texas. The East Texas town was founded in 1779, but Caddo Indians had settled here in the ninth century. Just about every emigrant who came to Texas went through Nacogdoches (see the Stone Fort and Nacogdoches Sterne-Hoya museums). Thomas Rusk, who helped write the state constitution, lived here. Rusk served with Sam Houston as the first U.S. senators from the state of Texas.

No Lone Star history trip is complete without stopping in Waco at the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame & Museum. Indians had lived in the area, and a few white settlers had set up shops in the early 1840s, but it wasn’t until 1849 that George B. Erath, a Republic congressman, began laying out lots, making Waco one of the first towns founded in the state of Texas.

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