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The Capitals of Texas

Filed Under: 
Texas History Features
Filed Under: 
Timeline of Texas History

 

Many different locations have served as capitals of the area that is now Texas, including a number that served only briefly.

The National Capitals of Texas

Capitals of the six nations that have ruled Texas have been:
Spain: Valladolid (before 1551) and Madrid;
France: Paris;
Mexico: Mexico City, D.F.;
Republic of Texas: San Felipe de Austin, Washington-on-the-Brazos, Harrisburg, Galveston Island, Velasco, Columbia, Houston and Austin;
United States: Washington, D.C.;
Confederate States of America: Montgomery, Ala., and Richmond, Va.

A replica of the capital in West Columbia

A replica of the 1836 capitol in West Columbia.

The Administrative Headquarters

The administrative headquarters for Texas shifted many times from the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century to the end of the Civil War.

Spanish Provincial Capitals

In 1686, Monclova, Coahuila, Mex., became the first provincial capital for the area that became Texas. While Texas was associated with Spain and the Republic of Mexico, its government was administered largely from Coahuila, which alternately had Monclova and Saltillo as its provincial capital.

In 1721-22 Marqués de Aguayo, governor of Coahuila including Texas, led an expedition north of the Rio Grande and established the presidio of Los Adaes a short distance east of the Sabine River on the site of present-day Robeline, La. Los Adaes became the capital of Texas and remained so for half a century.

The seat of government was moved to San Antonio in 1772, where it remained until 1824. For two short periods during this time, the administrators of Coahuila y Texas conducted business from La Casa Piedra (today commonly called the Old Stone Fort) in Nacogdoches: Manuel Antonio Cordero y Bustamante in 1806 and Manuel María de Salcedo for three months in 1810.

Mexican Provincial Headquarters

After Mexico became independent of Spain in 1821, Texas was again united with Coahuila, of which Saltillo was then the capital. The first state congress convened there Aug. 15, 1824. The capital of Coahuila-Texas was moved to Monclova, March 9, 1833. A heated controversy between Saltillo and Monclova ensued. When the issue was placed before President Santa Anna, he favored Monclova.

The capital of the first Anglo-American colony in Texas was San Felipe de Austin. The conventions of 1832 and 1833, as well as the Consultation of 1835 met at San Felipe, which continued to be the official headquarters until March 1, 1836.

Capitals of the Republic of Texas

The provisional government of the Republic of Texas met at Washington-on-the-Brazos March 1, 1836. This convention, in which all powers of sovereignty were claimed and exercised, adopted the Declaration of Independence on March 2. They also wrote a constitution and inaugurated executive officers. Because of the movement of Santa Anna's troops, President Burnet selected Harrisburg on Buffalo Bayou as the temporary capital.

As Mexican troops moved eastward after their victory at the Alamo, President Burnet and part of his cabinet boarded the steamboat Cayuga at Harrisburg on April 15, 1836, making it the de facto capital of the Republic until the Texas officials went ashore at Galveston on April 26. The capital then moved to Velasco until October.

In October 1836, Columbia (today's West Columbia) became the first capital of an elected government of the Republic of Texas. President Houston, on Dec. 15, 1836, ordered the seat of government removed to Houston. The government began operating from Houston on April 19, 1837.

In 1839, the Capital Commission selected the "site of the town of Waterloo, on the north bank of the Colorado" as the permanent capital. This was confirmed by the Texas Congress Jan. 19, 1839, and the place was renamed Austin in honor of Stephen F. Austin. President Mirabeau B. Lamar and his cabinet moved there October 17, 1839. When Mexican troops threatened San Antonio in March 1842, President Sam Houston ordered the government moved to Houston. Officials moved to Washington-on-the-Brazos, in September, and Houston sent men to Austin to fetch the archives. Austin citizens feared that if the papers were moved, Austin would lose its status as capital permanently. In an action known as the Archive War, the citizens stopped Houston's men and returned the archives to Austin. Austin became the capital again in 1844.

The Capitol burning in 1881
The first permanent Capitol in Austin burning in 1881.

Capitols of Texas

No trace is left of most of the early buildings in which the seat of government was housed. The Spanish Governors' palace still stands, however, at San Antonio. A replica of the one-story frame building that served as the Capitol at Columbia has been built at West Columbia. A frame structure where the Rice Hotel stands today was the Capitol at Houston. When Austin was selected as the capital, several log buildings were used until the first permanent structure was erected. This burned Nov. 9, 1881, and a temporary Capitol located off the Capitol grounds at the head of Congress Avenue served until completion of the present structure, which was opened May 16, 1888.

— based on an article written by Mike Kingston, then editor, for the Texas Almanac 1986–1987.

 

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