Bexar

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San Fernando de Béxar (now San Antonio) was founded in 1731 between the San Antonio River and San Pedro Creek, to the east of the presidio established at the same location in 1718. It was the first chartered civil settlement in Texas and was named in honor of the heir to the Spanish throne, the future Fernando VI. From 1773 until 1824, when Texas was joined to Coahuila, San Fernando served as the provincial capital. In 1718 Governor Martín de Alarcón established a settlement he called Villa de Béxar near the headwaters of San Pedro Creek, but civilian settlement did not materialize. Royal authorities, hoping to reduce the expense of a purely military settlement, decided on a plan to transfer 400 families of Canary Islanders to Texas, some of whom would be located near San Antonio de Béxar Presidio. The immigrants had rights as first settlers to form a town government, to receive generous land grants, and to carry the noble title of hidalgo. Logistical problems, Indian hostilities, and the unfamiliarity of the Canary Islanders with frontier conditions caused Capt. Juan Antonio Pérez de Almazán to locate the new settlers adjacent to the presidio.

Throughout the Spanish period San Fernando suffered from retarded development. Apache, Comanche, and other nonsedentary Indians raided cattle and horse herds, attacked farmers in the field, and often made communications with the interior of New Spain hazardous. The proximity of the new town to the military settlement and to five Franciscan missions led to considerable friction over land, water, and livestock among the Hispanic inhabitants of the area over the next few decades. Population growth was slow; approximately 500 settlers lived in the town and presidio in 1750, and triple that number at the end of the eighteenth century. The population grew somewhat more rapidly after 1803, but rebellion and filibustering during the second decade of the nineteenth century caused a drastic decline. In 1820 the population of the town and neighboring missions was approximately 2,000. Economic activity was correspondingly limited. Agriculture was largely for subsistence and confined to irrigated farms, one on the south side of San Fernando (established in 1731), another north of town (1777), and those of the missions as these were secularized. The farms were subdivided into individual, privately owned plots. Ranching was the most profitable activity and the source of greatest friction between townspeople and the neighboring missions. San Fernando's more prominent residents acquired large landholdings along the Medina and San Antonio river valleys in the direction of Goliad, including mission lands vacated between the 1750s and 1820s. San Fernando was also the scene of an active contraband trade between Louisiana and the interior of Mexico.

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Jesús "Frank" de la Teja | © TSHA

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Adapted from the official Handbook of Texas, a state encyclopedia developed by Texas State Historical Association (TSHA). It is an authoritative source of trusted historical records.

Belongs to

Bexar is part of or belongs to the following places:

Currently Exists

No

Place type

Bexar is classified as a Town

Associated Names

  • [1]
  • (San Antonio)

Has Post Office

No

Is Incorporated

No