school child who has taken Texas history -- I hope -- knows that Austin
is the state capital. They may not know the other seats of Texas government.
Spain claimed much of the New World, including Texas,
at the beginning of the sixteenth century. While the claim held, Texas'
capital was Madrid, or, within a few years, Mexico City, because of
the residence of the viceroy there, though none of the Native American
Texans knew that or cared.
Mexico won its war of independence in 1821, and Mexico City remained
the center of political power for the nation until the adoption of
the Constitution of 1824. This placed Texas as part of the state of
Coahuilla -- later known as Coahuilla y Tejas -- with the capital
in Satillo. In the 1830s, Monclova briefly served as the capital,
though, again, few Texans then cared because they were revolting against
Texans declared their independence in March 1836 at Washington-on-the-Brazos
and created an interim government administered by President David
G. Burnet. For a while the "capital" was wherever Burnet hung his
hat -- Harrisburg, Galveston,
and then Columbia
the first elected president of the Republic, assumed control of the
government in Columbia.
was flattered when entrepreneurs A.C. and J.K. Allen offered to build
a new city and name it "Houston" if Old Sam would move the capital
there and remain for three years. They even promised to build a capitol
building for the city.
Houston was located
on Buffalo Bayou near the ashes of Harrisburg, which had been burned
during the Texas Revolution. However much Old
Sam might have loved the city named for him, others complained
of its perpetually muddy streets, swamps, and mosquitos.
So the Congress authorized Old
Sam's successor, Mirabeau B. Lamar, to find a new location for
the capital. He selected a site on the Colorado River near a village
known as Waterloo. Lamar wisely did not name the capital "Lamar;"
instead, it was named Austin
in honor of Texas' first empresaio, Stephen
When Houston gained reelection to the presidency in 1841, he refused
to serve in Austin,
preferring instead Washington-on-the-Brazos.
He even tried to remove the government records in an incident known
as the "Archives War."
Because the citizens of Austin
kept the archives, Houston's
successor and the last president of the Republic, Anson
Jones, agreed to live in their city. Every one of Texas' governors,
1845 to the present, Union, Confederate, or Union again, also have
served in the city by the Colorado River.
March 17-23, 2002 column
A syndicated column in over 40 East Texas newspapers