Texas is a large state with a rich and colorful history, and it’s interesting to know how the state came to be. The name of the state was derived from “táyshaʼ,” a word in the Caddoan language of the Hasinai, which means “allies,” or “friends.” More than 10,000 years ago, Native Americans’ ancestors had been living in what is now Texas, according to the discovery of the remains of prehistoric Leanderthal Lady.
The recorded history of the state started with the arrival of the first Spanish conquistadors in the region of North America known as Texas in 1519. Since 1519 to 1848, all or parts of Texas were claimed by five countries: Spain, Mexico, France, Republic of Texas, and the United States of America. There is so much to learn about Texas history and you can take a deep dive here at Illuminating Facts.
Early Exploration and Development
Before 1500 – Before the first European explorers arrived, many tribes of the Indians of Texas occupied the region between Red River to the north and the Rio Grande to the south.
1519 – Alonso Alvarez de Pineda, a Spanish conquistador, became the first known European to explore and map the coastline of Texas. He sailed from a base in Jamaica.
November 1528 – Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca shipwrecked on what is believed today to be Galveston Island. He explored the interior parts of Texas on his way to Mexico after trading in the region for six years.
1540-1542 – Francisco Vázquez de Coronado, a Spanish conquistador, led an expedition across northern Texas and in the present southwestern United States to search for the fabled Seven Cities of Cibola. His team did not find it, but they discovered the Grand Canyon and other famous landmarks in the American southwest.
1629 – Two Spanish missionaries from New Mexico travel to the area of the present-day San Angelo to instruct the Jumano Indians about Christianity. Their visit is followed by a six-month mission in 1632.
February 18, 1685 – René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle – a French explorer best known for his expedition down the Illinois and Mississippi rivers – established Fort St. Louis at Matagorda Bay. His team was also responsible for forming the basis for France’s claim to Texas.
April 22, 1689 – Alonso de Leon, a Mexican explorer, reached Fort St. Louis and found it abandoned during an expedition aiming to reestablish the presence of the Spanish in Texas.
May 1690 – Construction began at the first East Texas mission named as San Francisco de los Tejas, near the present-day Weches, Houston County. The mission was closed in 1693.
1716-1789 – Spain established Catholic missions in Texas throughout the 18th century.
August 8, 1812 – About 130 men participated in the Gutierrez-Magee Expedition to cross the Sabine River from Louisiana in a rebel movement against the Spanish rule in Texas.
August 18, 1813 – The Battle of Medina, the bloodiest battle ever fought on Texas soil, happened, killing 1,300 soldiers. A Spanish royalist force defeated a republican force fighting for independence from Mexico. This battle occurred 20 miles south of San Antonio.
December 26, 1813 –Moses Austin, an American businessman, was granted permission by the Spanish government to establish a colony of Anglo-Americans in the Texas area. After he dies the following June, his son Stephen Austin receives authority to continue colonizing.
1817-1820 – Jean Laffite, a French pirate, occupied Galveston Island and used it as a base for his privateering and smuggling operations.
January 3, 1823 – Mexican government approved Stephen Austin’s plan to bring three hundred families to his colony in the region of the Brazos River. This group became known as the “Old Three Hundred.”
Mid-1824 – Mexico received a republican form of government, as set by the Constitution of 1824. However, it failed to define the rights of the states within the republic, including Texas.
October 1829 – The first of several large groups of Irish immigrants arrive to settle in southern Texas.
April 6, 1830 – Relations between Texans and Mexicans further went sour when Mexico forbid further emigration to Texas by settlers from the United States.
1831 – The family of Johann Fredrich Ernst becomes the first German family to settle in Texas, particularly in the present-day Austin County. Ernst writes a letter to a friend in Germany that described Texas as an earthly Eden. The letter circulated widely in Germany, persuading a steady stream of German families to migrate to southeastern Texas.
June 1832 – The Battle of Velasco became the first true military conflict between Texians (Anglo-American residents of Mexican Texas) and Mexico. It started when the Texian militia attacked Fort Velasco, located in what is now considered as the city of Surfside Beach. This battle resulted in casualties, and after several days of fighting, the Mexicans were forced to surrender due to lack of ammunition.
October 1832 – Stephen Austin headed a convention at San Felipe de Agustin to seek statehood separate from the state of Coahuila, and exemptions for Texas of certain Mexican laws and tariffs. This act is triggered by dissatisfaction with the policies by the Mexico City government. For many reasons, the resolutions were never presented to the Mexican government. In April 1833, another convention was held to consider unresolved business from 1832.
Revolution and the Republic
October 2, 1835 – The Battle of Gonzales began, which was the first military engagement of the Texas Revolution. It was fought near Gonzales, Texas between Texian settlers and Mexican army soldiers.
October 9, 1835 – George Collingsworth, Ben Milam, and 49 other Texians stormed the presidio at Goliad and a small group of Mexican defenders, ending the Goliad Campaign of 1835.
October 28, 1835 – The Battle of Concepcion was fought between Mexican troops under Colonel Domingo Ugartechea and 90 Texians led by James Bowie and James Fannin. The battle was the first major engagement of the Texas Revolution, which occurred on what is now Downtown San Antonio in Texas.
March 2, 1836 – The Texas Declaration of Independence was signed by members of the Convention of 1836. They created an ad interim government for the newly created Republic of Texas.
March 6, 1836 – Under Col. William B. Travis, Texans were overwhelmed by the Mexican army after a 13-day siege at the Battle of the Alamo in San Antonio. The battle was pivotal event in the Texas Revolution, where Mexican troops under President General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna reclaimed the Alamo Mission. Most of the Texians and Tejanos inside were killed. The Runaway Scrape started.
March 27, 1836 – More than 400 Texians, including their commander James Fannin, were executed by the Mexican army under the order of Santa Anna at the Goliad Massacre.
April 21, 1836 – At the Battle of San Jacinto, Texans under the leadership of Sam Houston routed the Mexican forces of Santa Anna completely by surprise as they camped along the banks of the San Jacinto River. Spurred on by the battle cry “Remember the Alamo,” Houston’s 800 men defeated an army twice its size for only 18 minutes. The spectacular rout forced Santa Anna to surrender and grant Texas independence.
November 1839 – The Texas Congress held its first meeting in Austin, the frontier site selected for the capital of the Republic.
August 11, 1840 – The Battle of Plum Creek took place near present-day Lockhart, ending the boldest and most penetrating Comanche challenge to the Texas republic. The battle was a clash between allied Tonkawa, militia, and Rangers of the Republic of Texas, and a huge Comanche war party. It happened after the Great Raid of 1840.
June 1841 – The Texan Santa Fe Expedition set out for New Mexico to secure the Republic of Texas’ claims to parts of Northern New Mexico for Texas. The expedition was led by the then President of Texas in attempt to gain control over the lucrative Santa Fe Trail.
March 5, 1842 – A Mexican force of more than 500 men under General Rafael Vasquez invaded Texas for the first time since the revolution. They occupied San Antonio for a short time, but soon headed back to Rio Grande.
September 11, 1842 – Again, San Antonio was captured – this time by 1,400 Mexican troops led by Adrian Woll. The Mexicans retreated once again, but this time they took some prisoners.
December 20, 1842 – Around 300 members of the Somervell force continued the raids into Mexican border settlements, starting the Mier Expedition. The expedition was unsuccessful as it surrendered at Ciudad Mier, where the Mexicans won.
December 29, 1842 – Under the orders of Sam Houston, officials arrived in Austin to move the records of the Republic of Texas from Austin to Houston, in Houston’s efforts to make Houston the capital of Texas. It was called the bloodless Texas Archives War.
March 25, 1843 – The Black Bean Episode, which resulted from the Mier expedition, caused the execution of 17 Texans during one of the several raids into Mexico.
Statehood and Beyond
December 29, 1845 – US President James Polk signed a legislation to make Texas the 28th state of the United States.
April 25, 1846 – As a result of disputes over claims to the boundaries of Texas, the Mexican-American war started. The war resulted to the fixing of Texas’ southern boundary at the Rio Grande River.
November 25, 1850 – To settle boundary disputes and pay public debt, Texas surrendered about one-third of its original territory to the Compromise of 1850 in exchange for $10 million from the United States.
May 1852 – The first Lone Star State Fair was held in Corpus Christi, symbolizing a period of prosperity in Texas during the 1850s.
February 1, 1861 – Texas seceded from the Federal Union at the Secession Convention. Sam Houston, the governor of Texas at the time, was one of those opposed to secession.
January 1, 1863 – The Battle of Galveston restored the island to Texas control during the remainder of the Civil War.
May 13, 1865 – The Battle of Palmito Ranch became the final engagement of the Civil War. It was fought more than a month after General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, Virginia.
1866 – The great Texas cattle drives began due to the abundance of longhorn cattle, and the rest of the country demands beef. From 1860s to mid-1890s, the vaqueros and cowboys herded around five million cattle to northern markets while becoming legends that made Texas proud.
March 30, 1870 – The US Congress readmitted Texas into the Union.
January 17, 1874 – Governor E.J. Davis relinquished the office, ending the Coke-Davis dispute in Austin. Richard Coke started a democratic party dynasty in Texas that was unbroken for 100 years.
October 4, 1876 – The Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (now known as the Texas A&M), opened, marking the state’s first venture to public higher education. Students paid tuition of $10 per semester.
September 15, 1883 – The University of Texas opened in Austin for an inaugural session. The first courses were offered in a Law Department and in the Academic Department.
August 1886 – A hurricane destroys every house in the port of Indianola, finishing the destruction started by another hurricane 11 years earlier. Indianola was never rebuilt after that, and now it’s a ghost town.
May 16, 1888 – After seven years of planning and construction, the present state capitol in Austin was dedicated. The building was funded with three million acres of land in northern Texas.
January 20, 1891 – James Hogg became the first native-born governor of Texas.
January 10, 1901 – “Black gold” was discovered at the Spindletop oil field near Beaumont. This started a century of oil exploration, manned space travel, and electronics production.
December 1902 – The poll tax became a pre-requisite for voting.
July 28, 1906 – Texans can vote for US senator in the Democratic primary for the first time. It wasn’t until 1916 when Texas voters were able to directly elect US senators.
March 2, 1910 – Lt. Benjamin D. Foulois made the first military air flight in a Wright Brothers plane. Flying from Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, the flight marked the shaky beginnings of the US Air Force.
1911-1920 – The Mexican Civil War spilled across the border of Texas. As refugees look for a safe place, combatants seek each other and Texas settlements were raided for supplies by the fighting sides. Pancho Villa and his followers were active along the Mexico-Texas border at this time.
1917-1918 – US participates in World War I.
March 1918 – Texan women won the right to vote in primary elections.
November 5, 1918 – Annie Webb Blanton became the first woman elected to a statewide office when she became the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.
1923 – Legislature passes law that prevents blacks from voting in the Democratic primary. This decision was eventually overturned in March 1927, but the state Democratic party acted in 1927 and again in 1932 to bar blacks from voting in the primary. In 1935, the Supreme court upheld the 1932 action.
January 20, 1925 – Miriam “Ma” Ferguson becomes the first woman governor in Texas, serving as a figurehead for her husband James E. Ferguson, the former governor of Texas.
August 1935 – Texas voters ratify the repeal of the Texas prohibition law, making localities return to their status before the law.
1941-1945 – The United States participates in World War II.
April 3, 1944 – The United States Supreme Court rules blacks cannot be barred from voting in the Texas Democratic primary.
August 24, 1949 – The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston accepts its first black student.
June 5, 1950 – The United States Supreme Court orders racial integration at the University of Texas law school.
January 20, 1953 – Dwight D. Eisenhower becomes the first Texas-born President of the United States.