We've been hanging out here in Brookshire, Texas (just west of Houston), preparing to put the rig in storage and take off on our Around-The-World-in-45-Days adventure. While we are away, Buster will go in for routine service and some remodeling. Dusty and all our stuff will go into a storage unit. Flip and Baxter will be staying with a pet sitter. All of this requires lots and lots of planning. Our lists have lists!
However, all work and no play makes for a dull stay. So, we decided to take a day off from our trip planning and explore a little bit of Texas history. On Friday, November 17, 2017, we drove up to Washington-on-the-Brazos, a Texas State Historic Site.
Washington-on-the-Brazos is located along the Brazos River in Washington County, Texas. It was founded when Texas was still a part of Mexico. The town was the site of the Texas Convention of 1836 and the signing of the Texas Declaration of Independence. The name "Washington-on-the-Brazos" was used to distinguish the settlement from Washington, D.C.
Because the Texas Declaration of Independence was signed here, the town is often referred to as The Philadelphia of Texas!
The Texas delegates declared independence on March 2, 1836. Sixty men signed the Texas Declaration of Independence. Three of them were born in Mexico. Fifty-seven of the sixty moved to Texas from the United States. Ten of them had lived in Texas for more than six years, while one-quarter of them had been in the province for less than a year. This is significant, because it indicates that the majority of signatories were illegal immigrants! They had moved to Texas after the Law of April 6, 1830, banning immigration, had taken effect. Put another way, the majority were legally citizens of the United States, occupying Texas illegally. Fifty-nine of these men were delegates to the Convention, and one was the Convention Secretary, Herbert S. Kimble, who was not even a delegate.
Here's one of the first printed copies of the Texas Declaration of Independence:
There isn't much left of the old town site of Washington. The most prominent original structure is an old stone cistern:
The only building on the site is a replica of the original Independence Hall. It was here, in the raw frontier town of Washington in 1836, that 59 men elected from municipalities across the territory met in an unfinished frame building to determine the fate of this vast land called Texas!
Meanwhile, the forces of General Santa Anna laid siege to the Alamo. We all know how that ended.
Even as the settlers fled ahead of Santa Anna’s army, the convention labored for 17 days. During that time they declared Texas independent from Mexico; penned a new constitution; and organized an interim government, giving birth to a new nation: the Republic of Texas. It all took place in this tiny one room building.
After checking out Independence Hall, we walked over to the Star of the Republic Museum. Its purpose is to collect and preserve the material culture of the Texas Republic (1836–1846) and to interpret the history, cultures, diversity, and values of early Texans.
The museum's exhibits are displayed on two floors, the first of which is in the shape of a five-point Texas star and the second floor in a pentagon shape. The exhibits on the first floor present a chronological history of early Texas, beginning with the first Texans, the Native Americans, and continuing to the Texian soldiers who fought for Texas independence. The second level's attractions include a simulated riverboat trip down the Brazos River and an observation deck to view the 300 acres of the Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site.
As we walked up to the second floor, we followed a historic timeline of Texas.
The word "texas" (tejas, tayshas, texias, thecas?, techan, teysas, techas?) had wide usage among the Indians of East Texas even before the coming of the Spanish, whose various transcriptions and interpretations gave rise to many theories about the meaning. The usual meaning was "friends" or "allies." How and when the name Texas first reached the Spanish is uncertain, but the notion of a "great kingdom of Texas," associated with a "Gran Quivira" (the mythical Seven Cities of Gold) had spread in New Spain before the expedition of Alonso De León and Damián Massanet in 1689.
The origin of the Texas “Lone Star Flag” started long before the Texas revolution, a revolt that was due to Santa Anna´s abrogation of the special rights given to the “Estado de Tejas” under the Mexican constitution of 1824. The Lone Star Flag was created from concepts of human rights that blossomed from the “age of enlightenment” that in turn brought about the American and French revolutions that used combinations of the colors red, white and blue in their flags and in the case of the Americans, the addition of stars in a blue field.
The "lone star" appears to have been drawn from the lone star flag used by a shipping company affiliated with Stephen Austin. In its shipping activities in the Gulf of Mexico, it flew a flag that its owners designed to resemble both the U.S. flag and the flag of Chile, which bore a single star. A variation of this was adopted in Washington-on-the-Brazos:
On February 28, 1845, the US Congress passed a bill that would authorize the United States to annex the Republic of Texas. On March 1, 1845, US President John Tyler signed the bill. The legislation set the date for annexation for December 29 of the same year.
P.S. We couldn't help but chuckle when we saw this depiction of The Mosquito War! Everything is bigger in Texas, especially the mosquitoes!