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T E X A S
A giant among states, vast Texas was once a sovereign nation. During
300 years of rule by Spain, it had sprawled like a sleeping giant, its
riches undeveloped and its colonization limited to a few missions,
supported by presidios (military posts). When Mexico became an
independent country in 1821, Texas became a Mexican state and new
settlers from the United States were welcomed. The large influx of
Anglo-American colonists and African American slaves led to skirmishes
with Mexican troops.
After a successful war of independence against Mexico, the Texans raised
the Lone Star flag over their own republic in 1836. This government was
officially recognized by the United States and by several European
countries. Then in 1845 Texas accepted annexation by the United States
and was admitted to the Union as the 28th state.
Texas is second only to Alaska in area. It covers more territory than
the total area of five Midwestern states–Ohio, Indiana, Illinois,
Wisconsin, and Michigan. There are 254 counties in Texas. Its largest
county, Brewster, is about as big as Connecticut and Rhode Island
combined. Its smallest, Rockwall, is only 147 square miles (381 square
kilometers) in area. For a time Texas had a peak mileage of more than
17,000 miles (27,358 kilometers) of main-track railroad, but the total
has been declining ever since the 1930s.
Cotton, first raised on the Blackland Prairies, has long been the most
important crop of Texas. Much of it is now grown on the Great Plains, an
achievement made possible by the discovery of a sandy, water-laden
subsoil beneath the area’s dry surface. On the Rio Grande irrigation has
given rise to a great fruit-growing belt, while along the Nueces River
vegetable crops are harvested in an 11-month growing season. Texas leads
the nation in beef production, an industry that began to flourish in
1866, when cowboys first drove wild longhorns north to market. Today
scientifically bred cattle are raised on the plains.
“Black gold,” or crude oil, was found in Texas in the 19th century, but
it was the discovery of the gigantic east Texas oil field in 1930 that
revolutionized the agrarian state. Although much of the wealth of modern
Texas stems from its widespread petroleum-bearing formations, industry
has become increasingly diversified since the end of World War II.
The name Texas comes from a Caddo Indian word meaning “friends” or
“allies.” The Spanish explorers pronounced the word tejas and gave this
name to the area. The nickname Lone Star State comes from the single
star in the Texas flag, which was officially adopted by the Republic of
Texas in 1839. The Texas and Hawaii flags are the only state emblems
that originally flew over recognized independent countries.
Survey of the Lone Star State
Texas lies in the south-central region of the United States. Its
southwestern and southern boundary is formed by the Rio Grande. Across
the river are the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leуn, and
Tamaulipas. On the southeast Texas borders on the Gulf of Mexico for 367
miles (591 kilometers). To the east are Louisiana and Arkansas, with the
Sabine River forming the boundary with Louisiana for 180 miles (290
kilometers). To the north is Oklahoma, with the Red River providing the
boundary line for 480 miles (772 kilometers). New Mexico is to the west.
The Lone Star State is both longer and wider than any other state except
Alaska. Its greatest length, from north to south, is 801 miles (1,289
kilometers)–a figure that includes the Panhandle, which extends north
of the upper Red River for about 133 miles (214 kilometers). The state’s
greatest width is 773 miles (1,244 kilometers). Both of the overall
distances are greater than the airline mileage between New York City and
Chicago. The area of the state is 266,807 square miles (691,027 square
kilometers), including 4,790 square miles (12,406 square kilometers) of
inland water surface.
Texas has a wide variety in its geology, minerals, soils, vegetation,
and wildlife. Its elevation ranges from sea level along the coast of the
Gulf of Mexico to 8,751 feet (2,667 meters) at Guadalup
The Gulf Coastal Plain covers southern and eastern Texas and includes
about 40 percent of the state’s area. Along the coast are many long
barrier beaches, such as Padre Island, separated from the mainland by
lagoons. Galveston is the largest of the bays. The plain extends 150 to
250 miles (240 to 400 kilometers) inland to a series of hills that sweep
across Texas from Denison on the Red River to Del Rio on the Rio Grande.
The western part of this line (between Austin and Del Rio) is called the
The Gulf Coastal Plain may be divided into five distinct sections. They
are: the Rio Grande plain, in the south; the coastal prairies, from the
San Antonio River to the Sabine River; the Pine Belt, or Piney Woods,
from the Louisiana line westward about 100 miles (160 kilometers); the
Post Oak Belt, west of the Pine Belt; and the Blackland Prairies, along
the western edge of the Gulf Coastal Plain from the Red River to a point
near San Antonio.
e Peak in Culberson County. Within the state are four large natural
The Central Lowland covers the eastern edge of the Panhandle and the
north-central part of the state. It extends southward to include Fort
Worth, Abilene, and Colorado City. The eastern part of this region
includes the Grand, or Fort Worth, Prairie, sandwiched between the East
and West Cross Timbers belts. The remainder of the Central Lowland
consists of rolling plains.
The Great Plains extend over most of the Panhandle and west-central and
central Texas. This vast tableland ranges in elevation from 2,500 to
4,700 feet (760 to 1,430 meters). In the Panhandle are the High Plains,
or Llano Estacado (Staked Plain), a dry, flat, treeless area. To the
east the central Texas section extends almost as far as Waco and Austin.
The southeastern extension of the Great Plains is the Edwards Plateau.
Across the lower Pecos River the plain continues westward as the
Stockton Plateau. This section is sometimes called the Trans-Pecos.
The Basin and Range Region covers the extreme western part of the state.
It has a series of rugged mountain ranges and dry, sandy basins. In
Hudspeth County is the Diablo Plateau, or Bolston, between the Guadalupe
and Hueco mountains. In a southward loop of the Rio Grande is a rugged
area that includes Big Bend National Park. The Chisos Mountains lie
within the park. Thousands of acres in the upper Rio Grande valley near
El Paso are irrigated from Elephant Butte Reservoir in New Mexico.
Most of the rivers of Texas flow in a southeasterly direction into the
Gulf of Mexico. From the state’s eastern border to its western border,
the largest of these rivers are the Sabine, Neches, Trinity, Brazos,
Colorado (of Texas), Guadalupe, San Antonio, Nueces, and Rio Grande with
its chief branch, the Pecos. The northern edge of the state lies in the
Mississippi River basin. Within this section are the Canadian River,
which flows across the Panhandle, and the Red River, on the
Texas has three main types of climate. A narrow strip along the coast
has a marine climate tempered by winds from the Gulf of Mexico. Here
temperatures are fairly uniform, with pleasant summers and mild winters.
The Gulf coast area, from Brownsville northward, can experience severe
ocean-borne storms, including destructive hurricanes. The mountain
climate of western Texas brings dry, clear days with dramatic dips in
temperature at nightfall. The rest of the state has a continental
climate with cold winters and hot summers. Quick temperature changes are
common in this area. The warmest part of the state is the lower Rio
Grande valley, which has an average annual temperature of 74° F (23° C).
The coldest is the northwest Panhandle, with a 54° F (12° C) average.
Average annual precipitation (rain and melted snow) varies from 58
inches (147 centimeters) in the extreme eastern part of the state to
less than 10 inches (25 centimeters) near El Paso. In most parts of the
state, the greatest amount of rainfall occurs between April and July and
is especially heavy during May. Snowfall is generally limited to the
northern plains area, where it averages about 15 inches (38 centimeters)
Texas has a rich supply of natural resources. The eastern part of the
state is a productive farming region with fertile soil and ample
rainfall. Where western Texas can be irrigated, it has huge grazing
areas and valuable cropland. Almost 10 percent of the state is forested.
The largest amount of timber is in eastern Texas, where the forest area
extends over 43 counties. The chief commercial trees are several
varieties of pine and oak, elm, hickory, magnolia, sweet gum, black gum,
The mineral resources, led by petroleum, are the most valuable in the
nation. The major commercial advantages of the state are its excellent
ports for trade with Central and South America. The Gulf coast yields
valuable catches of shrimp.
The chief conservation problem is the maintenance of an adequate water
supply, particularly in western Texas and in the large urban and
industrial centers. Since 1930 many dams have been built to provide
flood control, power, and irrigation. Today about one fourth of the
reservoirs they formed have a storage capacity of more than 100,000
acre-feet each. The largest is Toledo Bend, on the Sabine River. Next in
size are Amistad, on the Rio Grande, and Sam Rayburn, on the Angelina.
Other large projects include Lake Texoma, formed by Denison Dam, on the
Red River and Falcon Reservoir, on the Rio Grande. Amistad and Falcon
benefit both the United States and Mexico.
The Texas Water Commission administers water rights and control. There
are also many separate river authorities and water districts. Timber
conservation is directed by the Texas Forest Service, a division of
Texas A&M University. Wildlife is protected by the Texas Parks and
Wildlife Department. The federal Department of the Interior maintains 11
national wildlife refuges, including the Aransas refuge, along the
People of Texas
The early Native American residents of Texas were the Caddo in the
southeast, the Tonkawa in the southwest, and the Atakapa and Karankawa
along the coast. Later the Comanche moved into central and western Texas
from the north. Fierce Plains Indians, the Comanche were not brought
under outside control until about 1875. This action opened the Panhandle
and the western plains to settlement.
During the early days of Spanish rule, Texas attracted few new settlers
other than missionaries. By 1806 the population was no more than 7,000.
After the establishment of a colony of Anglo-Americans by Stephen Fuller
Austin in 1821, similar settlers came in increasing numbers. Many came
from the South, bringing slaves with them. Later, newcomers arrived from
the East and Midwest. Today most of the migration into Texas comes from
Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas. Of the Texas-born people living in
other states, the largest number are in California.
Texas has more than 3 million people of Hispanic origin, most of whom
are concentrated along the Rio Grande and in southern Texas . The state
also has more than 2 million African Americans, chiefly in the south and
east. Almost 6 percent of the people are foreign born–mainly emigrants
from Mexico. The population also includes about 50,000 Native Americans
and about 39,000 people of Chinese and Japanese descent.
Texas has 16 cities with a population of more than 100,000. The largest
is Houston, a financial and industrial center. The city is connected to
Galveston Bay by the 52-mile (84-kilometer) Houston Ship Channel, along
which is one of the world’s greatest concentrations of industry. With
the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center of the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration (NASA) nearby the area is also a focus of the space
industry. Dallas, the second largest city, is a fashion, insurance, and
finance center . Third in size is the historic city of San Antonio, home
of the famous mission turned military post–the Alamo–and the chief
trade center of southern Texas. Nearby are four bases of the United
States Air Force–Brooks, Kelly, Lackland, and Randolph.
Located on the Rio Grande, El Paso serves as a busy gateway to
Mexico and is the chief trade center of western Texas. West of Dallas is
Fort Worth, a noted livestock and grain market. Austin, the sixth
largest city, is the state capital; located in the south-central part of
Texas, it grew according to plans laid out in 1839. The next largest
city in the state is Corpus Christi, a year-round resort and deepwater
port located on the Gulf of.
Lubbock, the commercial hub of a rich cotton-growing area in the Great
Plains, and Amarillo are the chief cities of the Panhandle. Beaumont,
the chief city of the Sabine-Neches industrial area in the extreme
southeast, is noted for its shipments of petroleum. Waco is an
agricultural and industrial center on the Brazos River about halfway
between Dallas and Austin. Between Dallas and Fort Worth is Arlington,
an industrial and commercial center for the automotive and aerospace
industries. Wichita Falls is a petroleum center in north-central Texas.
Galveston, a cotton- and sulfur-shipping port on the Gulf of Mexico,
also boasts a flourishing tourism industry.
In 1900 the two leading manufacturing industries in Texas were lumbering
and the processing of grain. Since that time there has been a rapid
increase in the number and types of manufacturing plants. During World
War II the value of Texas manufacturing multiplied almost four times.
Manufacturing value today exceeds 53 billion dollars. Texas is the chief
manufacturing state in the South, and the value of its manufacturing is
surpassed only by that of California among the states west of the
Most of the increase in industry has been due to the rise of petroleum
refining, which followed the discovery of the great Spindletop oil field
in 1901 and has become the most important industry in Texas. Texas now
refines more petroleum than any other state. Ranked second is the
manufacture of chemicals and allied products, which includes organic
chemicals and plastics. The third most important industry is the
processing of food products. This includes meat-packing and the
preparation of bakery goods, flour and meal, and soft drinks. Fourth in
importance is tourism.
In farm income, Texas is first among the Southern states and second or
third in the nation. The annual cash income from Texas agricultural
products, estimated at about 9 billion dollars, is usually surpassed
only by the agricultural income of California–and sometimes Iowa. Texas
has about 160,000 farms, more than any other state. Some farms contain
thousands of acres. The average size is about 838 acres (339 hectares).
Texas leads all the states in the production of cotton, cattle, wool,
and sorghum grain. Irrigation is a major factor in crop production. Much
of the irrigated land is in the High Plains. Other large irrigated areas
are the lower Rio Grande valley, the Coastal Prairies, the Pecos Valley,
and the Rio Grande Plain.
Livestock and related products usually account for more than half the
yearly farm income. Crops account for the rest. Texas leads nationally
in the number of cattle, horses, sheep, and lambs. Cattle ranks in value
as the most important commodity in almost every Texas county.
The state ‘s chief cash crop is cotton. Texas leads the nation in cotton
lint and cottonseed. The major producing counties are Gaines, Dawson,
Terry, Cameron, and Martin. Sorghum grain is usually second in value.
Wheat for grain is the third most valuable crop; the Panhandle is noted
for its wheat. Corn ranks fourth in value. Other farm products are milk,
eggs, chickens, hay, pigs, peanuts, rice, turkeys, wool, oats, and
mohair. Texas ranks among the first five states in the production of
broomcorn, flaxseed, grapefruit and oranges, pecans, sweet clover seed,
sweet potatoes, carrots, and onions.
The mineral resources of Texas yield an annual value of about 45 billion
dollars–more than that of any other state. Most of the income is
derived from petroleum, in which Texas leads the nation. The East Texas
field is one of the most productive in the world. Top producing counties
in Texas are Pecos, Yoakum, Gaines, Ector, and Gregg. Gregg was the
first county to produce more than 2 billion barrels of petroleum ever
since records have been kept.
The second and third most valuable minerals are natural gas and coal.
Pipelines carry natural gas, as well as petroleum, from Texas to all
sections of the country. Texas is one of the nation ‘ s chief sources of
helium, with much of the production centered at Amarillo, Exell, and
Cement is fourth in importance. Texas ranks among the leading
cement-producing states. The Gulf Coastal Plain is one of the nation ‘s
richest sources of sulfur. Magnesium is processed from seawater at
Freeport’s electrolytic plant. Among other minerals produced in the
state are stone, sand and gravel, lime, salt, and gypsum.
Because of its huge size, Texas has had to develop a vast network of
transportation routes by road, rail, water, and air. The Texas
Department of Highways and Public Transportation, established in 1917,
maintains about 71,000 miles (114,260 kilometers) of state roads.
In addition to the state roads and dozens of federal routes, a number of
highways in the Interstate system cross Texas. Interstates 10, 20, and
40 are major east-west routes. Crossing parts of Texas from north to
south are Interstates 35, 45, and 27. Interstate 30 runs northeastward
The first railroad in Texas was a 20-mile (32-kilometer) line in the
Houston area that was completed in 1853. Transcontinental service became
a reality in 1881, when the Southern Pacific linked the state with
California. Today Texas is served by a statewide network of railroads
and by a number of major airlines. The Dallas-Fort Worth Regional
Airport is the nation’s largest in terms of land area and one of the
Thirteen deepwater ports handle shipments of petroleum products, cotton,
and wheat. Routes of travel are the Intracoastal Waterway (extending
eastward from Brownsville) and the Gulf of Mexico. The Houston Ship
Channel, which opened in 1915, has helped make that city one of the
great United States ports. The other major ports are Port Arthur,
Beaumont, Texas City, Corpus Christi, Port Aransas, and Galveston.
In an average year Texas is visited by more than 40 million tourists.
One of the chief attractions is the rugged land of mountains and canyons
in the Trans-Pecos. This region includes Big Bend National Park and
Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Palo Duro Canyon cuts a 1,000-foot-
(300-meter-) deep slash through the high plains of the Texas Panhandle.
The Gulf coast has many fine beaches and resorts. Near Kingsville in
south Texas is King Ranch, one of the largest in the world. East Texas
boasts more than 11 million acres (4.5 million hectares) of woodlands,
including four national forests.
San Antonio is famous for the Alamo and San Antonio Missions National
Historical Park. Dallas hosts the state fair each October and the Cotton
Bowl football game on New Year’s Day. In Arlington are Six Flags Over
Texas, an amusement park styled after the American West, and the home
stadium of the Texas Rangers professional baseball team. In professional
football, the Dallas Cowboys play in Texas Stadium, in Irving, and the
Houston Oilers play in the famous Astrodome, also home of baseball’s
Houston Astros. There are three Texas basketball teams: the Dallas
Mavericks, the Houston Rockets, and the San Antonio Spurs.
The first schools in the Texas region were informal classes for Native
Americans held at the missions of Spanish priests. There were only a few
private schools in the area at the time of the Texas declaration of
independence in 1836. One of the republic’s charges against Mexico was
that it had “failed to establish any public system of education.”
In 1839 the Republic of Texas began setting aside public land for
education. An act establishing a state school system was passed in 1854.
A permanent school fund was established with a grant of 2 million
dollars, and provision was made for setting up school districts. In 1949
the Gilmer-Aikin laws reorganized the public school system to equalize
educational opportunities. Common school districts were consolidated
from more than 3,000 to fewer than 1,000.
The largest of the state schools is the University of Texas, located in
Austin, with branches at Arlington, Dallas, El Paso, Odessa, San
Antonio, and Tyler; health science centers at Dallas, Houston, and San
Antonio; cancer centers at Houston and Bastrop County; a health center
at Tyler; and a medical branch at Galveston. The divisions of the Texas
A&M University System are located at College Station, Prairie View,
Stephenville, and Galveston.
Some of the other state-supported institutions are Lamar University, at
Beaumont; Midwestern State University, at Wichita Falls; Pan American
University, at Edinburg; Texas Southern University, at Houston; the
University of Houston, also at Houston, with branches at Houston (Clear
Lake City, Downtown College branches) and Victoria; Texas Tech
University, at Lubbock; and Texas Woman’s University, at Denton. Other
large institutions include Southern Methodist University, at Dallas;
Texas Christian University, at Fort Worth; Baylor University, at Waco;
St. Mary’s University of San Antonio, at San Antonio; Abilene Christian
University, at Abilene; Trinity University, at San Antonio; Rice
University, at Houston; and Texas Wesleyan College, at Fort Worth.
Government and Politics
Under Mexican rule Texas was governed first from Saltillo and then from
Monclova (both in Mexico). In 1835-36 one or more governmental functions
were carried on at San Felipe de Austin, Washington on the Brazos,
Harrisburg, Galveston, Velasco, and Columbia. Houston served as the
capital in 1837-39; Austin, in 1839-42; and Washington on the Brazos, in
1842-45. Austin has remained the state capital since 1845. Texas is
governed under its fifth constitution, which was adopted in 1876.
The chief executive officer of the state is the governor, who is elected
every four years. The legislative branch consists of the Senate and the
House of Representatives. Heading the state judiciary is the Supreme
Court and Court of Criminal Appeals.
The Democratic party dominated Texas politics from the beginning of
statehood–with only occasional exceptions–until the 1970s. Sam Houston
was elected governor as an independent in 1859, and Republicans were
elected in 1870 and 1979. Likewise, in presidential elections Texas
voted Democratic in every election after the American Civil War until
1928 and again until the 1950s. In recent years the Republican party has
been gaining strength. A Dallas oil-drilling contractor, William
Clements, was elected governor in 1978 and reelected in 1986–the first
Republican to head the state since Reconstruction.
John N. Garner of Uvalde was the nation’s first vice-president from
Texas (1933-41). Dwight D. Eisenhower, who served from 1953 to 1961, was
the first Texas-born president. Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson of
Johnson City became the second president from Texas on Nov. 22, 1963,
after the assassination of John F. Kennedy while riding in a Dallas
motorcade. The governor of Texas, John B. Connally, who was riding in
the same car as President Kennedy, was wounded. Johnson took the oath of
office as president immediately after Kennedy’ s death; he was elected
president in 1964. George Bush was a resident of Texas when he was
elected vice-president in 1980 and 1984 and when he was elected
president in 1988.
Sam Rayburn of Bonham holds the record for length of service as speaker
of the United States House of Representatives–17 years, beginning in
1940. One of the first African American women to serve in Congress, and
the first from the Deep South, was Barbara Jordan of Houston, first
elected in 1972.
The wife of a former governor of Texas, who had been impeached, Miriam
A. Ferguson was the second American woman (by two weeks) to serve as a
governor (1925-27 and 1933-35). More than any other state, Texas has
elected women to high political offices in several of its cities. In the
1980s women were elected to the top post in Houston, Dallas, San
Antonio, Corpus Christi, and El Paso. In 1990 another woman, Ann
Richards, was narrowly elected governor of the state.
HISTORY OF TEXAS
Six national flags have flown over Texas during its colorful history.
The first was Spain’s banner, from 1519 to 1685. In 1685 the French
explorer La Salle raised the French flag over a short-lived coastal
colony. In 1691 Texas again came under the Spanish flag, which was
replaced by the banner of Mexico in 1821. From 1836 to 1845 the Lone
Star banner flew over the Republic of Texas. The Stars and Stripes
became the official flag in 1845, but during the American Civil War,
from 1861 to 1865, it was replaced by the Confederate flag.
The first European to visit what is now Texas was Alonso Alvarez de
Pineda, who mapped the coast in 1519. Cabeza de Vaca, a Spanish noble,
was the first to explore the area. Shipwrecked near what is now
Galveston in 1528, he was captured by the Karankawa Indians and traveled
with them for eight years before escaping. In 1541 Francisco Coronado
crossed the Panhandle in search of gold. Later, parties of Spaniards
camped in the wilderness, but they left no settlements.
The French explorer La Salle missed the mouth of the Mississippi River
in 1685 and sailed into Matagorda Bay. He pushed inland and built Fort
St. Louis, which two years later was wiped out by Native Americans
already living in the area. Fear of French influence hurried the Spanish
into extending missions into eastern Texas.
By 1800 some 25 missions and a number of presidios had been built in
Texas. The missions had little success in converting the Native
Americans to the alien Spanish culture and failed to attract settlers. A
1795 census found 69 families in San Antonio. The few additional
families were mainly at what are now Goliad and Nacogdoches.
After the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the United States regarded eastern
Texas as its territory. Spain refused to recognize the claim and won
control of about 96,000 square miles (248,639 square kilometers) through
the Adams-Onнs Treaty of 1819. After Mexico gained its independence from
Spain, this boundary (the Sabine River and northward) was confirmed by a
treaty with the United States.
The way to American settlement was opened when Moses Austin of
Connecticut won Spain’s consent to settle 300 Anglo-American families in
Texas. His son, Stephen F. Austin, is called the father of Texas because
he brought the first group of colonists to the lower Brazos River in
December 1821. The capital of the settlement was established at San
Felipe de Austin, in present Austin County, in 1823.
Mexico made additional land grants to other settlers. Drawn by an
abundance of public lands where corn and cotton grew, whites from the
South and Southwest and their black slaves swelled the population. As
immigration into Texas from the United States increased, however, Mexico
grew more hostile. Resentment flared in 1826 when American promoters set
up the short-lived Fredonian republic at Nacogdoches. By 1830 the
population of Texas had grown to nearly 25,000, and further American
immigration, including the importation of African American slaves, was
forbidden. Disputes with Mexico increased. After Santa Anna became the
dictator of Mexico, the Texans revolted. The first open battle was
fought at Gonzales on Oct. 2, 1835.
Republic of Texas
The Texans held a convention at Washington on the Brazos and adopted a
declaration of independence on March 2, 1836. A constitution modeled
after that of the United States was adopted by the new Republic of
The most striking event in the Texas war for independence was the heroic
defense of the Alamo in San Antonio. A rebuilt mission, the Alamo was
used as a fort by about 180 Americans. After a siege of 12 days by
several thousand Mexican soldiers under Santa Anna, the Alamo fell on
March 6, 1836, and the garrison was wiped out. Later in the month the
Mexicans massacred James Fannin and more than 300 Texas prisoners at
Goliad. “Remember the Alamo” and “Remember Goliad” became Texas war
Independence was won after Gen. Sam Houston defeated Santa Anna on the
banks of the San Jacinto River near Houston on April 21, 1836. In
September Sam Houston was elected president of the republic.
The new nation was hemmed in by the Indian frontier from the Red River
to the hostile Mexican border along the Rio Grande. These threats led to
the development of the famous Texas Rangers, expert horsemen and
marksmen. The Rangers, the oldest state police force in the United
States, are now a branch of the Department of Public Safety.
From 1836 to 1845 the public debt grew from 1 million to 8 million
dollars. Many believed that the future development of Texas would be
greater under the United States. In 1844 a convention voted for
annexation and a state constitution was adopted.
Admission to the Union
The proposed annexation brought a bitter fight in the United States over
the question of slavery. Finally, on Dec. 29, 1845, Texas was admitted
to the Union. The state kept its public lands and reserved the right to
divide into no more than five states.
Disputes with Mexico over boundary lines led to the Mexican War in 1846.
The United States victory in the conflict two years later established
the Rio Grande as the international border as far as El Paso. In 1850
Congress purchased from Texas for 10 million dollars the claim of that
state to some 100,000 square miles (259,000 square kilometers) of land,
now part of New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, and Wyoming.
Just before the outbreak of the American Civil War, slaveholding Texas
seceded from the Union and joined the Confederacy. Governor Sam Houston
tried to keep the state in the Union but was deposed. Texas was
readmitted in 1870
In the mid-1860s Texas cowboys began driving cattle northward to markets
or ranges. Some of their famous cattle trails were the Chisholm, Western
(Dodge City), Goodnight-Loving, and Sedalia trails. More than 11 million
cattle were herded up these trails before the introduction of railroads
into the area. These cowboys were the inspiration for many dozens of
Western novels and films. Yet in spite of all the Western lore
celebrating the cowboy in song, story, art, and film, the era of the
great cattle drives was short. It was virtually over by 1890, only 20
years after it began.
The Modern State
Much of the history of modern Texas is connected with the development of
the oil industry. In 1901 Anthony F. Lucas struck oil in the Spindletop
field, near Beaumont. Other great strikes included those of East Texas,
the richest of all, in 1930; Scurry County, in 1949; and Spraberry
Field, near Midland, in 1950. The state especially benefited from the
expansion of the industry, and its associated petrochemicals, after
World War II. In 1960 Texas won a 15-year political and legal struggle
for title to the offshore oil in its Gulf of Mexico tidelands. A Supreme
Court decision gave the state mineral rights in an area extending three
leagues–about 10 1/2 miles (17 kilometers)–offshore.
In 1963 the United States ended a border dispute with Mexico by agreeing
to exchange land in the Laredo area. The dispute began about 100 years
earlier, when the channel of the Rio Grande shifted. HemisFair ’68, the
first international exposition in a Southwestern state, was held at San
Massive oil spills from tankers have periodically devastated the Texas
shoreline. In October 1989 and, nine months later, in July 1990, there
were major fatal accidents at two Texas petrochemical plants within 10
miles (16 kilometers) of each other, near Houston.
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