The first inhabitants of this land now called Texas arrived here around 10,000 B.C; they hunted giant bison and mammoths, and over many centuries a wide variety of Indian cultures developed and prospered. These earliest Texans arrived via the ice bridge that once spanned from Russia to Alaska, and then traveled south to somewhat milder climates.
The Spanish began their conquest of Texas in 1519 when Alonso Álvarez de Pineda mapped the coastline. In 1528, Cabeza de Vaca shipwrecked near Galveston, would later refer to his discoveries in Texas as the "Seven Cities of Gold" and the legend quickly grew.
Searching for those "Cities" the Spanish explorer Coronado scoured much of the southwest; he never found them, but Spain's claim on the land grew stronger and their first mission, Corpus Christi de la Isleta, was established near present-day El Paso in 1682.
In 1685, LaSalle, the French explorer, arrived along the Gulf of Mexico coastline and he established Fort St. Louis on the edge of Matagorda Bay. This was the first claim in Texas by the French. LaSalle was later killed by his own men, and within five years Indians attacks and diseases virtually wiped out the French forces.
Beginning in 1690 the Spanish established a large series of Catholic missions across the southwest. In 1718 the Mission San Antonio de Valero, (the Alamo) was built on a plot of land in present-day San Antonio and some original parts of this historic place still stand.
Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821, and Stephen F. Austin, known as "The Father of Texas" received permission from the Mexican government to form a colony in southeast Texas; this was the first official Anglo-American settlement in the area.
Years went quickly by and soon regional tensions escalated because of cultural, political and religious differences between the upstart American settlers and the Mexican government. Mexico sent troops to tighten their control, and on October 2, 1835, the first battle for Texas independence, the Battle of Gonzales took place.
On March 6, 1836, the historic Battle of the Alamo was over and all of the brave defenders of Texas (about 190) were slaughtered by a Mexican army estimated at 4,000 to 5,000 soldiers strong. Texan heroes killed included David Crockett, Jim Bowie and William B. Travis.
The Texas Declaration of Independence was enacted that same year and the final battle with Mexico, the Battle of San Jacinto (resulting in Texas' independence from Mexico) took place near Houston; General Santa Anna's entire Mexican force of 1,600 was killed or captured by General Sam Houston's army of 800 Texans; only nine Texans died.
Sam Houston, a Virginia native, went on to become President of the Republic of Texas twice. Through his efforts, Texas was subsequently annexed to the United States as the 28th state on December 29, 1845.
During America's Civil War, Texas seceded and joined the Confederate States of America. Several battles were fought on its soil and on June 19th, 1865, (as the war was ending) General Gordon Granger, commander of the U.S. troops in Texas, arrived in Galveston and issued the order that the Emancipation Proclamation was now in place, thus ending slavery in Texas.
After the period of reconstruction, Texas was readmitted to the United States on March 30, 1870. The present state constitution was ratified on February 15, 1876.
During its rich history there have flown six flags over Texas, including those of Spain, France, United Mexican States, the Confederate States of America, the Republic of Texas and the United States of America. With all the history-changing events that have taken place in Texas, it's no surprise that 11,621 historical markers are found within its borders.
The Lone Star State is a proud, historic place, with a very close relationship with Mexico, its culture, and its people. The Southern Texas towns of San Antonio and El Paso have a rich Hispanic community and tradition. The famous Tex-Mex cuisine wakes up the taste buds with chili peppers and everything that's hot! A sampling of all the local chili recipes is mandatory at the State Fair of Texas held in Dallas throughout September and October annually. The Dallas sister-city of Forth Worth is the historic starting point for the great Longhorn cattle round-ups and trail drives of earlier years and is home to the biggest stock yards in the south.
This state is expansive, bold, and beautiful, and so are the Texan people. Locals tell it like it is with a hearty laugh, a pat on the back, and an invite to Texas barbecue. The adventurous western spirit is evident in people like Red Adair, the famous oil well firefighter, President & General Dwight D. Eisenhower, ballplayer Nolan Ryan, rockers Meat Loaf, Tina Turner and Janis Joplin, and actors Gary Busey, Dennis Quaid, and Owen Wilson, to name just a few of the famous people who hail from the Lone Star State.
Besides its enormous size (second only to Alaska), Texas is a giant agricultural and industrial power and, as a separate country, would rank 10th in the world in overall gross domestic product (GDP)! Texas cities are growing, while many other U.S. metropolises are dwindling. Texas is home to NASA at the Houston Space Center and a booming high-tech and aerospace industry has grown up around it. Several large military bases bring even more life and business to Texas towns. This expansive state on the verge of the southwest takes both its sports teams and its patriotism very seriously. Hunting and fishing are pastimes learned at an early age for most homegrown Texans.
With such a vast terrain, almost every landscape and climate is found in Texas. The state boasts the awesome Rio Grande River along its western border with Mexico. The Port of Galveston sits on the Gulf of Mexico and hosts throngs of beach loving visitors throughout the year, with bustling Houston just a short drive to the North. Dallas and Fort Worth sit on the rolling plains and hills of the East Texas prairies that are dotted with lakes.
San Antonio is found on the vast flat southern plains with big skies that let you see for miles. Austin sits at the southern end of the Colorado River as it passes on its way to the ocean and El Paso nestles at the base of the Davis Mountains to the West. All of these great cities are home to unique adventures and great things to do on a Texas vacation.
Famed for the Alamo, cattle drives, cowboy boots and hats, rodeos, oil and gas production, NASA, a high-tech industry second-to-none, the magical cities of Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio; and so much more, it can truly be said that, "Texas...It's like a whole other country."